Adoption can turn a house into a home, making parents out of people who’ve always wanted a family unit.
An adoptive parent comes in all forms – same-sex couples can adopt, single people can adopt and someone can adopt if you already have children.
But what are the rules about legally adopting the child of your partner? What about their other parent?
We take a look, at part of Metro.co.uk’s Adoption Month series.
Adopting my partner’s child: what are the rules?
You can adopt your partner’s child, but there’s a process you have to follow.
Gov.uk states that when you want to adopt the child of your partner, you must tell your local council at least three months before applying for a court adoption order.
You must also have lived with the child and their parent – your partner or spouse – for at least 6 months.
Most applications for adoption orders are done at a Family Court.
Once you start the adoption process, you will go through a similar assessment that anyone going through an adoption would.
The assessment is used to help a court decide if you can adopt the child – rather than being sent to an independent adoption panel.
Do we need to tell the other parent?
If the other parent is contactable, the court must find out if both natural parents agree to the adoption.
If they both currently share parental responsibility for the child, the court will appoint an officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to interview them and witness their formal written consent.
Parental Responsibility is defined in the Children Act 1989 as being: ‘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’.
If the parent with parental responsibility does not agree with your application or the CAFCASS officer considers there are special circumstances, the court appoints that officer as a children’s guardian.
If a parent does not have parental responsibility, their consent isn’t required before making an adoption order.
However, if this parent has a close connection with their child, it is likely the court will want to find out their views, as well as the child’s.
Family Lives, a crisis support company giving advice and help to families for over 40 years, states that the court will also have to take into account the child’s whole family network and their relationships with grandparents and other significant people before making an adoption order.
This is a legal requirement in Section 1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
What will change once I adopt my partner’s child?
When someone adopts their partner’s child it ends the legal relationship between that child and their other biological parent, and that wider family – such as their grandparents and other relatives.
The child loses all maintenance and inheritance rights from their other biological parent.
You will have parental responsibility for the child along with your partner – and this parental responsibility will stay in place even if you and the child’s other parent split up.
The child’s surname can also be changed.
What alternatives are there to adopting a partner’s child?
If, for whatever reason, a full adoption isn’t right for your circumstances, there are alternatives that will provide more support and rights between you, your partner and their child.
Parental Responsibility Agreement or Order
If you are married to your partner, you can share parental responsibility for their child without legally adopting them following an amendment to the Children Act 1989 section 4a.
This allows someone to get parental responsibility for their stepchild either by agreement or a court order if you are married to, or are the civil partner, of the child’s parent.
If your husband, wife or partner is the only person with parental responsibility for the child, they can make a formal agreement with you to share this.
If the child’s other parent also has PR, both parents need to agree to let you share parental responsibility.
A residence order establishes where a child will live. Residence Orders are now referred to as child arrangement orders in Court, but many people still refer to them as residence orders and contact orders.
A residence order means that you can take most of the decisions that a parent can take about a child’s care and upbringing.
To apply for a Residence Order you need to be married to the child’s parent or in a registered civil partnership or show that the child has lived with you for three years.
Or you can apply for one if you have the consent of any other person who has parental responsibility for the child.
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Adoption Month is a month-long series covering all aspects of adoption.
For the next four weeks, which includes National Adoption Week from October 14-19, we will be speaking to people who have been affected by adoption in some way, from those who chose to welcome someone else’s child into their family to others who were that child.
We’ll also be talking to experts in the field and answering as many questions as possible associated with adoption, as well as offering invaluable advice along the way.
If you have a story to tell or want to share any of your own advice please do get in touch at email@example.com.
- Why we’re talking about adoption this month
- How to adopt a child – from how long it takes to how you can prepare
- The most Googled questions on adoption, answered
- How long does it take to adopt a child in the UK
- Adoption myths that could be stopping you from starting a family
- How to tell your child they are adopted
Visit our Adoption Month page for more.
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