If you are planning to adopt a child, our adoption solicitors are here to help. We’ll make sure all the legal aspects of your adoption go smoothly, so you have the parental rights and responsibilities you need, and you can focus on welcoming your child to the family.
Adopting a child is one of the most rewarding things you can do, and we will be delighted to assist you.
You need a court order to become a child’s legal parents, so it is important to instruct a solicitor to help you. Without a court order, you won’t have vital legal rights, for example, your child won’t automatically be your heir for inheritance purposes.
The Adoption Order also grants you parental responsibility to make decisions about your child’s upbringing (such as where they go to school and what medical treatment they need).
Just as importantly, legal adoption also severs the link between the child and their birth parents, so they have no further rights in relation to the child.
At Crisp & Co, we are family law specialists. We can provide friendly, practical advice about finalising your adoption and resolving legal issues along the way. Whether you are adopting a child from care, adopting a stepchild, adopting a grandchild, adopting a new born baby, or any other type of adoption, we’ll make the process smooth and stress-free so you can concentrate on your child.
Book your free initial consultation with our friendly, expert adoption solicitors
Contact our adoption lawyers today to book your free 1-hour consultation and discuss your case with an expert member of our team.
Or complete our simple online enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.
Our adoption solicitors’ expertise
We can provide clear, practical advice in relation to all types of adoption and associated issues, including:
- Adopting through an independent voluntary adoption agency or a local authority
- Adopting children in care
- Fostering to adopt and concurrent care
- Adoption of relatives and kinship care
- Adoption of stepchildren
- International adoption
- Adopting grandchildren
- Adopting new born babies
- LGBTQIA adoption
We understand how important this next big step in your life is. We will talk you through the entire process in detail, explaining any hurdles you could encounter and our recommendations for overcoming them. Our service includes:
- Advising on UK adoption laws and your options
- Supporting you as you go through the adoption process
- Liaising with relevant parties such as the birth parents’ legal representatives
- Formalising the adoption by applying to court for an Adoption Order
- Support and advice once the adoption is finalised, including helping to resolve adoption disputes
- Representing adoptive parents in adoption appeals – where the birth parents object to the making of an Adoption Order
How to adopt a child – the adoption process explained
Follow the links below to learn more about adoption and how our adoption lawyers can help:
- What is adoption?
- Why do you need a solicitor for adoption?
- Can I adopt a child?
- Who can’t adopt a child?
- What’s the difference between adopting through the local authority or an independent voluntary adoption agency?
- How does the adoption process work?
- How do I adopt my stepchild?
- How do I adopt my foster child?
- How do I adopt a child from abroad?
- How much does adoption cost?
- Is there any financial support for adoptive parents?
- How long does adoption take?
- What if the birth parents object to adoption?
- Can you adopt an adult in the UK?
Adoption is the legal process by which an individual or couple become a child’s parents and are given full legal and parental responsibility of a child despite not being biological parents.
Adoption can occur in one of two circumstances:
- The local authority (local council/social services) make a ‘Placement Order’
- The child’s parents relinquish their care and consent to place the child for adoption
The process usually involves an agency either part of the local authority or a voluntary adoption agency.
The agency assesses whether you are suitable and if so, there is a full assessment which involves social worker visits, police checks, medical examination and personal references.
You then go before the independent adoption panel and their recommendations are sent to the agency. If you are approved the process of being ‘matched’ with a child begins. A matching panel make the final decision about prospective parent(s) and the child.
Sometimes it is not possible for a child to live with their birth parents, for example, because the birth parents are neglectful or abusive, they have health issues, or they have died. In such circumstances, the local authority may take the child into care.
If the child cannot even return to their birth parents, the local authority need to make a decision about where they should live and who should raise them. Sometimes, a relative is able to look after them (called ‘kinship care’), they may live with a long-term foster carer (see our fostering page for more information), or they may be placed for adoption.
If the local authority make the decision for the child to be adopted, then they will apply to court for a Placement Order.
The Placement Order allows the child to be placed with their new adoptive parent(s). After the child has lived with the prospective parent(s) for 10 continuous weeks an Adoption Order can be sought.
The Adoption Order
The Adoption Order removes parental responsibility from the natural parents and reassigns this to the prospective parent(s). The Court have to be satisfied that this is the best option for the children. Once the Court approve the Order, this is a celebratory event.
Adoption can be a long process because of the many stages and multiple parties involved. It also requires you to deal with the family court system, which can be complicated and confusing. If you intend on adoption abroad, the international elements can be even more complicated.
The risks of getting a detail wrong or missing a step are huge – failing to get the Adoption Order means that you won’t be your child’s legal parents and likely won’t have parental responsibility.
