What is Step-Parent Adoption?
Step-parent adoption is a way of formalising the parent-child relationship. You can adopt your step-parent’s child from another marriage, or you can adopt your stepchild where their birth parents are no longer in the picture. Your child can also be adopted by your partner.
It’s possible to apply to adopt your step child even if they were born outside of marriage – as long as they’ve lived with you as your son or daughter for at least 12 months.
Reasons for Requesting Step-Parent Adoptions
The reasons for requesting a step-parent adoption vary, but most commonly include one or more of the following:
- The child’s other birth parent has died
- The child’s other birth parent has been absent for many years and the parents want to ensure that the child can remain safely with the step parent (if the birth parent passes away)
- The child has expressed a wish to be adopted
- The parents (or child) want to change the child’s surname to match their step parent’s
Who can apply to adopt a step-child in Queensland?
A child’s step-parent can apply to adopt the child if:
- The child is over 5 and under 17 years of age
- The step-parent has lived with the child and their birth parent for at least 3 years continuously, is an adult over 18 years, is a resident of Queensland and an Australian citizen (or spouse/partner of an Australian citizen)
- They have been granted leave to commence adoption proceedings by Division 1 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court; and they are a resident in Queensland
In special circumstances, an application for an adoption order may be accepted after a child turns 17 so long as Adoption Services Queensland (ASQ) is satisfied that there is enough time to complete the process. It needs to be completed before the child turns 18, and the grounds for making an adoption order are likely to exist.
What is the Court process for step-parent adoption?
A court will hear the application for leave to adopt in Division 1 of the Federal Circuit and Family Court. Division 1 of the court has exclusive jurisdiction for adoption matters. Both the step-parent and biological parent (partner or spouse of the step-parent) should be applicants in this application.
When the court is determining whether it should grant leave, it must consider whether granting leave would be in the child’s “best interests.” These factors are set out in the Family Law Act. In addition, the court must consider the effect of the adoption on the other birth parent’s parental responsibility, and any current parenting order.
Once the Court grants leave, an application is made to Adoption Services Queensland (ASQ). Under that Adoption Act, ASQ has an extensive list of criteria to consider before issuing a suitability report. The suitability report is then presented to the Children’s Court for a final adoption order to be made. Usually, the consent of both birth parents (if living) to the adoption is required.
The step parent adoption process is a lengthy process, therefore to discuss other ‘rights’ a step-parent has under the Family Law Act it is important to obtain specialised advice.
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