Adoption is the legal process of creating a parent-child relationship between individuals who are not biologically related, in effect allowing the adult to become a non-biological parent and the child to become the non-biological child.
Adoption means that the child is legally the child of the person who has adopted them and they acquire all of the rights and responsibilities of a parent.
When a child is adopted they become entitled to all the same rights as a natural child including the right to inherit.
For example, we see step-parents applying to adopt their step-child having been the “parent figure” for the child for many years.
We also see family members applying to adopt a niece or nephew who have lost parents.
The Adoption Procedure
The criteria for adoption is relatively simple – if it is in the best interests of the child’s welfare for the adoption order to be made then the Court will make it.
The adoption process can be quite intrusive. In order for the Court to know whether adoption is in the child’s best interests it needs to know as much as possible about the child to be adopted and the people seeking to adopt the child. It means the involvement of the local social services who will carry out a detailed investigation and report back to the Court.
Save for certain adoptions, the starting point for the adoption process is for the local social services to be put on notice that an adoption application is going to be made to the court.
Take the example of the step parent applying to adopt. The natural parent has chosen to have nothing to do with the child for 10 years. If the step parent adopts the child the natural parent is released from their liability to pay child maintenance but also loses their “parental responsibility” for the child. The step-parent acquires the parental responsibility but also acquires the potential liability of child maintenance.
If you adopt a child, please be mindful that you need to review any Will that you may have made prior to the adoption. You can speak with one of our expert Wills and Inheritance team who can provide further advice should you need it.