Hiring a solicitor to help you means you don’t have to worry about getting any details wrong. We have considerable experience handling adoption matters such as completing adoption papers and dealing with the family court.
We also represent adoptive parents in adoption appeals where the birth parent(s) do not agree with the adoption and are trying to stop it. Such matters can be stressful and often go to court, so having a legal specialist on your side is essential.
Most adults can adopt a child.
In the UK, we recognise that families of all backgrounds and sizes are capable of raising a child with love, care and sensitivity. Marital status, racial, ethnic or religious background, disability, sexual orientation or gender and employment status does not matter.
You do not have to be in a couple to adopt – single people can adopt a child. You can also adopt if you already have children.
Having health issues also will not exclude you from adopting, although the local authority or agency may need to take it into consideration.
At Crisp & Co, we encourage all prospective adopters. It is an admirable thing to adopt a child, particularly where they may come from a troubled background of abuse or neglect.
Our adoption solicitors have particular expertise advising LGBTQIA couples and the specific legal issues which may affect you and your family.
You cannot adopt if:
- You are under 21 years old
- You are not a legal resident of the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man or you have been a legal resident for less than 12 months
- You are a UK resident, but you do not reside in the UK
- You have a criminal conviction or caution for offences against children or serious sexual offences
Adopting with a criminal record
Convictions and cautions which do not relate to children or are serious sexual offences may not prevent you from adopting a child.
However, the adoption agency or local authority will take any previous convictions or cautions into consideration during your assessment.
What’s the difference between adopting through the local authority or an independent voluntary adoption agency?
To adopt in the UK, you must be assessed and approved by a local authority (local council/social services) or an independent voluntary adoption agency.
As their name suggests, independent voluntary adoption agencies are voluntary Ofsted-registered organisations which are authorised to assess and approve prospective adoptive parents. There are around 45 registered independent voluntary adoption agencies in the UK.
The only major difference between a local authority and independent voluntary adoption agency is voluntary agencies do not care for children themselves. They only match prospective adopters with children, including children in local authority care. Local authorities on the other hand do have children in their care.
It is always worth shopping around for your ideal local authority or agency and choosing the one you feel most comfortable with and welcomed by.
The adoption process – initial checks
The local authority or agency must assess whether you and your family are suitable to adopt before matching you with a child. Once you have decided which agency or authority you want to go with, you should register your interest ready to undergo some initial checks. This part of the process should take about 2 months.
Some agencies also offer pre-registration meetings – informal meetings to discuss the process – so check whether this is something your agency offers before registering as it can give you a good idea of whether you will work well together.
To register your interest, the agency will gather basic information about your family such as:
- Your names and dates of birth
- Your income and occupations
- Your health
- The names and contact details for three referees, two of whom must be unrelated to you
- Information about the child you hope to adopt
The agency will also require a medical report from your GP and a criminal background check (DBS).
The agency will review all this information and decide whether you can continue to the next stage of the process. If they decide you are unsuitable to adopt, they must provide their decision in writing with reasons.
If you are successful at this stage, you may take a break before the next stage of the process for up to six months. This time can help you address life issues and prepare for the possibility of welcoming a child, such as moving house or changing employment.
The adoption process – preparation groups
Your agency or the authority will probably invite you to attend preparation groups with other prospective adopters. These sessions will help you understand the responsibilities of adopting and the benefits and issues you could encounter.
The adoption process – assessment and approval
The second stage of the adoption process should take around four months. During this time, you will be assessed to decide whether you are suitable to adopt and trained to ensure you are prepared to take in an adopted child.
Part of this assessment will be an “at home” study – visits by a social worker to get to know your family and see where your child will be living.
Your adoption application will then be reviewed by an independent adoption panel which you will probably be invited to attend. You will either be approved or rejected for adoption.
Once you have been approved, your agency will start searching for the right child for you. This should take around 6-12 months, but this time could be shorter or longer depending on individual circumstances.
Finalising the adoption
Bringing your new child home is not the end of the adoption process. To make the adoption legally binding, you must apply to court for an Adoption Order. If adopting your child from care, they must live with you for at least 10 weeks before you can apply for an order.
Once the adoption is finalised, you get the same rights as if you were their birth parent and the birth parents of the child will lose their parental rights and parental responsibility (the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing).
Read more about the adoption process.
You can apply for an Adoption Order to adopt your stepchild.
You must tell your local authority that you intend to apply to adopt your stepchild at least three months before making the application and the child must have lived with you and your partner for at least six months.
You will have to go through an adoption assessment as if you were adopting through an agency (as set out in the section above). However, it will be the court that reviews your assessment and makes a decision about the adoption rather than an independent adoption panel.
