Family building through adoption is a wonderful option if you are prepared to offer a home to an unrelated child who desperately needs one. You might be considering adoption after unsuccessful fertility treatment, or as a first option (perhaps if you are a same sex or solo parent).
You can find out more on our site about:
Who can apply for adoption?
The only legal eligibility criteria for adoption under UK law are:
- You must be over 21 (there is no upper age limit).
- You must not have been convicted of any ‘specified offences’ (certain offences against children and sexual offences).
- You must be habitually resident or domiciled in the UK.
However, to adopt an unrelated child you must be approved as a suitable prospective adopter by an adoption agency and matched with a child whose needs you can meet, so many other issues are taken into account before you can adopt. This includes your health, age, support network, financial circumstances, any other children in your family, and your religion and ethnic background.
You can apply for adoption jointly as a couple if you are either married or in an enduring family relationship. If you have been having fertility treatment, you are normally expected to draw a clear line from the end of your fertility treatment and to show that you are fully committed to the adoption process. Most agencies will not assess you if you are still having fertility treatment and will expect you to wait a period of time before applying for adoption (usually 6-12 months after your fertility treatment ends).
Same sex and solo parents
You can apply for adoption if you are a solo mum or dad, whatever your sexuality.
Gay and lesbian couples have been able to apply for adoption jointly in the UK since December 2005 to become joint legal ‘parents’; even before this they could apply in practice by one partner becoming the adoptive parent.
Attitudes to same-sex adoption have changed considerably over the last few years, and adoption is now a realistic family-building option for same-sex couples. It is unlawful for adoption agencies in the UK to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, although the same rules do not apply in other countries; if you are considering intercountry adoption you need to plan things very carefully.
Adoption in the UK or abroad?
You might want to adopt a child (or more than one child) from the UK. This might be a child who has been relinquished for adoption by his or her birth parents, or a child who has been taken into care and placed for adoption by a local authority. A looked-after child might have been in care for some time and have special emotional or physical needs. Children available for adoption in the UK come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Considering how you would meet their particular needs and what categories of children you would be able to care for is an important part of the adoption process. Find out more about the UK adoption process.
If you are considering adopting from abroad, plan carefully. The laws on intercountry adoption are complex, and criminal offences apply if you do not follow the correct procedures. Identifying a suitable destination country is one of the first considerations, as well as considering the practical and legal issues. Find out more about intercountry adoption.
How we can help
We have a wealth of experience in advising alternative families on family building (including fertility patients and same-sex and solo parents) and can help you with:
Family building plans. We can give independent and impartial advice on what to expect from the adoption process, often looking at UK or intercountry adoption alongside surrogacy, fertility treatment and other options to work out the best route to creating your family.
Expert advice on more complex legal issues, such as whether you meet the criteria for habitual residence or domicile (particularly for foreign or multinational parents adopting in the UK and expatriate British couples based abroad).
Legal representation in UK adoption applications, including intercountry adoption applications, UK adoptions where there are complications, and appeals to the Independent Review Mechanism.
Links with expert immigration and employment lawyers to advise on these aspects where necessary.
Contact us for help or advice.
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