Higgins Miller specialises in delivering legal advice and support to people dealing with matters of family law. That means we have expertise in areas such as divorce, wills and probate and children disputes. It also means that we’re used to helping people to cope with the adoption order process, and the steps which have to be taken to give a home to a child.
Our experience in dealing with issues such as the adoption order process means that we know exactly the right approach to take to clients. This involves balancing an understanding of the legal issues involved with an ability to offer empathy, support and a sympathetic understanding of the emotional impact. The adoption order process following care proceedings can be a long and complex one, and it’s vital that prospective adoptive parents understand this from the beginning.
We’ll explain exactly what’s going on at every stage of the adoption order process, outlining what steps the prospective parents will have to take and what information the courts and other organisations will have to be provided with. The adoption order process is designed to place the needs of the child at the centre of everything, and that means running extensive checks on the prospective parents and making sure they have the fullest possible grasp of the seriousness of what they’re doing.
The adoption order process often involves applying to adopt a child who has already been placed into care by the courts. The beginning of the process consists of making an application in the Family Court, and the adoption agency involved will generally be a local authority or an independent agency. The adoption agency will carry out the adoption assessment, which involves preparation classes, a visit from a social worker and a police check. Applicants will also be asked to provide the names of three referees – one of whom can be a relative – and to have a health check in order to ascertain if they are able to meet the child’s needs.
This assessment will then be sent to an independent adoption panel which will make a recommendation to the adoption agency. If the adoption panel says that the applicant is suitable, the next stage in the adoption order process involves making an application for a court order to the Family Court. If granted, the court order gives the applicant’s full parental rights and responsibilities. During the course of the adoption order process the applicants will have to file a statement of facts, the guardian of the child – in the case of a child in care this is usually a local authority – will file a report, generally around four weeks after the application was made, and then the judge will schedule a hearing. At this hearing, known as a first directions appointment, the court will consider the application, deal with any contested issues, give directions and a timetable for any further reports required and, if possible, set a date for the final hearing.
If everything goes to plan, this final hearing will be the occasion upon which the adoption order is granted. This means that the applicants receive an adoption certificate which replaces the original birth certificate and is made out in the child’s new name. It also marks the point at which an adopted child acquires the full rights (i.e. inheritance) of a birth-child, and any previous guardians cease to have parental responsibility.
As the brief explanation above makes clear, the adoption order process is complex, and should not really be embarked upon without expert legal advice. If you’ve got any questions about the adoption order process, or are simply at the earliest stages of considering adoption in the future, then please contact us. If you phone on 0161 429 7251 or email at [email protected] we’ll provide an initial 20-minute appraisal free of charge. If you decide to make further use of our services than a number of funding options are available, of which you can find details here.