With recent figures showing that “blended families” are on the rise, it is not surprising that our Birmingham office is receiving a greater number of enquiries from people wishing to adopt their partner’s child.
It is very important to note that if an Adoption Order is granted the person who makes the application will then be the child’s legal parent (along with their partner) but the legal relationship between the child and the other birth parent will be permanently severed. The law would no longer recognise the other birth parent as having any parental link to the child.
The finality and serious ramifications of this type of order mean that these cases are highly emotive and usually vigorously defended.
To enable an application for partner adoption to be made, the applicant must be married to, in a registered civil partnership with or in a long term relationship with the parent of the child they wish to adopt. In addition, they must have lived in the same household as the child for at least six months.
If both of the child’s birth parents have parental responsibility (e.g. if they were married at the birth, they are both named on the birth certificate or if the child’s father has obtained it by some other means such as a court order or an agreement with the mother), they must confirm whether they consent to such an Order being made.
If both birth parents agree to the Adoption Order being made, the Court will instruct CAFCASS, the Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, to meet with the parties to ensure that they fully appreciate the ramifications of the Order. For example, adoption cuts the legal ties between a child and their birth parent . This also has the impact of severing ties to grandparents and extended family members which could have wide ranging implications in relation to things such as inheritance that most people don’t realise.
If the parties still wish to proceed with the order CAFCASS will prepare a brief report and arrange for them to sign a consent form.
The final decision will be the Courts who will fully consider the case and decide if it will be in the child’s best interest for the Order to be made.
If the birth parent does not give consent it will be necessary for the Court to appoint a guardian for the child. The Guardian will speak to all of the parties and, depending upon the child’s age and level of understanding, will also discuss matters with the child and then file a report to advise the court whether they feel the order should be granted and deal with any issues such as ongoing contact with the parent who no longer lives with the child.
It is not uncommon where parties have separated for a child to lose contact with a birth parent. In circumstances where a birth parent cannot be located it is still possible for an Adoption Order to be made provided that the Court are satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to locate them.
This is an extreme Order to make in relation to a child as it extinguishes a natural parent’s rights, duties and obligations and will only be made if it is in the best interests of the child to do so.
There are other options available that confer parental responsibility on a step-parent. For example, you could apply for Custody (a Residence Order) which would automatically provide you with parental responsibility.
If you are married to or in a civil partnership with a birth parent you can apply for a Step-parent Parental Responsibility Order.