How To Adopt Your Stepchild
Many people who become stepparents love their stepchild deeply and want to cement their relationship by formally adopting them. This is a substantial step, which differs from other arrangements such as 'parental responsibility', which provides decision-making authority but does not affect the child's legal relationship with their biological parent/s. To help you understand the consequences and process of stepchild adoption, we have answered some of the most frequent questions we receive about the subject below.
Who can adopt a stepchild?
The first step in the adoption process is understanding who can adopt. In England and Wales, the adoptive stepparent must be at least 21 years old. There are no maximum age limits but the ability to provide a stable, caring environment throughout the child's minority is a vital consideration. The child must have lived with their biological parent and stepparent for at least six months.
What are the benefits of adopting my stepchild?
Stepchild adoption ends the legal ties between the child and the biological parent who is not married or in a civil partnership with the adopting stepparent, and the child will usually take the surname of the stepparent. The child will have the same rights as any biological child of yours, such as the right to inheritance.
What is the procedure when adopting a stepchild?
The first step is to inform your local authority of your intentions to adopt your stepchild. This must be done at least three months before you make an adoption application. An assessment period will follow, during which a dedicated social worker will consider the potential implications of the proposed adoption on all parties involved and prepare a report for the Court. This report is integral to the adoption process as it provides the Court with an impartial insight into the potential benefits and detriments of the proposed adoption.
When the assessment is completed, an application for an adoption order can be made to the Family Court. All parties directly affected by the adoption, such as the biological parents, must be informed.
If the Court grants the adoption order, the stepparent becomes the child's legal parent along with their spouse/partner, the child's biological parent. It’s important to note that adoption is irrevocable; once an adoption order is made, it cannot be reversed, underlining the seriousness and permanency of this process.