If you are a step-family and you are thinking about adopting or about how you can clarify the legal rights and responsibilities you have in relation to the children in your family there are a number of options available to you.
Is Adoption right for us?
- Your family is recognised by law.
- All family members have the same surname.
- Legal links with the previous family are broken.
- You do not have to be married to adopt – you can also adopt as the partner of the child’s parent.
- The children share rights of inheritance with any other children in the family.
- Your child will be legally separated from one of his or her parents and also a large section of this parent’s wider family too. This could be confusing or distressing for the child and needs careful consideration.
- Children may feel that they have to choose between different adults who are all important to them.
- Sooner or later an adopted child may blame their step-parent or parent for the loss of the other birth parent.
- The adopted child will lose any rights to maintenance or inheritance from the other birth parent or that parent’s family.
Legal alternatives to adoption
There are legal alternatives to adoption for step-families:
- Parental Responsibility Agreement/Order – The step-parent will share parental responsibility with the child’s parents.
- Child Arrangement Order – This order determines whom the child is to live with. If this is not a parent it also gives that person parental responsibility, in addition to the birth parents.
- Special Guardianship Order – This order gives parental responsibility for the child to the Special Guardian. However, the birth parents remain the legal parents but their parental responsibility is limited.
If you live in the Walsall MBC area and require further information on adoption or any of the above orders you can contact the adoption duty worker on 0300 555 2839` to talk through any initial questions you may have and they will then send you out a leaflet explaining the process.
You may also wish to seek your own independent legal advice in respect of adoption or alternative legal options.
Step-parent Adoption Process
If, having read the leaflet, you are still interested in adoption please contact the adoption duty worker again to make an application.
If you wish to proceed with your adoption application after receiving all of the information and advice you will be asked to notify us in writing of your intention to adopt. This letter must be dated, give the child’s full names and date of birth and be signed by both applicants. We will then respond to your letter in writing. A social worker will then be allocated at the earliest opportunity to offer further support and advice and discuss the next stage of the process.
2 Welfare supervision
Once we have received your notification we have a legal duty to supervise the children where there is an adoption application pending. The supervision will continue until an adoption application is heard, or you write to notify us that you no longer intend to apply for an adoption order, or an application is not made for an adoption order within two years of your notification.
3 Application to the court for an Adoption Order
If you proceed to an adoption application you need to go in person to the court to collect an adoption application form. You need to take the letter that you received from Walsall Adoption Service which acknowledges receipt of your notification of intention to adopt.
When your application to the court has been made, Walsall Adoption Service will be given a hearing date and will be required to submit a detailed report to the court within six weeks.
The social worker will be required to interview the absent birth parent and any significant relatives on his/her side of the family. The child’s school may be contacted as part of the enquiries for the court report.
The step-parent will be asked to give consent to an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check and checks will be made on local authority records.
4 Court hearing
The court will then make a decision about whether to make an order. The court can decide to make no order at all or can make any of the following orders:
- An Adoption Order
- A Parental Responsibility Order
- A Child Arrangement Order
- A Special Guardianship Order