Step-parent adoption

When a step-parent adopts their partner's child

  • the legal relationship ends between that child and their other birth parent, as well as the wider family network, such as grandparents
  • the child loses all maintenance and inheritance rights with the birth family, and acquires rights to yours, which may affect inheritance share for any other children you have
  • you permanently become the legal parent of the child and have parental responsibility, which means if you and your partner separate you legally remain the child's parent
  • the child's surname can be changed (unless the court prevents this)

You can apply for a step-parent adoption if you

  • are aged 21 years or over
  • satisfy the court and the council's social worker, who completes a report on your suitability to adopt - this applies if you are not married to the child's parent
  • have been living as a family for at least 6 months before applying for an adoption order
  • have consent of the other birth parent *

* If the other birth parent refuses to allow the adoption, under Section 47 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, an adoption order cannot be made. However in some cases the court can determine that consent isn't required. In making this decision, the court will consider important factors, such as:

  • the extent to which the non-consenting birth parent has participated in the child's life (financially, practically and emotionally)
  • the extent to which she or he would be likely to do so in the future, and the views of the child.

To find out more about how you may adopt your partner's children, email us with the following information. Contact details are at the bottom of the page:

  • full family details, including names, date of births, relationships, address and contact details
  • how long you have lived together as a family
  • the views of all parties (including the birth father and any significant relatives, such as paternal grandparents) on the proposed adoption

What are the rights of the birth parent?

It is not normally possible for a step-parent to adopt their step-child if the other birth parent is still an active part of the child's life. This is because the other birth parent's consent would be required. The non-resident birth parent is often unwilling to give up their parental responsibility and legal relationship with their child.

The importance of a child keeping a close relationship with both birth parents is recognised by both the courts and child development experts. This takes precedence over considerations, such as whether the birth parents were married or not. This is another reason why step-parent adoption will only be suitable in a limited number of circumstances. The other birth parent will always be contacted as part of the assessment and steps are taken to trace them even if they have not been an active part of the child's life.

Please note

  • We need to prioritise finding families for children, and supporting children whose cases are in court and need priority assessment/s. Therefore your case may be subject to delays while you are placed on the waiting list for step-parent adoption. 
  • One of our social workers will contact you to arrange a suitable time to meet and discuss the process.
  • There are some costs associated with step-parent adoption; your social worker will go through these with you.

If you have a query about step-parent adoption, please email us via the contact details below.