How to Adopt Step-Children in the UK

adopting a step child

How to adopt step-children in the UK is always a big topic when it comes to family law, as blended families are becoming more and more common as parents separate and enter into new relationships with people who may have children already. A lot of people choose to live as a blended family without formalising the arrangement. Other want to provide their children with more security and stability by seeking to formalise the step-parent’s relationship with the child therefore applying to adopt their partner’s child.

We’ll talk more about the options available to adopt step-children in the UK by the step-parent, first we need to understand what is meant by parental responsibility or PR as described by the Children Act 1989, that says:

 ‘…all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.’

People with Parental Responsibility are entitled to have a say in major decisions about the child, such as where the child should live or go to school, any medical treatment they receive and what religion they should practise.


What is an Adoption Order

An Adoption Order changes the child’s legal status meaning he/she becomes a permanent and full member of the family unit created with the step-parent. The Adoption Order also undoes all the legal ties the child has with his or her other birth parent.


adopt step-children


How to get an Adoption Order to Adopt Step-Children

Adoption Orders are issued by the courts once it has made extensive enquiries and only if it considers it to be in the child’s best interests as it is a permanent decision and it cannot be undone.

Adoption Orders are therefore uncommon as often the other birth parent will not voluntarily give up their rights as a parent.


How to apply for an Adoption Order

To apply for an Adoption Order, a step-parent must:

  • be over 21;
  • live in the UK or have been habitually resident here for a year; and
  • be the partner of the parent whose child they wish to adopt.
  • The child must have been living with the step-parent for 6 months before the application can be made, and
  • The step-parent must also give at least 3 months’ written notice to the Local Authority where the child lives to notify them of the application.

The Court’s main concern is the child’s welfare throughout their entire life. Therefore, The Court will want to make sure that the child understands (as far as they are able to do so) the serious effect of the Adoption Order. The Court will then consider a statutory checklist and will look at the other parent’s involvement in the child’s life before deciding what is in the child’s best interests.


a family on a bed


What are the alternatives to an Adoption Order?

Parental Responsibility Agreement

Anyone with a Parental Responsibility agreement for a child can agree to extend this to include the step-parent. All parties will need to sign the agreement which will then be filed with the Court. The Parental Responsibility agreement will then be shared between everyone named on the agreement.


Parental Responsibility Order

The Court can grant a Parental Responsibility.


Child Arrangements Order

The step-parent could apply for an Order for the child to spend time with them.

All of the above would allow the step-parent to exercise Parental Responsibility for the child while the Order or Agreement remained in force.

If you need more advice on adopting a step-child or would like to make an application for a Step Parent Adoption write to us using the form below or call us on our free number 0800 999 4437, we’re here to help you!