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Adopting a child in England or Wales

Guidance on the adoption process in England and Wales.

Who can be adopted?

To be adopted, a child must be under the age of 18 when the adoption application is made and have never been married or in a civil partnership.

There is different child adoption guidance if you live in Scotland or in Northern Ireland. This guidance applies to England and Wales.

Who can adopt a child?

You are able to apply to adopt a child if you are aged 21 or over and are:

  • single
  • married
  • in a civil partnership
  • an unmarried couple (same sex and opposite sex)
  • the partner of the child’s parent.

Do I have to be a British citizen to adopt?

You do not have to be a British citizen to adopt a child, but:

  • you (or your partner) must have a fixed and permanent home in the UK
  • you (and your partner) must have lived in the UK for at least 1 year before you begin the application process.

Can I adopt if I am single?

Yes. Plenty of single people adopt. Single people should not experience discrimination on the grounds that they are single, whatever their gender or sexual orientation, and adoption agencies welcome enquiries from single people.

Can I adopt my partner’s child?

Yes. As a stepparent (married or unmarried) you can adopt your stepchild. You should be over the age of 21 years old and have lived with the child for at least 6 months.

An adoption order would mean the legal rights of the birth parent being extinguished.

You would retain full legal responsibility for the child, even in the event you and your partner separate. The child would be entitled to inherit or receive maintenance payments from you, and not be entitled to any inheritance or maintenance payments from their birth parent. Adoption can also affect the child’s nationality.

There are other ways and means to take responsibility for a child without ending the birth parents’ legal relationship, and so you should obtain tailored legal advice from one of our specialist family lawyers.

What are the stages of the adoption process?

Once you have gone through the assessment process, you will apply to court for an adoption order. An adoption order made by the court gives adopters legal parental status as if the child was born to them, and ends the parental rights of the birth parents. Normally, adopters are helped through the adoption process by their local authority, however there are times when a case is not straightforward for one reason or another and you should seek specialist advice.

How long does it take to adopt a child from the UK?

The adoption process can vary depending on your circumstances but most adoption approval processes take around 6 months.

For more information on any aspects of the adoption process in England and Wales, please speak to one of our expert child law solicitors.

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