Adopting your stepchild - the process
If you wish to adopt your partner's children so that you become their legal parent and share parental responsibility for them, this is called a stepparent adoption.
To adopt your partner's children, there are some criteria that you will need to meet:
- You will need to be over 21 years of age.
- You have been living with or married to the birth parent, for a minimum of two years.
- You live in England and have been habitually resident for at least a year.
- You have been living with the child for at least two years (although the law says six months).
How can I get started?
Firstly, you can call us on 03000 267 979 to discuss whether a stepparent adoption is right for your family, or if there are alternative options that can be explored.
Stepparent adoption step by step
Once you have notified us that you would like to adopt, we will contact you to discuss your circumstances in more detail. A stepparent adoption will involve:
- Notifying us of your intention to adopt.
- A social worker will visit you in your home to discuss adoption in more detail.
- We will carry out an assessment of your suitability to adopt.
- Your assessment will be shared in Court and the judge will decide on your suitability to adopt.
- An Adoption Order is granted, if appropriate, this makes you the child's legal guardian
Notifying the council before applying to the Court
To start the process, you must tell us in writing that you want to adopt with the following details:
- Full names and dates of birth of everyone in your household
- Your address, email address and telephone number
- How long you have been in a relationship with the child's parent and that you live in the same house with the child you want to adopt
- Whether there are any other children who live elsewhere
- If yes, please provide their details and where they live/who they live with
- Whether you have the contact details for the other parent, and whether they have parental responsibility
- Whether the child is aware they have another parent / family living elsewhere
- Why you want to adopt
Once we have received your letter stating you would like to adopt, we may need to ask you for more information about your family before we can progress. This will help us offer you appropriate advice about your family's situation. An adoption social worker will contact you to gather any information needed and may arrange to visit you. They will tell you more about stepparent adoption and other options that might be available to your family. The social worker will also ask you about your family circumstances and the reasons why you would like to adopt. They will also explain the process and what happens when you apply to adopt.
Adoption is a lifelong commitment and we need to be sure that it is the right option for your child. To help us decide whether you can adopt we need to consider:
The child's best interests - The judge needs to establish that adoption is the best option for the child. This will involve talking to the child about the adoption to see what they understand about their family situation. The social worker may also need to speak to your child alone to seek their views on adoption. It is essential that your child knows the truth about his/her origins and relationships within the family.
Your child's birth history - If you have not yet told your child about their birth history, we may be able to give you some ideas to help. It is important that your child has a record of their early life, including photographs, documents, mementoes, and details of significant people in his or her life. You may like to consider having a special folder, box or album for this purpose.
Relationships - The judge needs evidence of the family relationships. This means we have to provide evidence on the stability of your relationship. In County Durham, you will need to have lived together with your partner for at least two years. You will also need to have lived with the child for a minimum of two years before considering adoption.
Interviewing parents - We have a legal duty to interview both parents, and anyone else who has a significant relationship with the child, to get their views. You will need to contact the child's other birth parent to let them know of your intention and find out whether they agree with your application. The judge requires written consent from everyone with parental responsibility for the child. If no such agreement is given, you may wish to get legal advice from a solicitor experienced in adoption matters.
If the other birth parent does not consent to the adoption, the judge will do what is in the best interests of the child. If the birth parent is deceased, the judge needs a copy of the death certificate and the social worker may need to speak to their family.
Even if the other birth parent has no contact with the child they must be contacted, as they have rights as a birth parent. Information about their life, family, health, education, and employment are all important to record as well as their wishes and feelings about the proposed adoption.
Interviewing family members - The social worker also needs to see the child's brothers and sisters and may wish to see other members of the family. You need to think about the important people in the child's life, for example, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who might be affected if an adoption order is made. Adoption means that anyone in the other parent's family stops having a legal relationship with your child. The judge would not want to disrupt any significant relationships the child has with their extended family, even if they do not see their other parent, which is one reason why some adoption orders are not made.
Checks and references - We have a duty to make sure that any stepparent adoption is appropriate and will need to carry out checks on your suitability to adopt. These can include police, health, education, and any other local authorities where you have lived. We may also contact the child's school and any other professionals who have been involved with your family.
Interviewing referees - The social worker needs to interview two people who can provide a personal reference for you and who can comment on your suitability to adopt.
Final Report - Once the social worker has completed their assessment, they will write a report and make a recommendation about your suitability to adopt the child. This is submitted to the judge but cannot be shared with anyone unless directed by the Judge.
Court - The Court will appoint a reporting officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), to contact both birth parents and obtain their consent unless the judge has any concerns about your application. If there are concerns or the other parent does not agree with adoption, the judge could direct that a children's guardian is appointed by Cafcass who will ask a solicitor to act on behalf of your child. The children's guardian would make a further assessment of your family's situation and will make their own recommendations in their report. If consent is given, the judge will consider your application, the information provided and decide on your suitability to adopt. The Court will charge a fee of £170 to hear your application even if this is not granted.
Adoption Order - If the judge agrees that adoption is in the best interests of the child, they can grant an adoption order, giving you parental responsibility for the child and the same rights as any parent. The child will be issued with a new birth/adoption certificate. When your child reaches 18 years they can apply for a copy of their original birth certificate and a copy of their adoption records if they want.
- 03000 269 291