Adopting your stepchild can give them greater emotional and legal security. Thorley Stephenson has helped many stepfamilies strengthen their ties through adoption. For tailored guidance, contact our dedicated family law team.

What happens legally when you adopt your stepchild?

When you adopt your stepchild, you receive full parental rights and responsibilities, including:

  • the right to have them live with you;
  • the duty to support them financially;
  • the responsibility to guide them in their upbringing.

These rights and responsibilities are permanent. They continue even if your relationship with the child’s mother or father breaks down.

Is the natural parent required to consent?

Ordinarily, the consent of the natural parent whose rights and responsibilities the step-parent will take on is required. However, the court will dispense with the requirement if the natural parent is:

  • deceased;
  • unable to be located;
  • unable to exercise their rights or meet their responsibilities as a parent satisfactorily;
  • mentally incapable of giving consent.

The court will also override the requirement where it is in the interests of the child’s welfare to do so.

Does the child need to consent?

If the child is over 12 years old, their consent is required, unless they are incapable of consenting. 

If the child is under 12 years, consent is not required. However, as far as possible, the court must identify the child’s views and wishes regarding their potential adoption. 

How does the process work?

The first step is to notify your local authority of your intention to adopt. They will arrange for a social worker to visit you and put together a report on the suitability of the proposed adoption addressing:

  • the length and nature of your relationship with the child and their parent (your partner);
  • the child’s relationship with their absent birth parent;
  • the absent birth parent’s wishes;
  • the child’s views and wishes;
  • whether adoption is in the child’s best interests.

Next, you lodge an adoption petition with the court. The court should also receive a copy of the social worker’s report and any other relevant documentation. It will schedule a preliminary hearing to take place six to eight weeks later and appoint a curator ad litem and a reporting officer, usually the same person, to prepare a further report on the potential adoption. 

A copy of the petition will be sent to the natural parent, as well as anyone else entitled to see it. They have 21 days to oppose the adoption. If they do, the court will schedule an evidential hearing on the adoption.

If there is no opposition, the court can decide at the preliminary hearing whether to grant the adoption order. It will do so if it is satisfied that adoption is in the child’s best interests and will continue to be so throughout their life.

Contact our Adoption Solicitors, Edinburgh

Adopting your stepchild is a significant step in your relationship and you want the process to be straightforward, stress-free and successful. Our conscientious family lawyers are here to help you navigate the adoption process and bring greater closeness and security to your family. Call us on 0131 341 2729 or use our online enquiry form.

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