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The primary piece of legislation governing the law of adoption is the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (“ACA 2002”). The provisions of this legislation should also be considered with reference to the Children Act 1989 (“CA 1989”).
Following the making of an Adoption Order by the Court, an adopted ‘child’ (i.e. a person who has not yet attained the age of 18) is treated in law as if they are the natural, legitimate child of the adopter(s). In other words, the adopted child is treated as not being the child of any other person other than the adopter(s). The effect of adoption is intended to be life-long.
An adopter can be a single person or a couple (defined as a married couple, civil partners, or two people living together as partners in an ‘enduring family relationship’). The prospective adopter(s) must be over the age of 21 (with the exception of step-parental adoption, where the step-parent must have attained the age of 21, but the natural parent must only have attained the age of 18).
Before an application to adopt can be made, the child or children must have lived with the prospective adopter(s) for a specified period of time. The length of time depends on the identity of the prospective adopter(s) and the circumstances in which the prospective adoption has come about. An adoption order may not be made unless the Court is satisfied that the adoption agency or local authority has had sufficient opportunity to see the child(ren) with the prospective adopter(s) in the home environment.
Whilst Adoption Orders are often made after the intervention of the local authority and the making of a placement order following care proceedings, not every child is adopted as a result of this process, or because of the fault of the natural parent(s). It is possible for a natural parent to give their consent for the child to be adopted, although there are a number of safeguards in place to ensure that the parent is giving this consent in an informed and considered way.
It is also possible for a step-parent to adopt their step-child(ren). The consent of all people with Parental Responsibility would be required.
Should a parent wish to oppose an application for an Adoption Order, the Court’s permission is required before such an application to oppose can be made. A sufficient change of circumstances must be shown and the Court will, in exercising its discretion, consider the prospect of success in opposing the adoption and the potential impact of the child(ren) in question.
Only a parent or guardian with Parental Responsibility for a child can oppose an application for an Adoption Order. Those without Parental Responsibility (for example, wider family members, friends, or unmarried fathers who have not obtained Parental Responsibility) would need to apply under the CA 1989 for permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order in order to oppose the application.
Here at Roythornes, the members of our specialist Family Law team will be able to advise you about the merits and pitfalls and the choices which may be available to you when decisions about adoption need to be made. The Family Law team regularly deals with complex and contentious cases across Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, the East Midlands and beyond, and any member of the team would be happy to accommodate a meeting at any of Roythornes’ four offices in Spalding, Peterborough, Nottingham and Newmarket, by telephone or by Skype/video conferencing.
Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Family Law team by telephone – 01775 842500 – to discuss matters. Alternatively, please send an email to email@example.com.