The process of adopting a child is long and complex and anyone who is involved in the care of children – either professionally or through familial responsibilities – will doubtlessly agree that this situation is exactly as it should be. Given that the ultimate aim of any adoption process is to ensure the safety and well-being of the child, the many steps which have to be worked through are a vital means of establishing the suitability of the adults applying and the viability of the relationship between child and would-be adoptive parents. At Higgins Miller we have extensive experience of dealing with all aspects of family law, and our legal know how is backed up by a client-centred approach which recognises the strong emotions involved. No matter what stage in an adoption application you’ve reached – even if the process itself hasn’t actually started yet- members of our team will be able to offer advice which is detailed, empathetic and tailored to your individual circumstances.
How Does the Adoption Process Begin?
There are certain factors which need to be in place if the adoption of a child is to take place. The child in question needs to be under the age of 18 at the time of an application being made, and must never have been either married or involved in a civil partnership. In most cases, both parents of the child have to agree to the adoption taking place, although exceptions to this include:
- Cases in which the parents cannot be traced
- Cases in which (i.e. due to mental incapacity) they are unable to give consent
- Cases in which an adoption not taking place would put the child in question at risk
If the parents do not consent to the adoption the court can dispense with their consent if the court is satisfied that this is in the child’s best interests.
Those allowed to make an application for adoption include anyone over the age of 21, and applicants can be single, married, in a civil partnership, co-habiting as an unmarried couple, or the application could be made by the partner of the child’s parent. Although UK citizenship isn’t a strict requirement, any applicant, or one half of any couple applying, must be able to demonstrate that they have a fixed and permanent home in the UK, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, and must also have been resident in the UK for at least 12 months before the application begins.
If you meet all of these criteria then you may well be in a position to launch an application to adopt a child. Whether the child is known or even related to you the same process will have to be undertaken, starting with an assessment process which usually takes at least six months.
No matter what way you choose to adopt a child you will also be invited to attend classes outlining the full ramifications of adoption. You may be subject to a police check and put thorough a medical examination as well as being asked to provide the details of 3 referees able to vouch for your good character (one of whom can be a relative).
Throughout this process the team at Higgins Miller, drawing on their experience of working in areas including social services and the care system, will be able to counsel through both practical advice and through the reassurance that the adoption process is similarly stressful and arduous for every applicant.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the adoption process then contact us by calling 0161 429 7251, or emailing at [email protected]. An initial legal aid appraisal, whether conducted in person or via a phone call, is free for a maximum of 20 minutes. If you require more assistance then our Fixed Fee first appointment costs just £50 (plus VAT), and provides an hour long meeting at our offices during which you can explain your concerns, plan your next steps and leave with a written summary of the issues discussed. If you’d like more information on case funding – how much legal advice will cost and the various options available to fund it – take a look at our guide to Legal Aid which is available here.