Who may adopt
The following persons are eligible to adopt:-
a) a married couple living together; this is the only circumstance where the law permits the adoption of a child by more than one person:
b) a married person alone; in this circumstance the spouse's consent to adopt must be obtained, unless they are living apart and are separated under (i) a court decree or (ii) deed of separation or (iii) the spouse has deserted the prospective adopter or (iv) conduct on the part of the spouse results in the prospective adopter, with just cause, leaving the spouse and living apart;
c) the mother, father or a relative of the child (relative meaning a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the child and/or the spouse of any such person, the relationship to the child being traced through the mother or the father);
d) a widow or widower.
A sole applicant who does not come within the classes of persons defined under (c) and (d) above may only adopt where the Board is satisfied that, in the particular circumstances of the case, it is desirable to grant an order. It is not possible for two unmarried persons to adopt jointly.
Ages of adopters
A couple adopting a child to whom they are not related must both be at least 21 years of age. Where the child is being adopted by a married couple and one of them is the mother or father or a relative of the child, only one of them must have attained the age of 21 years.
The law does not lay down upper age limits for adopting parents. However, age is a significant factor when assessing a couple's suitability to adopt and most adoption agencies apply their own upper age limits.
Residency of adopters
Adopting parents must be ordinarily resident in the State and have been so resident for at least one year before the date of the making of the adoption order.
Where the adopting parents, the child and the parent(s) are not all of the same religion, the parent(s) must know the religion (if any) of each of the adopting parents when giving consent to the child's adoption.
The consent of the parent/guardian of the child to the adoption is a legal requirement. If the child is born outside marriage, and the father has no guardianship rights, only the mother's consent is needed. Under the Adoption Act 1998, however, birth fathers are now being consulted (if possible) about the adoption of their children. In situations where the parents are not married and the father does not have guardianship rights, his consent is not necessary for adoption. However, the consent of the father is required if he marries the mother after the birth of the child or he is appointed guardian or is granted custody of the child by court order.
The mother, father (where he is guardian) or other legal guardian must give an initial consent or agreement to the placing of a child for adoption by a Registered Adoption Society. He/she must then give his/her consent to the making of an Adoption Order. This consent may be withdrawn any time before the making of the Adoption Order.
If the mother either refuses consent or withdraws consent already given, the adopting parents may apply to the High Court for an order. If the court is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child, it will make an order giving custody of the child to the adopting parents for a specified period and authorising the Adoption Board to dispense with the mother's consent to the making of the Adoption Order.
If a mother changes her mind about adoption before the making of the Adoption Order, but the adopting parents refuse to give up the child, she may then institute legal proceedings to have custody of her child returned to her.
When an Adoption Order is made, a new birth certificate can be obtained for the child. Although it is not an actual birth certificate, it has the status of one for legal purposes. It gives the date of the Adoption Order and the names and addresses of the adoptive parents and is similar in all aspects to a birth certificate.