Experienced adoption lawyers
For people looking to adopt, the legal procedure required to formalise an adoption can appear daunting and complex.
But with the right solicitor to guide you through this process, it doesn't have to be.
Our Adoption Lawyer, Lynsey Brown, is experienced in assisting step-parents, other family members and kinship carers formalise their private adoptions, or secure alternative Orders such as those for Residence or Parental Rights and Responsibilities.
What is Adoption?
Adoption is the legal process by which an Order of the Court creates a new parent-child relationship, and confers parental rights and responsibilities on the adopter. The new relationship effectively replaces the relationship which previously existed in law between the child and their natural parent or parents.
The natural parent's status as such, and their parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the child, are extinguished by the making of the adoption Order. Therefore adoption is, generally, a permanent step.
Am I eligible to adopt a Child?
In order to be eligible to apply for an adoption Order in Scotland, you must meet certain criteria at the outset. You should take advice from a solicitor experienced in adoption cases to discuss your eligibility in detail, however the criteria include:
- You must be aged 21 or over. There is no upper age limit, however the Court will give some consideration to the difference in age between you and the child.
- You can adopt as one person, or as a couple.
- If you are applying to adopt a step-child, you must be married to, in a civil partnership with, or living in an 'enduring family relationship' with the natural mother or father of the child. Whether a couple is considered as living in an 'enduring family relationship' will depend on the circumstances of each case, and there is no set period of time you must have been a couple for, but generally you will require to show that you have a stable and lasting relationship The mother or father must be at least 18 years old and have parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the child.
- If you are adopting a step-child, both you and your partner or spouse must be domiciled in Scotland or have lived in Scotland for at least one year.
- If you are applying to adopt as a couple, one of you must be domiciled in Scotland, or both of you must have lived in Scotland for at least one year.
- There is no statutory requirement that you be of good health, and ill health would not of itself preclude the granting of the Order. The Court would, however, give consideration to any health issues which could affect your ability to look after the child.
- You may still adopt if you have previous criminal convictions, however again these issues would be considered by the Court and each case will depend on its own circumstances. If, however, you have been convicted of an offence involving children, it is unlikely that your application would be successful. Indeed, if you are adopting through an adoption agency, the agency will not consider you suitable to be an adoptive parent if you have been convicted of specified offences.
What is the process for Adoption?
The path to having a step-parent, or private, adoption granted can have some twists and turns along the way, however the process is generally as follows:
- The local authority is notified of your intention to adopt the child
- A social worker is assigned to your case. He or she will carry out home visits and then produce a report on the suitability of the adoption and any other matters relevant to your application.
- A Petition for adoption is lodged at Court along with the social work Report and other relevant documentation.
- A Preliminary Hearing is fixed between six and eight weeks after the lodging of the Petition.
- A copy of the Petition is sent to the natural parents of the child, if appropriate, and any other person 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.
- A Curator/Reporting Officer is appointed by the Court to obtain any required consents to the adoption and provide another report on the application.
- If the application is opposed, the Court will order the opposing party to lodge answers, and a timetable regulating the court process will be fixed. The timetable will culminate in an evidential hearing on the adoption.
- If there is no opposition to the application, the Court may grant the adoption Order at the Preliminary Hearing.
How long does it take?
From notifying the local authority of your intention to adopt to having the Order granted, the process will usually take several months to complete.
Are there any fees involved?
For the legal process of applying for an adoption Order, there will be costs in terms of solicitor fees and court outlays. In certain cases, we may be able to offer a fixed fee package, and can discuss this with you in more detail at a first consultation.
Who needs to consent?
- Any party who has parental rights and responsibilities (usually the child's natural parents)
- The child, if he or she is aged 12 or over
A natural parent's consent, if not forthcoming, may be dispensed with by the Court if that parent is dead, cannot be found, is mentally incapable of giving consent, is unable to satisfactorily discharge their parental responsibilities or exercise their parental rights and is likely to continue to be unable to do so, or if the welfare of the child otherwise requires it to be dispensed with.
If the child is under 12 years old, their formal consent is not required, however the social worker and the Curator must ascertain the child’s wishes and views regarding the proposed adoption as far as possible.
Alternatives to adoption
Every family and each situation where adoption is in contemplation is different, and a prospective adopter should seek legal advice regarding their options. Adoption is not always the most appropriate Order. Alternatives to adoption include:
- Residence Order
- Order conferring Parental Rights and Responsibilities
These Orders would not extinguish the natural parents' legal relationship with the child. We can discuss your options in detail, and advise as to the option we think would be most appropriate for you and your family.
How can Harper Macleod help with your Adoption?
With Lynsey and our specialist family team working on a range of family matters, we recognise through experience that all matters are different. We are problem solvers on hand to assist and guide you through the legal process to reach your end goal, by putting your needs at the heart of everything we do to deliver a stress free as possible experience.
Lynsey and our team are here and ready to help and advise you. For a confidential discussion with one of our adoption solicitors, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Call or use our simple contact us form online below.
Our Family Law Team is recognised in the UK's leading independent legal directories, Chambers UK Guide to the Legal Profession where sources are impressed by the department's abilities, noting: "The team is highly efficient and exacting, with an intelligent, capable, friendly staff who maintain a healthy balance between efficiency and compassion."