If you are looking to adopt a child, you will probably have a lot of questions about adoption. We will try to answer some of them here.
What is adoption?
Adoption is the legal process through which a parent and child relationship is created by a court order.
In Scotland, adoption applications (“petitions”) are generally made to the Sheriff Court nearest to where the child is living. If you live in Moray, that is Elgin Sheriff Court.
In all adoptions, the consent of the child’s natural parents (providing they have parental responsibilities and parental rights in relation to the child) is required. The child’s consent is also required if he/she is 12 years old or over. It is not possible to adopt a child once they reach the age of 18 years.
Adopting can be a long process, even before you get to court. We appreciate that and so we aim to ensure that the court process – which is the final hurdle – runs as smoothly as possible.
Who can adopt?
You don’t have to be married or in a civil partnership to adopt. Every year many single people and unmarried couples successfully adopt children.
You must be over 21 to apply to adopt a child, but there is no upper age limit.
A person’s race, religion or sexual orientation do not matter. Having a low household income does not rule a person out from adopting a child either.
In all cases, the Court will consider what is in the child’s lifelong interests and whether it would be better for the child for the adoption order to be made than not made.
The two most common kinds of adoption in Scotland are step-parent adoptions and the adoption of “looked after” children. Step-parent adoptions are more common than you might think: of the 489 adoptions registered in Scotland in 2013, around 20% were of this kind.
What is step-parent adoption?
A step-parent adoption is where you adopt the child of your spouse, or civil partner. If you are a not married or in a civil partnership but are in a long-term relationship or “enduring relationship” with your partner, the law also makes it possible to adopt your partner’s child.
It is important to bear in mind that once a step-parent adoption is granted, the parental responsibilities and rights of the child’s absent birth parent will be completely extinguished.
Adopting a “Looked-After” Child
Nowadays, the majority of adoptions in Scotland (almost 70% in 2013) are of “looked after” children. Local authorities in Scotland are responsible for looking after children in their area. In Moray, the Moray Council is the relevant local authority.
If you want to adopt a looked after child you will need to be approved by the local authority or by a private adoption agency. More information is available on Moray Council’s website.
In all adoptions, the local Social Work Department needs to be notified of your intention adopt. The Social Work department will have been involved if you are adopting a looked after child, but it is possible – and indeed usual – that they will have no prior knowledge of the child or the family in a step-parent adoption.
In any case, the Social Work department will prepare a report for the Court to consider along with the adoption application. The Social Worker preparing the report will usually want to meet with the child’s birth parents to take their views. They will also meet the prospective adopters. They may also want to speak to the child’s teachers and any other professionals involved in the child’s care.
How we can help
Whether you are a step-parent looking to adopt your step-child or you are looking to adopt a looked-after child, we are here to advise you and make the court process as smooth as possible.
If you have any questions regarding adoption, please get in touch with us. All enquiries are free of charge and without obligation. Call one of our Family Law Team – Katie, Greg and Peter – on 01343 544077 or send us a Free Online Enquiry.
We are always keen to clarify and expand the information on our website, so questions are always welcome – especially if anything on this page is not clear.