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UK agency adoption

If you can offer a home to an unrelated child who needs one, you might be considering adopting one child, or a sibling group.  Children available for adoption in the UK come from a wide variety of backgrounds and you will need to consider what kind of child you would be able to care for.  A child available for adoption might have been relinquished by their birth parents, or might have been taken into care and placed for adoption by a local authority.  Looked-after childr...

UK agency adoption: the process

The first step is for you to make contact with an adoption agency, which could be a local authority or a voluntary adoption society.  The agency will provide you with information and might ask you to attend an information session.  If you decide to work with them, you can formally apply to be assessed.  Find out more about eligibility for UK adoption. The home study assessment You will then be allocated a social worker who will assess you in accordance with the regulations....

Overseas adoption for UK parents

If you live in the UK and wish to adopt a child from outside the UK, you must follow the correct procedures or you will commit a criminal offence.  The first step is to decide which country you wish to adopt from (an adoption agency authorised to deal with intercountry adoption can guide you as to the options and where children are currently available to adopt). To understand the procedures you need to follow, you then need to know whether that country is: A Hague Convention country: thi...

Overseas adoption: the process

As with UK adoption, the first step is for you to make contact with an adoption agency (you need an agency authorised to deal with intercountry adoptions).  The agency will provide you with information and might ask you to attend an information session.  If you decide that you are happy to work with them, you can formally apply to be assessed.  They usually charge a fee for assessing you in intercountry adoption cases.  Find out more about eligibility for overseas adoption....

Step-parent and partner adoption

You can apply to adopt your partner's legal children, for example if your partner already has children, or if you have conceived a child together but the law does not recognise you as a legal parent.  You and your partner do not need to be married or in a civil partnership, but you must be living as partners in an enduring family relationship. Adoption will give you a lifelong connection with your child, including: Parental responsibility -  you will share decision-making about you...

Acquiring parental responsibility

Parental responsibility gives you the right to make and be involved in decisions about your child's care, including decisions as to medical treatment, education and religion.  Although a child can only have two legal parents, there is no limit to how many people can share parental responsibility.  Legal parents If you are your child's legal father (or a lesbian non-birth mother who is a legal parent at the time your child is conceived), you acquire parental responsibility by: Marry...

Securing parental rights for lesbian non-birth mothers

Many lesbian non-birth mothers are now treated as joint legal parents immediately from birth (see parenthood for lesbian non-birth mothers).  However, if you have children conceived before 6 April 2009, or otherwise fall outside the rules, the non-birth mother will only have parental status if you take steps to secure her position. Step-parent adoption The most complete solution is to apply for step-parent/partner adoption.  This gives the non-birth mother full and permanent legal sta...

Parental rights applications by co-parents

If you have conceived through a co-parenting arrangement (for example as a lesbian couple co-parenting with a known father or a gay couple) you may want more than two people to have parental rights in respect of your child. Legal parenthood Under UK law, a child can have a maximum of two legal parents.  The law dictates who the legal parents are; this is not open to agreement between the parties.  Find out more about legal parenthood in known donation and co-parenting arrangements. A...

Applying for UK adoption while living abroad

It is possible in some cases to apply for adoption of a child based in the UK even if you are living abroad. Domestic UK adoption One option is to apply for a domestic UK adoption order.  This is legally possible if you have a domicile in England and Wales (for example if you are British and living overseas on a temporary work placement or a military posting). Domicile is an often misunderstood UK legal concept. It relates, not to where you are living or your citizenship status, but to a m...

UK recognition of non-UK adoption orders

If you have adopted a child in another country, your adoption order might be automatically recognised in the UK without the need for a further legal process here.  This might apply, for example, if you have applied for step-parent adoption or adopted an unrelated child while living overseas, and are now moving to the UK as a family. Will you be legal parents in the UK? Your foreign adoption order will be recognised automatically in the UK if: your adoption order was made in a country wh...

Guardianship and wills

A guardian is someone appointed to care for a child after his or her parents have died.  Guardians nominated by will A guardian can be nominated by a child's parents (and certain other people with parental responsibility).  The appointment comes into effect if all the child's parents (with parental responsibility) die.  The nominated guardians then acquire parental responsibility automatically and do not need to make a court application to be permitted to care for the child. ...

Special guardianship

A special guardianship order is a court order which gives parental responsibility to someone, and restricts the parents from being able to exercise their parental responsibility.  However, unlike an adoption order, it does not fully or permanently extinguish the parents' legal parenthood. A special guardianship order is usually intended to provide a secure and long-term legal relationship between the special guardian and the child, whilst still preserving the legal link between the child a...

Court form: Application for a child arrangements order C100

This is the form you use to apply to court for a child arrangements order. This might be used in disputed situations or as a means of acquiring parental responsibility where everyone agrees.

Court form: Adoption application Form A58

Form A58 is the court form you need to apply for adoption in the UK, whether a step-parent/partner adoption or an unrelated adoption. You can find the application form and accompanying notes here.

Resources: UK government guide to intercountry adoption and British citizenship

The UK government's guidance on British nationality in intercountry adoption cases, published March 2014

Court form: Step parent parental responsibility agreement C(PRA)2

This form gives parental responsibility to the spouse or civil partner of a legal parent with parental responsibility.

Court form: Parental responsibility agreement C(PRA)1 - for legal fathers

These forms gives parental responsibility to an unmarried father where he has not been registered on the birth certificate. Please note that this form can only be used to give parental responsibility to someone who is a legal parent.

Court form: Parental responsibility agreement C(PRA)3 - for unmarried non-birth mothers who are legal parents

This form gives parental responsibility to an unmarried/non-civilly partnered female second parent, where she has not been registered on the birth certificate. Please note that this form can only be used to give parental responsibility to someone who is a legal parent.

NGA publication: Stonewall Pregnant Pause guide for lesbian and bisexual women

Natalie wrote the legal sections of Stonewall's well-known guide for lesbian couples considering starting a family together. It contains useful information on all the things to consider if you are thinking of starting a family.

NGA publication: Stonewall Gay Dads Guide

Gay rights charity Stonewall has produced a guide for gay dads starting a family. We were proud to help write the sections on surrogacy and co-parenting.

Legislation: Children Act 1989

This is the law which governs applications to the court concerning arrangements for children (see section 8-10), and applications for financial provision (Schedule 1).

Resources: Adoption and Children Act 2002

The Adoption and Child Act 2002 sets out the law, eligibility criteria and process for applying for adoption in the UK.