Step Parent Adoption
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN ADOPTING YOUR STEP CHILD YOU MUST CONTACT THE CHILD AND FAMILY AGENCY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE BUT AT A MINIMUM BEFORE THE CHILD HAS REACHED 17 YEARS. Any later than this and you risk not being able to complete the adoption prior to the child's 18th birthday.
Step Parent adoption is where a person can apply to adopt the child of their spouse/partner. Adoption severs the legal connection between the child and the non-custodial parent.
There are two types of step parent adoption. The most common type is when the mother’s spouse/partner is applying to adopt the child. The less common is where the father’s spouse/partner applies to adopt the child.
Once an Adoption Order is made the spouse/partner will share the same parental rights and responsibilities as the biological parent. An Adoption Order ensures the child’s inheritance rights within the step parent family.
The Adoption Acts 2010 to 2017 provides for a stepparent to adopt their partner’s child while their partner, usually one of the child’s biological parents residing with the child, retains their parental rights. The Act as amended allows for the child to be adopted by their stepparent where the proposed adoptive parent is a spouse, civil partner, or co-habitant with a parent of the child.
As with all other forms, stepparent adoption severs the legal connection between the child and non-custodial parent. There is no provision for attaching conditions to adoption orders therefore any contact the non-custodial parent and the child may wish to have is at the discretion of the new adoptive parent and their partner.
As a consequence of the above the partner is not assessed, the application is made only by the stepparent. Notwithstanding this it will be necessary as part of the assessment to interview the partner to:
- Assist in establishing that this adoption is in the best interests of the child.
- Assist in making a finding as to the applicant’s eligibility and suitability to adopt, and,
- Consult them to establish their full free informed consent or approval to the adoption.
Key Stages of the Stepparent Process
- Stage One: Enquiry to the Adoption Service
- Stage Two: Information session
- Stage Three: Formal application
- Stage Four: Initial assessment
- Stage Five: Final assessment and Consultation
- Stage Six: Presentation to the Adoption Committee
- Stage Seven: Adoption Authority of Ireland
NB: It is important to note that each stage has a particular process which is mapped out below. Multiple factors influence the progression of each stage and at times depending on the age of the child subject to the adoption application one process can commence in advance of the next stage or occur at the same time.
Generally, it can be expected that any adoption process is likely to take up a minimum of two years to complete. Often however, the process can be protracted beyond this time frame due to a number of factors including but not limited to:
- non-custodial parent(s) does not engage, objects or cannot be found.
- welfare concerns/allegations in relation to the step parent or partner which may not be fully resolved.
NB: As a consequence of the above, it must be emphasised that enquiries/ referral for adoption should be made as early as possible due to the lengthy time scales involved. To give sufficient time for an adoption to be completed prior to a young person’s 18th birthday applications should be made prior to their 15th birthday. While cases of young people who are 15 years and older will be prioritised, there is a high risk that an Adoption Order will not be granted in time.
NB: For those applications where the child subject to the application is over 15 years old a completed application form alone will be sufficient to deem the case a formal application.
For an adoption order to be granted, two key criteria must be met:
- The child needs to be eligible for adoption, (that is they must be under the age of 18 years and resident in the country), it must be in their best interests and be a proportionate means of meeting their needs. This is set out in Section 19 as amended.
- The step parent must meet the requirements of eligibility and suitability set out in the Adoption Act 2010 Sections 33 and 34.
The consents/consultations with the child’s residing parent and non-custodial parent will be carried out in a manner which will enable them to make a full, free, informed decision regarding the adoption plan. It is the responsibility of the Adoption Service to ensure that all those whose consent is required and those who must be consultation are carried out fairly and appropriately.
- Usually, one of the child’s birth parent’s is married to, in a civil partnership or co-habiting with a person who is not a birth parent of the child.
- *the child has a home with the parent and stepparent for a continuous period of not less than 2 years, evidence of this will need to be provided.
- the child is less than 18 years old.
- the family is resident in the Republic of Ireland for 12 months prior to the application.
- a widow/widower wishes to adopt their deceased partner’s child of a previous relationship.
*Under Section 23 (2) the AAI can use its discretion and issue an adoption order in cases where the child has not been resident with the stepparent for the subscribed period.