Higgins Miller is a law firm, based in Stockport, which specialises in handling cases of family law. We are experts in cases which deal with highly sensitive matters such as wills and probate, divorce and children disputes. That means combining our legal expertise with a commitment to dealing with clients in a sympathetic and supportive manner. This is particularly the case when dealing with the relative adoption process.
The relative adoption process requires a fully rounded approach which recognises the emotions involved as well as explaining the legal steps which have to be taken. In the eyes of the law, the welfare of the child in question is of paramount importance, and we make sure that every client understands this from the very beginning of the process. If you’re related to a child who, for some reason, cannot be cared for by their parents, you may feel that you represent the natural choice to look after them. Despite this, the relative adoption process still has to be followed correctly, and failing to do so could jeopardise your chance of being able to care for the child in question. That’s why it’s vital to seek expert advice before embarking on the relative adoption process.
The advice we give will be shaped in order to make sure the process runs as smoothly as possible for all parties involved, and in particular for the child in question. There are certain criteria which have to be met by anybody seeking to adopt a child, and these apply in to the relative adoption process as much as to any other approach.
A single person or a couple can adopt a child, and a couple is defined as being two people either married, living in a civil partnership or ‘living as partners in an enduring relationship.’ In all cases the couple can be the same or different genders.
A couple can apply to adopt a child if they are both at least 21 years of age, or if one of the couple is the mother or father of the child and is at least 18 years of age and the other is at least 21.
Although there is no legal upper age limit for adoption, every case will involve an assessment of the people seeking to adopt, and the relative adoption process is no exception. A person’s age, therefore, may be taken into account when evaluating their ability to look after the child in question.
On all cases, one half of a couple will have to be domiciled in the UK, and both halves of the couple must have been living in the UK for no less than 12 months on the date of the application.
A criminal record check is carried out as part of the relative adoption process, on both the applicants and anyone 18 or over who lives with them. Certain offences, such as certain sexual offences or offences against children, make it impossible to adopt. Other offences will be taken into account, but a minor offence won’t necessarily stop adoption taking place.
If you are a close relative of the child, and the child has been living with you for three out of the past five years, then you can begin the relative adoption process. If the child has lived with you for less than three years, then you will have to obtain leave of the court before you apply to adopt. It is details like these which make it imperative to seek expert legal advice when embarking on the relative adoption process.
Before applying to the court for an adoption order, you must give the Children’s Services Department of the local authority in question three months’ notice in writing. The local authority will then appoint a social worker to meet with you and compile a report for the court, detailing the circumstances of the child, the family circumstances and the people seeking to adopt. They will also speak to your doctor and seek the consent of anyone with parental responsibility and take into account the views of any parent without parental responsibility.
The final part of the process is a court hearing to finalise the Adoption Order. The hearing will also involve the people with current parental responsibility for the child. This might mean someone named in a Child Arrangements Order, a Local Authority or an adoption agency. The assessment which has been compiled will be presented to the court and the court will decide whether the consent of the child’s parent is required or can be dispensed with. Having considered the long term welfare of the child, the court will decide whether an Adoption Order is the best course of action available; if it is, the order will be made and the relative adoption process will end with an adoption ceremony which can be attended by the adoptive parents, the child themselves and other relatives.