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What is involved in the adoption process?

What is Adoption?

Adoption is the formal process through which an adult becomes legally recognised as a child’s parent. When an adoption order is made, a child’s adoptive parents will be granted full parental rights and responsibilities, and the child’s birth parents will have their parental rights and responsibilities removed.

Who can adopt a child?

  • Broadly speaking, you must be over the age of 21 to adopt a child in Scotland.
  • If you are seeking to adopt a step-child, however, you can start adoption proceedings if you are aged 18 or older, provided your spouse or partner is legally recognised as the child’s parent, and is over the age of 21.
  • You can adopt a child if you are single, married, in a civil partnership, or in a committed cohabiting relationship with your partner.
  • Same sex couples can adopt.


Can I adopt child who is already related to me?

  • The overall process will be slightly different to an adoption facilitated by an agency, but adults can adopt children who are already part of their family, such as nieces and nephews or grandchildren.

Can I adopt my partner’s child?

  • Yes – you might hear this referred to as a “step-parent adoption”.
  • If you are seeking to adopt a step-child, it will only be you that needs to ask for an Adoption Order. Your spouse or partner (i.e. the child’s natural parent) will retain their parental rights and responsibilities.


At what age can a child be adopted?

  • Only children under the age of 18 (and who have never been married or in a civil partnership) are eligible for adoption.
  • The earliest a child can be adopted is 19 weeks following their birth.


When can I start the adoption process?

  • If a child has been placed with you through an adoption agency, or if you are a parent, step-parent or relative of the child you are seeking to adopt, the child must have been living with you for at least thirteen weeks before an Order can be made. Otherwise, the child must have been living with you for at least twelve months.


What do I need to do to get proceedings started?

  • Before you can apply for an Adoption Order, you will need to inform your Local Authority’s Social Work department. If a child has been placed with you through an Adoption Agency, they will typically contact the Local Authority for you. If the child you are adopting is a step-child or family member, you will need to contact the Local Authority yourself or through your solicitor.
  • The Local Authority will carry out home-visits and put together a report for the Court.


What is the Court process for an Adoption Order?

  • The legal document that starts off the Court procedure for Adoption is called a “Petition”. This is a formal application that is written and sent to the Sheriff Court, asking it to grant an Adoption order in your favour.
  • Once the Petition has been received, the Court will assign an initial hearing. At this hearing, an individual called a “Curator” will be appointed. A Curator is an experienced, independent solicitor who is assigned to your case. They will speak with you, the child, and any other person who plays a relevant role in the child’s life. They will prepare a further report for the Court.
  • The child’s birth parents will have to be advised of the Adoption proceedings. They must consent to an Adoption Order being made unless the Court decides that their consent should be dispensed with. The Court might dispense with a birth parent’s consent if they are unable to understand the court proceedings, for example, or if they cannot be located.
  • If the child you are seeking to adopt is over the age of 12, they must also consent to the Adoption Order being made. Where a child is under the age of 12, they will still be given the opportunity to express their views on the adoption.
  • If there are no formal objections to the Adoption Order raised, a further hearing will be fixed to grant the Order. If an objection is lodged, further Court procedure would be necessary to decide whether the Order should be made.


What does the Court need to consider when making an Order?

  • The court will only make an Adoption Order where it thinks it would be better for the child than not making any such Order.
  • When looking at the Social Work report, Curator’s report and the Petition, the Court must consider various factors, such as the likely effect an Adoption Order will have on the child; the child’s racial origin, religious persuasion and cultural and linguistic background; and whether any alternative to an Adoption Order would better meet the needs of the child.


Can the Court order contact between a child and their birth family?

  • Ultimately, adoption orders may contain such terms and conditions as the Court thinks fit. Where the Court feels that it would be in a child’s interest to have continued contact with one or both of their birth parents, the Court can make an order to that effect as part of the Adoption proceedings.


We would recommend that you speak with a solicitor and take legal advice before you commence Adoption proceedings. Not only will this help you understand the legal requirements of adoption, having an experienced Family Law solicitor to guide you through the process can help to ensure that matters proceed as swiftly and efficiently as possible for you and your family.

Our Family Law team at Balfour+Manson are experienced in all aspects of Adoption proceedings, and would be more than happy to assist with any queries you may have.