The granting of an Adoption Order will take parental responsibility away from your stepchild’s other birth parent (your partner’s ex-partner). Therefore, if they are still involved in the child’s life, there is a risk they will oppose your application. We can help you deal with these issues if they arise, including representing you at family court if necessary.
Read more about adopting your stepchild.
Foster caring is when you look after a child who has been taken into care. Many foster placements are temporary, others are long term, and some foster carers go on to adopt their foster child.
You can also foster with the intention of adoption. There are two ways you can do this:
- Fostering to adopt, or fostering for adoption
- Concurrent planning
Fostering to adopt and concurrent planning can prevent a child being moved between foster carers while adoptive parents are being found. It is most appropriate where a child is being taken into care and the local authority thinks there is little likelihood of them being able to return to their birth parents or any other family members.
The difference between fostering to adopt and concurrent planning is that with fostering to adopt, the local authority has already decided that the child should be adopted – they just need to obtain the court order. With concurrent planning, the local authority may not have decided whether the child should be adopted but have placed the child with adoption in mind.
To adopt a foster child, you must be an approved foster carer and approved adoptive parent (referred to as a dually approved carer). You may already be a foster carer, but it is also common for a local authority to approve prospective adopters as foster carers for a specific child.
The court will then need to consider whether adoption is in the child’s best interests. Unfortunately, in some situations adoption does not work out even after the child has been placed with you, for example, because a previously absent family member has come forward to care for the child. For this reason, you should think carefully about whether you can manage the uncertainty fostering to adopt can bring.
Our team includes international adoption solicitors who can help you adopt a child from overseas. Adopting a child from abroad is more difficult than adopting within the UK but it may be possible if:
- There is no way the child can be cared for safely in their own country
- The adoption is in their best interests
You must also be assessed by an adoption agency for your suitability to adopt (the process is set out above). There are also several extra steps, including:
- Your assessment and application will be reviewed by an adoption authority in the child’s country
- You will have to visit the child in their country
Read more about international adoption.
Adoption agencies cannot charge fees for arranging your adoption. However, there are other costs involved, such as court fees and criminal background checks.
If you are adopting from another country, the costs will likely be higher. You’ll need to pay for the assessment process yourself and cover travel costs.
In terms of our family law solicitors’ costs, we make our fees for providing legal advice and applying for your Adoption Order clear, so you stay fully in control of how much you spend. Wherever possible, we quote fixed fees. We also work on hourly rates for more complex work.
There are various types of funding and support available for adoptive parents, including:
- Settling in grants – to pay for large items such as a bed or car seat. Speak to your social worker for advice
- Discretionary housing payments
- Adoption Support Fund – to pay for therapy for children and families to help improve relationships, confidence and behaviour
In certain circumstances, the local authority may pay an adoption allowance, usually to secure a home for a child who may be more ‘difficult’ to place, for example, because they have a disability or behavioural difficulties which need extra care and funding.
If you are employed, adoptive parents are entitled to similar rights of maternity and paternity leave as birth parents – called Statutory Adoption Pay and Leave.
It usually takes around 6 to 18 months for the adoption process to complete. However, there is no set timescale – sometimes things go very smoothly and sometimes there are delays.
Our adoption law solicitors can provide tailored advice if you are concerned.
The birth parents usually have to consent to the adoption before it can go ahead. Otherwise, the local authority needs to get permission from the court to place the child for adoption.
We can provide advice to you if the birth parents have made an adoption appeal, supporting you through this difficult time and taking all possible steps to settle the matter in your favour.
Sadly, adults over age 18 cannot be adopted in the UK. To read more about adult adoption, read our article on can an adult be legally adopted in the UK.
Why choose Crisp & Co’s adoption lawyers?
At Crisp & Co, we are specialist family law solicitors serving individuals and families across the UK.
Our aim is to help our clients find positive solutions to a wide range of family law matters, navigating the legal and personal complexities with expertise.
Adoption is a highly emotive subject where ultimately the best interests of the child are central. However, we recognise that as prospective adoptive parents, this can be an incredibly stressful time for you. Therefore, we will take extra care to support you through the process, promoting your interests, and giving you clear advice about the likely outcome of your case.
We are Law Society accredited in Family Law Advanced for our experience and skills handling complex and high value family law cases, such as adoption cases with international elements.
We are also Lexcel accredited for our excellent client care and legal practice management.
Get in touch with our adoption solicitors today
Contact our adoption lawyers today to book you free 1-hour consultation and discuss your case with an expert member of our team.
Or complete our simple online enquiry form and someone will be in touch shortly.
How can we help?