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Adopting a stepchild

If you wish to adopt your spouse or partner's child so that you become their legal parent and share parental responsibility for them, this is known as a step-parent adoption.

Two girls

To adopt your spouse or partner's child you must:

  • be over 21
  • be married to, or living with the child's birth parent for at least 6 months
  • have lived in England and be habitually resident for at least a year
  • have been living with the child for at least 6 months
  • inform the child's other birth parent of your plans

Step-parent adoption step by step

  1. Once you have made contact with us to let us know that you are interested in step-parent adoption, a social worker who is experienced in adoption, will contact you to discuss your circumstances in more detail.
  2. If after a discussion we feel that step-parent adoption may be suitable for your family, a social worker will arrange to visit you and the child's parent to have a fuller discussion about adoption and other options that might be available to your family to help you understand the process and what’s required.
  3. Each case will be considered upon its own facts. If a step-parent adoption is felt to be in the best interests of the child then you will need to formally notify us (the council) of your intention to adopt.
  4. A social worker will visit you and the child in your own home where an assessment will be made of your suitability to adopt
  5. The social worker will also make contact with the child’s absent birth parent to obtain their views as part of the assessment.
  6. Once completed, your assessment will be shared in court and the court will make a decision on your suitability to adopt
  7. An Adoption Order is granted, if appropriate, this makes you the child’s legal guardian.

Adoption is a lifelong commitment and we need to be sure that it is the right option for your child.

In order to assess your suitability we need to determine the following.

That your child understands what adoption means

The child needs to know the truth about his or her birth history and relationships within the family. It's important that your child has a record of their early life, including photographs, documents, mementoes and details of significant people in his or her life.

That there are stable relationships within the family

You will need to have lived together with your partner for at least 6 months. You will also need to have lived with the child for a minimum of 6 months before considering adoption.

That you have made contact with the child's other birth parent

You need to have made contacts with the child's other birth parent, unless there are good reasons for not doing so. This is to let them know of your intention and clarify whether they are in agreement with your application. The court will require written consent of all persons with parental responsibility for the child.

If no such agreement is given, you may wish to obtain legal advice from a solicitor experienced in adoption matters.

That you have thought about the important people in the child's life

For example, aunts, uncles and grandparents who might be affected if an Adoption Order is made.

That any step-parent adoption is appropriate

We will need to carry out a number of checks on your suitability to adopt. These can include police, health, and education. We may also contact the child's school and any other professionals who may have been involved with your family such as social care. The social worker will need to make contact with any previous significant partners and any other children you may have. They will also need to contact personal referees who can comment on your suitability to adopt.

Once the social worker has completed their assessment they will compile all of the information into a report and will make a recommendation on your suitability to adopt the child. This will then be submitted to the court, but cannot be shared by anyone unless directed by the judge.

The court will then appoint a reporting officer from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), to contact both birth parents and obtain their consent. Once consent has been given, the court will consider your application, the information in your report and will make a decision on your suitability to adopt. The court will charge you a fee of £170 to hear your application.

If the court agrees that adoption is in the best interests of the child, they can grant an Adoption Order, this gives you parental responsibility for the child and the same rights as any parent. The child will be issued with a new birth and adoption certificate.

Adopting a child related to you both (non-agency adoption)

Most applications come from adults wanting to adopt their spouse or partner's child. However, a birth relative who has a significant relationship with a child, and has lived and cared for them for a period of 3 years or more can apply for a non-agency adoption.


If you think step-parent adoption may be right for your family or you want more information about non agency adoption, please complete our adoption enquiry form.

Adoption enquiry form

Or contact Call Derbyshire on tel: 01629 533190.