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Can My Partner or Spouse Adopt My Children?
We often receive enquiries from parents with new partners or spouses, wishing to confer on that partner or spouse parental responsibility for their children.
A step-parent can acquire parental responsibility in a few ways. The most common question however is: can my partner/spouse adopt my children?
The short answer is yes, that your partner can apply to the Court for an adoption order. It is not, however, that straightforward. An adoption order changes the child’s legal status and means the child becomes a permanent and full member of the family unit with the step-parent in it. The adoption order undoes all the legal ties with the child’s other birth parent. The court will only make such an order once it has made extensive enquiries and only if it considers it to be in the child’s best interests.
A Court cannot make a step-parent Adoption Order unless it is with the consent of each parent or guardian of the child, or the court dispenses with that consent. There are strict rules about dispensing with consent and it is not something the Court will do lightly.
There are alternatives to adoption orders that still enable a step-parent to obtain parental responsibility for their step-child, whilst maintaining the relationship between the child and their other birth parent.
A court can make an order granting parental responsibility to the step-parent or an agreement can be reached between the step-parent and the child’s birth parents that parental responsibility will be shared. This would enable the step-parent to exercise parental responsibility and be involved in decision-making for the child and their upbringing.
Alternatively, a step-parent can apply for a Child Arrangements Order setting out what time the child should spend with them. This type of order grants parental responsibility for as long as the Order is in force.
If you need any advice or guidance regarding a matter similar to this, please do not hesitate to speak with our experienced team of family law solicitors in Exeter and the surrounding area.