In what circumstances can an application for an adoption order be made?
There are a number of requirements that need to be met for an adoption application to be made:
- The child must be under the age of eighteen when the application is made and under the age of nineteen when the order is made, and must never have been married.
- Generally, the proposed adopter or adopters must be over twenty-one years old, though there are certain exceptions to this.
- The proposed adopter or adopters must be ‘habitually resident’ or ‘domiciled’ in the British Islands (in certain situations this requirement is for just one person if the adopters are a couple).
- The child must have ‘had his home’ with the proposed adopter for a certain amount of time before the adoption application is made. This amount of time varies depending on the circumstances.
- The proposed adopter must have given the local authority notice of their intention to adopt the child. This must have been given not more than two years and not less than three months before the application is made. This is because the local authority will need to prepare a report for the court about the suitability of the proposed adoption.
- Each parent or guardian with parental responsibility for the child must have provided their consent to the adoption, or the court has to be satisfied that their consent should be dispensed with. This can only be done if the court is satisfied that the parent or guardian cannot be found or is incapable of giving consent, or the welfare of the child requires the consent to be dispensed with.
What will the court take into consideration in deciding whether to make an adoption order?
In considering whether to make an adoption order, the court’s paramount consideration must be the child’s welfare throughout his or her life. The court must have regard to each of the following:
- the child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings regarding the decision (considered in light of the child’s age and understanding);
- the child’s particular needs;
- the likely effect on the child (throughout his life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person;
- the child’s age, sex, background and any of the child’s characteristics which the court or agency considers relevant;
- any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- the relationship which the child has with relatives, and with any other person in relation to whom the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant, including:
- the likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value to the child of its doing so,
- the ability and willingness of any of the child’s relatives, or of any such person, to provide the child with a secure environment in which the child can develop, and otherwise to meet the child’s needs,
- the wishes and feeling of any of the child’s relatives, or of any such person, regarding the child.
Adopting children from overseas can be legally complex. Whether adoption is possible, and the process which needs to be followed, will depend very much on the circumstances, including which countries are involved. Great care needs to be taken and indeed it can be a criminal offence to bring a child into the UK for the purpose of adoption where the correct procedure has not been followed. It is also important to consider the immigration position.
It is therefore important to get legal advice on both the adoption process itself and the immigration position very early on when considering adopting a child from overseas.
If you would like to speak with an expert adoption family law solicitor please contact our team on 0161 696 6193. We have established relationships with experienced immigration solicitors and can work with them jointly on your behalf.
Opposing an adoption order
It can be heart-breaking to be told that consideration is being given to your own child being adopted. If you have been notified that an application for an adoption order has been made in respect of your child then it might be possible to apply for the court’s permission to oppose the adoption.
In many cases, direct contact between a child and their birth family ceases when they are adopted and instead there is ‘letterbox’ contact whereby letters and other updates are shared. It may, however, be possible to apply to the court for an order for post-adoption contact.
Revoking adoption orders
Adoption orders are intended to be permanent and it is extremely rare for the court to revoke (set aside) such orders after they are made. This is only possible in highly exceptional and very particular circumstances.
If you would like to speak with a member of our family law team in regards to adoption please call us on 0161 696 6193.