Can my step-dad adopt me? A guide to step-parent adoption

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Thousands of children and young people in the UK are raised by an adult who is not their biological parent. In some circumstances, this may be the longstanding partner or spouse of their mother and someone who has been in their life from a young age.

A natural question that we are often asked is whether adoption is possible in this scenario as a way to make the step-father a full legal parent.

In order to be eligible for ‘step-parent adoption’ the child in question must be under 18 when the application is made (and cannot be over 19 when the order itself is granted). Sadly this rules out the possibility that a step-parent can adopt their adult step-child. An adoption order is similarly not possible if the ‘child’ is married or has been married.

The position of the biological father must too be considered. If he still plays a parental role it is unlikely that an adoption order would be deemed in the child’s best interests by the court (since this will extinguish the biological father’s parental status permanently). If he is not involved but can still be contacted, he may need to give his consent to the application.

The (step-parent) adoption process itself consists of the involvement of the local authority, an appointed social worker and the family court and usually takes around six months to complete. It must be initiated by the step-father himself, with the support of the biological mother. For this reason, it is not possible to surprise a step-parent with an adoption order, although it is perfectly possible to download the court application form to present to him as a gesture, in contemplation of adoption proceedings.

The child’s wishes and feelings will too be considered, as appropriate for their age and development. A full report will be prepared by the social worker following their investigations, which will be submitted to court before a decision is made.

If an adoption order is not a possibility for your family, an alternative option is a change of name deed. Although this would not confer any legal responsibility to a step-parent, changing a child’s (or adult’s) surname to that of their step-father can be very symbolic.

For further advice about step-parent adoption, the associated criteria and whether it is possible or appropriate in your situation, please contact our specialist solicitor, Nicola Scott.

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