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 Adoption process explained

Adoption process explained

You may know what the term adoption means, but you might not know all the ins and outs of the adoption process. Let’s review the most critical aspects of child adoption.

Adoption is a way of legally providing a child or children who cannot be raised by their own birth parents with a new parent or parents. Adoption is a legal process which transfers legal parenthood, including parental rights and responsibilities for the child, to the adoptive parent(s). Adoption is usually an irreversible step.

What is adoption and how does it work?

Adoption is a legal process by which permanent adoptive parent(s) can be provided for children who can’t be brought up by their birth parents.

It is a legal process in which legal parentage, parental rights and parental responsibilities are transferred from biological/birth parents to adoptive parents. Where you are granted an adoption order by the court in respect of a child, you will become the child’s legal parent. Following the granting of an adoption order by the court, the child’s biological parent or parents will no longer have any rights or responsibilities in relation to the child and the adopted child is treated in law as if they are the natural child of the adopter(s). Adoption is a lifelong commitment.

Whilst Adoption Orders are often made after the local authority have removed a child into their care and following care proceedings, not every adoption occurs as a result of this process. A biological parent may give their consent for their child to be adopted, for instance, and step-parents often adopt the children of their spouse or partners, depending on their own family circumstances.

The route to adoption can take different paths, however the typical adoption process is generally as follows:

  • The local authority is notified of your intention to adopt the child. In the case of adoptions of child placed by an adoption agency or local authority this step is not required.
  • An assessing social worker assigned to your case will produce a report on the suitability of the adoption and any other matters relevant to your application. These may include safe environment and background checks, as well as a full medical examination provided by your GP. These are just a few aspects that an agency and their adoption panel might consider when evaluating prospective adopters.
  • A Petition for adoption is lodged at Court along with the social work Report and other relevant documentation.
  • A Preliminary Adoption Panel Hearing is fixed between six and eight weeks after the lodging of the Petition.
  • A copy of the Petition is sent to the birth parents of the child, if appropriate, and any other family members and individuals the Court considers as entitled to see a copy. The natural parents have 21 days to tell the court if they wish to oppose the adoption application. In some cases the biological parent or parents’ consent will be required to be given, or dispensed with by the court, in order for an adoption order to be granted.
  • The court will appoint a Curator ad litem and Reporting Officer to obtain any required consents to the adoption and investigate the circumstances of the application and provide another report on this to the court. The Curator and Reporting Officer are usually one person.
  • If the application is opposed, the Court will order the opposing party to lodge a formal written response to the Petition setting out their reasons for opposition, and a timetable regulating the court process will be fixed. An opposed application may lead to an evidential hearing being fixed at court.
  • If there is no opposition to the application, and all required consents are given or able to be dispensed with, the Court may grant the adoption Order at the Preliminary Hearing if it is satisfied that it would safeguard and promote the child’s welfare throughout the child’s life.

Our specialist adoption solicitors will be able to guide you through the legal aspects of your adoption journey.

What is the difference between adoption and fostering?

Adoption differs from fostering as fostering is usually a temporary arrangement, whereas adoption is a permanent measure.

Where a child is fostered, responsibility for them is shared between the foster carers, the local authority social workers, and the child’s parents. Sometimes fostering is a long-term plan, sometimes referred to as ‘permanent fostering’, but it doesn’t provide children with the same legal security as adoption does.

Who can adopt a child?

In order to adopt a child certain eligibility criteria that must be met.

  • You must be at least 21 at the time of your application to become an adoptive parent. There is no upper age limit to adopt, but the age difference between you and the child would be considered by the court when assessing your application.
  • Where you are applying to adopt the child of your spouse or partner, the spouse or partner must be at least 18 years of age.
  • You can apply to adopt as a single person, or with your spouse or partner. Married couples, civil partners and couples living together in an ‘enduring relationship’, including same sex couples may adopt. There is no prescribed amount of time you must have been in a relationship to adopt. However, the adoption agency decision maker will look for couples with a long-term, stable relationship.
  • You may apply to adopt if you already have your own children.
  • You may still be able to adopt if you have past convictions. However, the circumstances would be carefully investigated by those involved in the process.
  • You do not need to be employed or have a certain level of income to be eligible as an adopter. However, your ability to support the child will be considered.
  • You (and your spouse or partner if applying to adopt together) must be domiciled in Scotland or have been living in Scotland for a certain period of time to be eligible for a domestic adoption.

You can find all the information covering adoption process in Scotland on the site.

How can our adoption solicitors help with your adoption journey?

It is vital that you appoint an adoption solicitor to advise you on the court process involved in adoption as early as possible. At Harper Macleod, we have specialist adoption solicitors across our offices who can help you navigate the legal process, court procedures, and provide you with the assistance, guidance and representation you need. We are able to advise individuals and families on the differing routes cases may take at court, the issues that are likely to arise, and answer all of the queries that you will have when moving into the legal process.

Matters we can help with include:

  • adopting a child in this country who has been brought to the country from overseas, and cases with other international elements (intercountry adoption enquiries)
  • adopting a child who has been placed in local authority care
  • adopting a child who has been placed in local authority care
  • adopting a child within the family, including step-parent adoption
  • adoption by single individuals
  • adoption by same-sex couples
  • contact for children who are adopted or are the subject of adoption proceedings
  • assisting birth families in adoption proceedings
  • surrogacy – in cases where a person has had a child through a surrogacy arrangement but does not meet the requirements for applying to the court for a Parental Order, we can help them apply for an Adoption Order if appropriate.

“A very professional and proficient service was given by the team. All avenues of my case were covered with complete control and organisation. All relevant information was relayed back to me very quickly and the court hearing itself lasted minutes due to the hard work and endeavour given by my family lawyer. I would highly recommend this organisation.”

– Thomas Carnochan, HM client

“Lynsey and team have been unbelievably supportive and helpful during my adoption case. I would definitely recommend her to anyone looking for legal help.”

– Jason Cunningham, HM client

“extremely helpful, very knowledgeable and professional at all times and a pleasure to deal with.”

– HM client

“Alexis Harper has been a source of huge safety and security in the most difficult personal circumstances. Alexis and her team have made me feel like their number one priority, we have experienced frustrations working with another professional from a different firm, where there have been delays in the process from this.”

– The Legal 500 2023

“Amanda Masson is an excellent lawyer. I can see from the files she has sent me that she goes above and beyond for her clients, that she gives them clear advice and that they feel fully supported by her. I respect her view – which is always spot on and clever.”

– The Legal 500 2023

“Jenny asks the difficult questions and very often has the answers.” “She is a very careful operator who really considers what she is trying to achieve for clients and thins through the pros and cons.” “She is a very knowledgeable, proactive realistic and exceptionally hard-working.”

– Chambers UK 2023

“Karen is very knowledgeable in what she does and is able to reassure and provide support in what are difficult times.” “She has an analytical approach to matters and a no-nonsense approach.”

– The Legal 500 2023



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Call us for free on 0141 227 9545 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.

Speak to us today on 0141 227 9545

Get in touch


Get in touch

Call us for free on 0141 227 9545 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.