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With blended families becoming more common place more people are living in households with children who have no biological link to them. Stepparents often do not consider their legal position in the child’s life or what the implications may be for them and the child should the biological parent with who the child lives pass away or become incapacitated.
In “the eyes of the law” the stepparent has no legal position in the child’s life and a situation could arise where the child is left with no adult who has the legal ability to make a decision in respect of their lives. Similarly, a situation could arise if the resident parent passes away that the parent with whom the child does not live could seek for the child to live with them regardless of whether there is a good relationship there or not.
Stepparent adoption allows the relationship between a child and a stepparent to be put on a legal footing treating the stepparent as if they were the child’s parents at birth. The stepparent would acquire parental responsibility for the child, be able to change the child’s name and the child would inherit from the stepparent automatically should they die without leaving a will. The child would also remain in the stepparent’s acre should the biological parent with care pass away.
An adoption order has the effect of extinguishing the parental responsibility of any other parent other than the partner of the stepparent.
WHO CAN APPLY FOR A STEPPARENT ADOPTION?
You can apply for a stepparent adoption is: -
- You are over the age of 21
- The child is below the age 18 at the date that the application is made
- You have been living as a family for at least 6 months prior to the date that the application is made
HOW TO APPLY FOR AN ADOPTION ORDER?
The person applying for the adoption order must give notice to the local authority where the child lives at least months prior to the date of the application of their intention to apply for an adoption order. A social worker will be appointed and will consider the position of the child and make a recommendation to the court as to what is in the child best interests.
Once you have waited 3 months you can apply to the court. The court will issue a timetable for the gathering of information to allow them to make the decision. You will usually have to attend one or more hearings to determine the application. Consideration will have to be given as to the consent of all parents. If everyone agrees then the process should be straightforward.
Once the adoption order has been made the child’s birth certificate is replaced by an adoption certificate.
The consent of everyone who is a child’s parent and has parental responsibility is required. The court can order that the consent is not required but this is not a decision that the court will take lightly and will depend on several factors such as what connection the other parent has with the child and the child wishes and feelings.
Even if the other parent does not have parental responsibility, then the court will still consider the situation carefully as the adoption order has the effect of extinguishing that parent’s position in the child’s life.
A stepparent adoption order is not always the most appropriate application to make depending on the circumstances however there are alternatives to allow the stepparent to assume responsibility for the child such as: -
- Parental responsibility agreement
- Parental responsibility order
- Child arrangement order that the child live with you
- Special guardianship order.
If you would like to discuss which option to take please do not hesitate to speak to one of our friendly team members on 01785 252377 for Stafford appointments, 01782 987551 for Newcastle-under-Lyme, or 01270 446260 for Alsager appointments.