Adoption is one of the most life-changing events that a family court will ever decide upon; for the children involved, birth families or potential adoptive families. At AFG LAW our large team of solicitors, many of whom are children’s law accredited specialists, can provide you with the legal advice you need and support you through the process.
Whether you are involved in care proceedings for your children and know the local authority’s plan is adoption, if a placement order has already been made and your child has been placed with an adoptive family or if the potential adopters have made an application for an adoption order – you need access to expert adoption advice quickly. Contact our friendly adoption solicitors at AFG LAW today on 01204 377600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What is adoption?
Adoption is the legal process of removing a child from their birth parents and the adoptive parents becoming the legal parents for a child. It removes the birth parents’ parental responsibility and means they do not have any legal rights or responsibilities towards their child. It is permanent and means the child becomes a part of their adoptive family as if they had been born to that family.
How long does it take to adopt a child?
There is no set time frame. It usually takes around 6 months to become an approved adopter, but it will then take time for approved adopters to be matched to the right child.
Who can apply to get an adoption order?
A prospective adoptive parent can be a single person or a couple who are married, in a civil partnership or living together in an enduring family relationship. Adopters must be over 21. There are different rules for stepparent adoptions . The prospective adoptive parent must have passed the assessments and checks and the child must have lived with the adoptive family for at least 10 weeks. If you are a birth parent and have parental responsibility you will be an automatic party to the court proceedings and will be given notice of the hearing.
I don’t want my child to be adopted. Why is it still happening?
For your child to be adopted by another family you would have to agree or a judge sitting in the family court can decide that the adoption can go ahead without your consent. The judge can do this if the judge thinks the welfare of your child requires the court to dispense with your consent/your child would be at risk if they were not adopted or if you’re incapable of giving consent.
What will the court look at when being asked to make an adoption order?
The court will look at several different things when deciding whether to make an adoption order. The court will look at the welfare of the child in the long term, ‘throughout the child’s life’ and will consider that any delay is likely to prejudice the child’s welfare.
The court must have regard to the following matters when making a decision:
- The child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings regarding the decision (considered in the light of the child’s age and understanding)
- The child’s particular needs
- The likely effect on the child (throughout his life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person
- The child’s age, sex, background, and any of the child’s characteristics which the court or agency considers relevant
- Any harm (within the meaning of the Children Act 1989) which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- The relationship which the child has with relatives, with any person who is a prospective adopter whom the child is placed, and with any other person in relation to whom the court considers the relationship to be relevant, including-
- The likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value to the child of it doing so
- The ability and willingness of any of the child’s relatives, or of any such person, to provide the child with a secure environment in which the child can develop, and otherwise to meet the child’s needs,
- The wishes and feelings of any of the child’s relatives, or of any such person, regarding the child
The court will have to consider all the different powers open to it, not just adoption orders.
Adoption is the ‘last resort’ and will only be permitted if nothing else will do and there are no other realistic options.
What happens when an adoption order is made?
Once a judge sitting in the family court makes an adoption order the adoption becomes permanent and the child has the same rights as if they were the adoptive family’s birth child. The order takes away the birth parents’ rights and responsibilities for their child as well as taking it away from anyone else who has parental responsibility such as the local authority. An order may not be made if the family court is not satisfied that the local authority has had sufficient opportunity to see the child in the new home environment.
Can I challenge an application for an adoption order?
If a parent wishes to make an application to oppose an adoption order, they must first ask the court for permission to make the application. This is sometimes called ‘leave’ so you may hear it referred to as leave to oppose or permission to oppose.
If you want to make an application for permission to oppose an adoption order, you have to show a change in circumstances. This change must be for the better and be ‘sufficient’. It must also be a change that has happened since the end of the care proceedings, you must show what is different is now not changes you think you made during the care proceedings. The court then has to consider whether you should be given permission and the different things a judge could look at include; the prospects of success of you opposing the adoption order, change in circumstances, solid grounds for seeking leave to oppose and the potential impact on your child’s welfare. You can only oppose an application for an adoption order if you are a parent of the child and have parental responsibility.
It is important you act quickly so contact our friendly adoption solicitors today on 01204 377600 or email email@example.com. You can apply for legal aid to make an application for permission to apply to oppose an adoption order and our solicitors can explain the process. You will have to show the Legal Aid Agency that you have made changes and that these are sufficient and sustainable
Can the social worker take my children away and put them up for adoption?
The social worker does not have the power to take children, only a judge can make an order saying children should be removed from their parent and there are several stages before an adoption order can be made – a care order, a placement order and then an adoption order. Care orders and placement orders are often made at the same time.
- A care order allows a local authority to share parental responsibility with parents and decide where a child should live, including with family members, foster care or residential placements, and when they should have contact with their parents and other important people in their lives.
- A placement order allows a local authority to make arrangements for the child to be placed with a family that may decide to adopt them
- An adoption order makes the adopters the legal family of the child and removes parental responsibility from the birth parents so they no longer have any legal connection to the child.
You will have the chance to attend the court hearing and be represented so the Judge knows exactly what you think should happen and you can get legal advice and support. Contact our adoption solicitors today on 01204 377600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org