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Adopting a stepchild in Aberdeen City

We hope to explain the following in this section:

The Legal Position

The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 states that only Adoption Agencies can make arrangements for children to be adopted, unless the proposed adopter is a relative.  This means that you can only adopt a child where:

  • The child was placed with you by an Adoption Agency, such as Aberdeen City Council or
  • The child is a relative, or
  • The child is a step-child

 A relative means:

  • Grandparent
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • Uncle
  • Aunt
  • Father (if not married to the child’s mother)

Step-parent adoption is now possible if the ‘partner’ is part of a relevant couple. This means that they can either be married to the parent of the child, live together in an enduring family relationship, or be in a civil partnership.

Adoption means that you become the parent of a child not born to you.  It is a legal order granted in a court of law which cannot be reversed or revoked.  This means that all parental legal rights and responsibilities in respect of caring for and raising the child are transferred to you as the legal parent; adoption is a lifelong commitment and responsibility.

Once an adoption order has been made the other birth parent(s) have no legal rights to the child and cannot make a legal claim to take the child back.

A child can be adopted up to the age of 18, although the child’s consent is required if he/she is over 12. A married person under 18 cannot be adopted.  The Adoption Order cannot be made until the child is at least 19 weeks old or has lived with you for at least 13 weeks.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Adoption

The advantages of adopting a step-child or relative’s child are:

  • Lifelong security for the child.
  • The child can take on the same surname as the rest of the family (if the child has a different surname). However, there are alternative methods of changing a child’s name and the Registrar’s Office can provide more information.
  • It will give the child rights of inheritance with this being shared with any other child(ren) that you have.

 The disadvantages of adopting a step-child or relative’s child are:

  • Adoption can be very confusing for the child and it can be difficult to help a child to understand the complicated relationships that adoption will create.
  • Adoption may cut the child’s links with other family members and this may be distressing and confusing for them to understand.
  • The child may have a sense of loss that their birth parent was unable to care for them and may feel cut off from their past.
  • The child may lose rights of inheritance from his or her birth family.

Alternatives to Adoption

In every adoption (including step-parent adoption and adoption by a relative) the Court has to consider whether adoption is in the best interests of the child throughout his or her life, and whether there is a better practical alternative.  The court will want to know that the following alternatives to adoption have been fully considered:

A Residence Order

An Order under Section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 awards or removes parental rights and responsibilities in relation to a specific child. The Residence Order can require a child to live with someone who does not have parental rights and responsibilities for that child.  Your solicitor could ask the Court to give you parental rights and responsibilities such as:

  • The right to decide where the child lives, and to control, direct and guide the child
  • The responsibility to care for the child and to provide direction and guidance
  • The right and responsibility to have contact with the child
  • To act as the child’s legal representative.

Section 11 applications relate to individual children and therefore each one will be unique. Legal advice would be necessary to establish what powers should be applied for. It is advisable to seek legal advice from a solicitor in relation to a Section 11 application.

A Section 11 Order would last until the child is 16 years old, although the responsibility to guide the young person lasts until he or she is 18 years old.

Parental rights for birth fathers

If you are the birth father of a child, you will have parental rights and responsibilities if

  • you were married to the mother of the child at the time of your child’s birth.
  • your name appears on the child’s birth certificate if registered after 4th May 2006.
  • you entered into a Section 4 Agreement under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
  • You have been granted an Order under Section 11.

In all of these circumstances, it would not be necessary for you to adopt your own child.

Change of Surname

If the child’s surname is different from yours, you may wish to change it.  You may wish to think very carefully about this, as this could be confusing for the child.  You do not need to adopt the child to change his or her name.  If the child has been known by the name for at least 2 years, you can go to your local Registrar’s Office who will give you information on how to change the child’s name.  You may wish to seek legal advice on this matter.

Inheritance

You could include the child in your will if you wanted to ensure that the child has the same rights of inheritance as any other person in the family.  Again, you may wish to seek legal advice.

How to apply to adopt

 The application to the Sherriff Court consists of:

  • An Adoption Petition- this is short documents which needs to be completed by either yourself or a solicitor. Many applicants complete this with the support of the Sherriff Clerk who can provide advice. Social work staff are unable to provide guidance on completing this as it is a legal document
  • A S.19 Report completed by a member of the Alternative Family Care (further information below)

If you live in Aberdeen City and meet the required criteria, you must, by law notify Aberdeen City Council in writing that you intend to apply for an Adoption Order.  This should also contain the name and date of birth of the child you are applying to adopt. Please contact our team for details on who this notification should be sent to.

The notification will be acknowledged in writing and then passed on to the Alternative Family Care Service. A Social Worker will then contact you with information on timescales. Once allocated a social worker to complete your S. 19 report normally the court will expect to receive this within 12 weeks. It is important to agree with your allocated worker the date that both the Adoption Petition and S. 19 will be lodged at Aberdeen Sherriff Court so that there are no delays. It is also important to make yourself as available as possible so that the required information can be gathered.

To complete their report the social worker must see the child, and, where appropriate, will discuss their views and wishes about the proposed adoption with him/her.  The social worker must also undertake the following checks:

  • An enhanced Disclosure Check
  • Local Authority checks (this will be in all Local Authority checks lived in since the age of 16years – please note that if you have lived abroad appropriate checks will need to be sought and this can delay the completion of the report)
  • We recommend that you undergo a medical with their own GP. (Some GP’s charge for this and it would be the applicant’s responsibility to find out whether a charge is applicable and also to meet this charge.)

 There is specific information that the Court expects the social worker to find out and this will be explained to you by the Social Worker at an early stage. The Social Worker will prepare a final report detailing this information which will be submitted to the Court.

Once the Court has received this report and the petition they will appoint a Reporting Officer and Curator ad litem (usually the same person). This is an independent person who will also prepare a detailed report for Court and to consider whether the adoption is in the child’s best interests. He/she will have a role in getting any necessary consent to the adoption. The Reporting Officer/Curator ad litem will want to meet with the child and if he/she is over 12 years old will ask him or her to sign a form agreeing to the adoption.  Once the court receives all the reports, a hearing date will be set about 6-8 weeks ahead to consider the application to adopt.  You can decide to attend Court on the day.

If the child’s birth parent(s) hold parental rights and responsibilities for the child then the court must have their agreement to the adoption.  The Social Worker has a duty to find out the wishes of the child’s birth parent(s) and their views on the alternatives to adoption. 

The Reporting Officer/Curator ad litem will also usually meet with the birth parent(s) to seek their views too.  If they do not agree, then the court has to be asked to dispense with that consent on one of the legal grounds set out in the 2007 Act. If the child’s birth parent(s) do not give consent, you may wish to consult a solicitor.   

After the Adoption

When the adoption is granted, the court will send you a formal notification of this.  You should then apply to the:

General Register Office,

New Register House,

Edinburgh

EH1 3YT,

Tel 0131 334 0380,

for a copy of the child’s birth certificate from the Adopted Children’s Register, sending the required fee.

Further Information

You can get further information about family law from:
  • A solicitor
  • Your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau
  • The Scottish Government website on a range of Family Law matters at www.scotland.gov.uk/familylaw
  • The Scottish Child Law Centre, 54 East Crosscauseway, Edinburgh  EH8 9HD.  Tel 0131 667 6333  http://www.sclc.org.uk/    


National Care Standards

There are National Care Standards for adoption agencies which set out what you can expect. It is Standard 23 which relates to step parent adoption. You can find these at: www.infoscotland.com/nationalcarestandards
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