Step-parent adoption

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Step-parent adoption is a way in which you can become the legal parent of your partner’s child or children from a previous marriage or relationship.

All step-parent adoption orders involve an in depth assessment by a social worker from the local authority in which you live. A social worker will need to assess the full circumstances of your family and prepare a report for court. It is usually necessary for you to make contact with the non-resident parent and advise them that the step-parent wishes to adopt the child.

We will also involve the child in the assessment and gain their wishes and feelings. Therefore, if the child you wish to adopt is under the age of seven, the process may be more complex.

Step-parent adoption has been the usual route taken to provide a legally stable and secure family environment for step-children, enabling them to share the new family’s name and making sure that step-parent’s role, rights and responsibilities are recognised in the event of the death or incapacity of the birth parent.

Alternatives to step-parent adoption

Nowadays, there are alternatives available which are likely to be easier to achieve and may be more appropriate – especially for a child who has some involvement with both sides of his or her birth family.

The most comment alternative is for the step-parent to acquire parental responsibility. This means having all the legal rights, duties and responsibilities for a child.

Stepfathers can acquire parental responsibility by

  • Being awarded parental responsibility by a court
  • Entering into a court-registered parental responsibility agreement with the mother (if married)
  • Being granted a residence order by a court
  • Being appointed a guardian by a court
  • Adopting the child

We recommend that step-parents thinking of adoption seek legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in children and family law.

To be eligible to be assessed to adopt your step-child you must be at least 21 years old.

You must also be married to, or the partner of, one of the child’s parents for at least two years and also have lived with the child full-time for at least six months.

Before making your application you must give us three months’ notice of your intention to apply for an ‘adoption order’ in writing.


For more information, telephone 023 8083 3000 and ask for the Adoption Team.