At Kee Solicitors, we understand that the process involved with adoption can be an emotional and stressful time for people who wish to adopt a child. The legal procedure required to formalise adoption can be very complex but at Kee solicitors, we make the process as easy as possible.
There are numerous reasons for why you may seek to adopt a child: the child may have been orphaned; a step parent may wish to legalise their relationship; or the child may have been adopted from abroad. Whatever the reasons we are here to help.
Alternatively, you may be a child’s parent and seek to oppose an adoption taking place. You have rights and we can assist.
Am I Eligible to Adopt a Child?
There is certain criteria to meet from the outset, in order to be eligible to apply for an Adoption Order in Scotland. You should take advice from a solicitor to discuss your eligibility, this criteria usually includes:
- That you are over 21.
- That you can adopt as an individual or a couple.
- If you are adopting a step-child, you must be married to, in a civil partnership or living in an ‘enduring family relationship’ with the natural parent of the child, this depends on the circumstances of each case and there are no set time periods that apply to this definition. You will be required to demonstrate that you have a stable and lasting relationship.
- If you are adopting a step child, you or your partner must have lived in Scotland or been domiciled there for at least 1 year.
- There is no absolute requirement that you must be in good health, however the court will give consideration to any health issues you do have which could affect the level of care you can give to the child in question.
- You can adopt even if you have a criminal record, this will be considered by the court and it will depend on the nature of the offence. This will also affect the adoption process if adopting through an adoption agency, it is likely that the agency will not consider you a suitable adoptive parent, depending on the nature of your previous offences.
What is the Legal Adoption Process?
The legal process consists of an Order of the Court to establish a new parent-child relationship, transferring parental rights and responsibilities upon the adopter. This new relationship replaces the previous relationship between the child and their natural parents. The adoption process is a lengthy one as it is hoped to result in a permanent arrangement for a child.
The first step in the process normally involves approaching the local authority or an adoption agency with your intention to adopt the child. It is common that the local authority will have a list of all agencies within your area. It is important to remember, whichever agency you choose to arrange the adoption is required to be registered with the care inspectorate.
Depending on the agency you approach to arrange the adoption certain criteria may be used in placing a child with prospective adoptive parents. On your request, this information should be made available to you. A social worker is also normally assigned to your case, they will produce a report on the suitability of the adoption and anything else that is relevant to your application after various visits to your home.
Once the petition is lodged at Court, along with the social work report and any other documents that are deemed relevant, a preliminary hearing is fixed between 6-8 weeks after such action. The natural parents of the child will also receive a copy of this petition, as will any other relevant person the court considers entitled to receive the copy. The natural parents then have 21 days to tell the court if they oppose the adoption application. A curator may be appointed by the court to speak to the birth parents and obtain their view on the adoption application. The curator will then produce another report on the application. If opposition to the application exists, those opposing the application will be required by the court to lodge the answers as to why. This will eventually culminate into an evidential hearing on the adoption. If no opposition to the application exists, the court may grant the adoption order at the preliminary hearing.
Consent is needed by any party who possess parental rights and responsibilities. Consent may also be required by the child if they are aged over 12. A natural parent’s consent is not always necessary, this depends on whether that parent is in a fit state to exercise their parental responsibilities or if it is in the best interests of the welfare of the child for their parental responsibilities to be dispensed of. The child’s view, even if the child is under 12 is still taken into account where appropriate.