The legal procedure to adopt a child can be a daunting and emotional time for prospective adopters. We have briefly outlined the legal process of adopting a child placed with prospective adopters by a local authority or other adoption agency.
A child must be at least nineteen weeks old and must have lived with the prospective adopter(s) for at least thirteen weeks before the adoption can be granted. The adopter(s) solicitor will lodge the adoption application, called a ‘petition’, with the court.
The local authority or adoption agency will complete a report on the child’s background and the prospective adopter(s)’ suitability, called a ‘Section 17 Report’, which is also lodged with the court. A preliminary hearing is assigned around six to eight weeks after lodging the petition.
A copy of the adoption petition is sent to the natural parents of the child, where appropriate, and any other person the court deems appropriate in advance of the preliminary hearing. The natural parents have 21 days to oppose the application if they wish to do so, by lodging a ‘Form of Response’ with the court.
A Curator ad Litem/Reporting Officer is appointed by the court to obtain any required consent, and to investigate matters and provide a further report to the court in advance of the preliminary hearing. The child’s views must be taken if the child is mature enough to express a view.
If there is no opposition to the adoption application, and the natural parents either consent to the adoption or the court dispenses with their consent, the court may grant the adoption order at the preliminary hearing if it considers it appropriate. Consent can be dispensed with where the parent is dead, cannot be found, is incapable of consenting or cannot satisfactorily discharge their parental rights and responsibilities and are likely to continue to be unable to do so. The court can also dispense with consent where the child’s welfare otherwise requires it.
If the adoption application is opposed, the prospective adopter(s)’ solicitor will require to lodge a ‘Statement of Facts’ with the court, with the opposing party lodging ‘Answers’ in response. The court will fix a timetable for further court procedure which will lead to Diet of Proof where witnesses will give evidence. At the conclusion of the Diet of Proof the court will decide whether the adoption order should be granted and, if so, whether there should be any post-adoption contact between the child and the natural parents. If the adoption is granted, the adopter(s) become the child’s legal parents.
As always, getting good advice is essential. The Drummond Miller family law team is extremely experienced in dealing with all aspects of family law including separation, divorce, and child-related matters. If you would like any further information or advice, please get in touch with our experienced solicitors in Edinburgh, Dalkeith, Musselburgh or Bathgate.