As the partner of a parent who has children from a previous relationship, you may wish to formally take on parental responsibility for your step-children and one way of doing this is adoption.
However, adoption is not right for all step-children because it cuts legal ties between them and the family of the absent parent who they may still see or be in contact with.
Courts are less likely to grant an adoption order under these circumstances. If the child is old enough, the courts give careful consideration to the child's wishes and feelings about being adopted to ensure adoption is something the child wants.
Courts require the absent parent and their family are contacted and informed about the adoption in order to gain an understanding of their relationship with the child(ren). This could cause upset and distress to them, your partner and the children
How do I adopt?
Once you have read the information and thought about all your options and you would like to proceed with step parent application please contact us and speak to the duty social worker 01702 212004
We will then undertake checks which include the DBS checks to support your suitability to adopt. As long as there are no concerns we will carry out an assessment during which we will be talking to:
- you and your partner
- the absent parent(s) and/or members of their family
- the child to be adopted (if old enough)
- any other children in the family
The information from the assessment forms the basis of the court report and determines whether an adoption order or other types of orders are best for the child(ren).
You need to contact us at least three months before you submit your application to the court to adopt. You will be responsible for the payment of all court fees.
Requirements to adopt a step-child
You must be over 21 and have lived in the same home as the child for at least six months before you make your application and the child must be aged 18 or under. You must also be able to demonstrate that you have a lasting and stable relationship with the child's parent and that there is nothing in your past which could deem you unsuitable to adopt. You must have leave to stay in this country (permanent residency).
Who can apply
The child's parents or anyone with parental responsibility can apply for a court order. Other people, like grandparents, can apply for court orders, but they’ll need to get permission from the courts first. You can apply for a single court order, or a number of them, depending on what you’ve been unable to agree on.
Changing the child's surname
A child's name can be changed by deed poll. If the child's birth-parents were previously married, you'll need permission from them to change the child's surname. Sometimes children welcome the change, but it can also cause anger or confusion, so this is a step to think carefully about.
Parental responsibility order or agreement
A parental responsibility order or agreement is a formal agreement between the step-parent, his or her partner and the other parent to share parental responsibility of the child. This means a step-parent can make important decisions which affect the child. This can only apply when the step-parent is married to, or is a civil partner of, the child's parent.
If a parental responsibility agreement is in place, the step-parent continues to hold parental responsibility if his or her partner dies. A parental responsibility order is made by a court order.
Arrangements for your child
A 'child arrangements order' decides:
- where your child lives
- when and what other types of contact, like phone calls, take place
- when your child spends time with each parent
'Child arrangements orders' replace 'residence orders' and 'contact orders'. Parents with these orders don’t need to re-apply.
Your child’s upbringing
A 'specific issue order' is used to look at a specific question about how the child is being brought up, such as:
- what school they should go to
- if they should have a religious education
You can also apply for a 'prohibited steps order' to stop the other parent from making a decision about the child's upbringing.
Special guardianship order
A special guardianship order is an order appointing one or more individuals to be a child's 'special guardian' and is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents and who would benefit from a legally secure placement within their extended family.
- a special guardianship order may be appropriate: where an adoption order may give rise to conflict or tension in relationships between members if the child is being looked after by their extended family or by family friends
- for older or asylum-seeking children who may want to keep established links with their family where religious or cultural barriers to calling someone else's child your own exist
Special guardians have parental responsibility and determine where a child attends school, the medical treatment they receive, and where they take their holidays. However, the child retains the legal link with their parents.