Step parent - adopting your step child


Adopting a step child is commonly thought of as a way of showing commitment to a child and the family but adoption is not always necessarily appropriate in all step parent situations. It’s important to talk to your family and ask their thoughts, feelings and wishes. You should also, where appropriate, consider the absent birth parents views and the implications of ending the legal relationship between the child and one of their parents.  

What is step parent adoption?

Step parent adoption is where a step parent adopts the child or children of their partner. This will mean that one parent will need to give their consent and give up their parental rights. 

If you are thinking about step parent adoption, the first thing to consider is what is in the best interests of the child. The Adoption and Children Act recognises that in most cases it is best for families to come to informal arrangements without resorting to a court order.

It’s also worth considering if there are other ways that you can secure a child’s place in your family (see ways of securing a child’s place in your family below).

Who can apply to adopt a step child?

Adoption Connects requires that you have been living with the child for at least 4 years. You can apply to be an adoptive parent either individually or jointly with someone else. You do not have to be married. You can apply to the court for step parent adoption if all of the following criteria are met:

  • You are over 21 years of age

  • You reside in the British Isles or have been habitually resident in the UK for at least a year

  • You are married to the resident birth parent, or are living with the resident birth parent

  • You have been living with the child for at least 4 years

  • You have notified your local authority in writing of your intention to apply to court for an Adoption Order at least 3 months before submitting an application to court

  • The child is under 18 years of age at the time of the application to the court (although the court can make an order up to the day before the person’s 19th birthday).

Ways of securing a child’s place in your family

Changing their surname by deed poll

A simple alternative to step parent adoption is to change a child’s surname by deed poll, those with parenting responsibility will both need to be in agreement - for more information visit GOV.UK - parental rights and responsibilities

Parental Responsibility Agreement

This is a simple agreement made between both birth parents and the step parent to allow them to have joint parental responsibility. The agreement must be filed by the courts to make it legally binding.

Parental Responsibility Order

A Local Authority can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order which means the step parent will have complete parental responsibility for the child.  The child’s birth parents have greatly diminished parental responsibility but keep the right to oppose their child being adopted. This is initiated by you hiring a solicitor.

Child Arrangement Order

A Child Arrangement Order decides where a child lives, when they spend time with each parent and what other types of contact take place such as phone calls.  If a Child Arrangement Order states that the child will live with a person, that person will have parental responsibility for the child until the order ceases.  Orders are not only made in respect of parents; there can also be arrangements between siblings and wider family members.

Adoption Connects can provide advice and guidance on your options as a step parent to secure your relationship with your partners child.  If you would like to talk to a member of the team about step parent adoption, get in touch.

Telephone: 0300 300 8090