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Adoption - the legal step that completes your family
Take that step with a family lawyer from Stevenson & Marshall
Adoption involves making an application to your local sheriff court. We can guide and advise you through the whole process, and make it as smooth as possible for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Prospective Adoptive Parents
An adoption agency is a voluntary organisation approved by the Government. All local authorities are also required to maintain adoption services. If you are thinking of adopting a child, have a look at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) website - http://www.baaf.org.uk/local/scot/. The checks carried out by the adoption agency are very intensive, and involve interviews, home visits, training, criminal disclosure checks and medicals.
Your solicitor will prepare a petition to the court for the adoption order to be made, including any change of name of the child. The local authority or adoption agency will prepare a report on your suitability and the placement for the child. The court will also appoint a solicitor (called a “curator ad litem and reporting officer”) to prepare an independent report. Your application is notified to the birth parents, who have the opportunity to consent or to object. If the birth parents don’t consent, the court will hear evidence and decide whether making an adoption order will safeguard and promote the welfare of the child throughout his or her childhood. If the court makes an adoption order, all parental rights and responsibilities are transferred from the birth parents to you. Notice of the adoption is sent to the Registrar General who makes an entry in the Adopted Children Register showing your names as parents and the child’s new name.
You must be aged at least 21 to apply to adopt a child. Couples can apply to adopt, whether they are married to one another, in a civil partnership, or living together as if they were married or in a civil partnership. Single persons can also adopt. Step-parents can adopt the child of their spouse, partner or civil partner if they are living together. An adopted step-child is treated in law as if he or she were the child of the adoptive parent, who has all the parental rights and responsibilities of a birth parent. There are alternatives to a step-parent adoption, such as a residence order, and you will need legal advice before deciding how to proceed. If you don’t fit into one of these categories of people who can adopt, it may still be possible, but you need legal advice and should contact one of our family lawyers.
Finding Birth Parents
As an adopted person you are entitled to information about your birth family, and information about your adoption, as soon as you reach the age of sixteen. You should contact the Registrar General for Scotland, who is obliged to provide you with information which will allow you to trace your original Birth Certificate. You should also visit the Adoption Search Reunion website at http://www.adoptionsearchreunion.org.uk. The Registrar General will advise you of the availability of counselling services from your local authority or any adoption agency which was involved in your adoption. If you arrange to receive counselling, the Registrar General will send your local authority or the adoption agency an extract of your original birth certificate. Adoption agencies and local authorities are obliged to keep their records for at least 75 years. The court record of your adoption is kept sealed but, as the adopted person, you are entitled to see it. If you wish to see it you should apply to the Sheriff Clerk at the court where your adoption was granted.
Before an adoption can proceed, your consent must be either given, or dispensed with in court. A solicitor appointed by the court will contact you to ascertain whether or not you consent to the adoption. If you consent to the adoption, this solicitor will have you sign a certificate saying that you agree. You will receive formal notification of the adoption application. If you agree to the adoption, you do not need to attend court at all. If you do not consent to the adoption you need legal advice as soon as you know about it. The court will consider whether to dispense with your consent to allow the adoption to proceed. Such a decision would be based on whether the court finds that you are withholding your consent unreasonably, or have failed to fulfil your parental responsibilities. If the court dispenses with your consent the adoption order will be granted.
A local authority can apply to the court for a Permanence Order in respect of a child. The purpose of the Permanence Order is to allow the local authority to make long-term arrangements for the child, for example to decide where the child should reside and to make decisions about whether there should be any contact between the child and his or her birth parents. A Permanence Order is not necessarily followed by adoption. In many cases the granting of a Permanence Order by the court will end any parental rights and
responsibilities which the birth parent of the child has and the Local Authority will then have parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the child. In some cases, the granting of the Permanence Order will also give authority for the child to be adopted. In these cases, for the Permanence Order to be granted, the birth parent must consent to adoption or
the birth parent’s consent must be dispensed with by the court. If you are the birth parent of a child and you have received a copy of an application by the Local Authority to the court for a Permanence Order in respect of your child, you should immediately seek advice from one of our family lawyers.
An adoption order brings all your parental rights and responsibilities to an end. They are transferred to the adoptive parents. So, unless the court orders otherwise, you would have no legal right to have any contact with the child after adoption. Courts are often reluctant to order that birth parents should continue to have contact with children after adoption, for fear that this may undermine the adoption placement. It happens only in exceptional circumstances. However, if adoptive parents agree, arrangements are often made for “letterbox” contact – this means that letters and photographs are exchanged between birth and adoptive families perhaps once a year. This allows the adoptive family to build up a record for the child over the years, so that he or she can know about his or her birth family as he or she grows up.