Some people decide they want to adopt their partner’s child or children. This can sometimes be known as step parent adoption. This would mean taking full parental responsibility for the child in the eyes of the law and should not be taken lightly.
Firstly, it is important to remember that adoption is a legal process and may not be right for all step families. Any decision should be made very carefully. Everyone concerned would be interviewed as part of the process, including you and your partner, the child, the child’s other birth parent and grandparents.
If an adoption order is made, all legal links between the child and birth family are cut. The child will lose all inheritance and maintenance rights from their birth family unless this is stipulated in a will. You should talk to the child about this decision and consider their feelings. Even very young children will have some level of understanding, so it is important to speak to them first.
There are a number of alternatives to consider which can give you parental responsibility without formally adopting the child:
Parental Responsibility Agreement/Order
This is the simplest option where agreement can be reached by both birth parents and this order gives the partner parental responsibility. Formal agreements can also be made for partners who are married to or entered into a civil partnership with the parent of a child.
Change of Name
If the motivation for the partner adoption stems from the desire for a child to legally change their name to reflect new family circumstances, this can be done through a solicitor with the agreement of everyone with parental responsibility. You can find out more about this through www.gov.uk.
Special Guardianship Order
Special Guardianship provides a legally secure foundation for building a permanent relationship between the child and their special guardian, while preserving the legal link between the child and their birth family. The intention is that the special guardian will have clear responsibility for all the day-to-day decisions about caring for the child or young person and their upbringing. The child’s birth parents remain legally the child's parents, though their ability to exercise their parental responsibility is limited.
Child Arrangement Order
This will give the person caring for the child parental responsibility. If the Order were to state that the child should reside with their birth mother and her partner (for example) then this would give the mother’s partner parental responsibility. However, this does not give the mother’s partner all the same rights as a parent.
What do I need to do to adopt my partner’s child?
Firstly, you need to meet the following criteria:
- You must be 21 years old or over.
- You must be married to the resident birth parent or can satisfy the court that there has been a long-standing family relationship (usually at least a year).
- You must be a resident of the UK or have been habitually resident for at least a year.
- You must have continually lived with the child for at least six months.
- The child must be under the age of 18 at the time of the application to court.
Step parent adoption briefing - West Yorkshire only
If you live in West Yorkshire you can attend a briefing on adopting your partner's child to find out more about the process and help you decide whether it is right for your family. Following the briefing you will be given further information about how to apply should you still wish to do so.
If you live in another local authority area in the Yorkshire and Humber region you need to apply directly through the local authority children’s services, whose contact details can be found below:
- East Riding
- North East Lincolnshire
- North Yorkshire