Adoption by step-parents—client guide
Adoption by step-parents—client guide

The following Family guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Adoption by step-parents—client guide
  • Why might a step-parent want to apply for an adoption order?
  • What are the alternatives to an adoption order?
  • What conditions must a step-parent meet before applying for an adoption order?
  • What is the procedure?
  • What happens at court?
  • How will the court decide what should happen?

This document provides general guidance regarding applications for adoption by step-parents. Your family lawyer will be able to provide specific advice based on your circumstances.

Why might a step-parent want to apply for an adoption order?

Parental responsibility is defined in law by the Children Act 1989 as:

‘…all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.’

People with parental responsibility are entitled to have a say in major decisions about the child, such as (but not limited to) where the child should live or go to school, the giving or withholding of medical treatment and what religion they should practise.

An adoption order transfers parental responsibility to the adopter—the step-parent—and they will share this parental responsibility with their partner—the child’s birth parent. An adoption order changes the child’s legal status and means the child becomes a permanent and full member of the family unit with the step-parent in it. The adoption order undoes all the legal ties with the child’s other birth parent. The court will only make such an order once it has made extensive enquiries and only if it considers it to be in the child’s best interests.