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Thinking about adopting a child? What is the legal process?

Family Matters

Adopting a child is a big decision and the legal side of things can make it daunting to begin the process. At Hegarty Solicitors our experienced team of Family Lawyers can help you to understand the adoption process and make it as easy as possible.

An Adoption Order severs the legal ties between a birth parent and the child and gives full parental responsibility for a child to the approved adopters.

Can I adopt?

You can legally adopt a child if you are aged 21 years or more and are one of the below:

  • A Legal Guardian of the child can apply.
  • Unmarried couples where they have been living as partners in any enduring family relationships, i.e., 2 cousins or grandmother and niece would not be able to apply.
  • Step-Parent/Partner of Birth Parent.
  • Relatives – they can also apply but the child must have lived with them for a period of no less than 3 years, whether continuous or not. This requirement can be waived in exceptional circumstances.

Additionally, although you don’t have to be a British citizen, you must have a permanent address of residence in the UK. You must also have lived in the UK for at least one year before you can begin the application process to adopt.

Both biological parents must agree to the adoption unless; they cannot be found, they are not capable of providing consent, or the child is in danger if they are not adopted.

The application process

To begin the process of becoming an approved adopter, you must contact the Children’s Services department of your local authority to notify them of your intention to seek an adoption order. They then prepare an assessment report looking at the child, the parents, the circumstances, and any other important factors. In some situations, there can be valid reason to not contact the other person for example if domestic violence or other abuse has occurred.

The following information is also considered:

  • The child’s legal status and who holds parental responsibility
  • Potential gaps in the assessment reports or involvement of an expert
  • The exploration of family and friends
  • Circumstances surrounding any siblings
  • Child’s characteristics that may affect probability of adoption


The Adoption Service reports on the applicant’s suitability through police checks, and medical examinations determining their capability to provide basic care and stimulation for a child. It also assesses the emotional availability of the applicant to ensure that they can fulfil the child’s emotional needs. Throughout this part of the process, Children’s Services or the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is usually involved.



There is often likely to be at least two hearings.

  1. The first considers the application and makes directions within 4 weeks
  2. The second looks more at the results of the investigations and reports. Sometimes then an order is made straight away but more frequently this is when more action is required, and another hearing date is made

Throughout the entire process the child’s welfare is the primary concern and this overrides any other factors. The Court not only considers their welfare in the current time but also on a long-term basis as adoption extinguishes all legal rights of the parents.

How Hegarty Solicitors can help

Our qualified family solicitors can support you with the application process and give you legal advice to ensure the best outcome possible. We can only assist with private adoptions, for example a new spouse adopting their step-children or family members adopting children of other family members.

For more information, please contact us at, call 01733 346 333 or fill out an online enquiry form and one of our team will be in touch.

Head to our Family Matters page here

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