Concept for - Parental responsibility and adoption

In this series of articles we are talking about parental responsibility, this article focuses on adoption.  For more information on what parental responsibility is, please see the first article in this series.

What is adoption?

For the purposes of this article we are dealing with in effect two types of adoption. Adoption by a non-parent (what might normally be considered adoption where two persons entirely unrelated to the child take on the legal responsibility of that child for its minority and secondly step-parent adoption where a parent and a step-parent adopt the child so that the step-parent becomes the legal father and/or mother.

Adoption is the most substantial and significant order that can ever be made for a child. In effect it terminates the legal responsibility of the natural parents of the child not only for a limited period of time but for the entirety of the child’s life and records the adopters as the child’s not only legal guardians but as parents.

Adoption automatically terminates the parental responsibility of a natural parent as legally that child will no longer be considered the natural child of the biological parents but that of the adopters.

This has the effect of transferring the legal rights and duties of the parents to the adopters and the child’s legal rights from the natural parents to the adopters.

I.e. the child will no longer have right of inheritance from its natural parents or claim on their finances or estate upon their death but does have such right and that right is established in relation to the adoptive parents.

Adoption and impact on parental responsibility

Given as indicated above adoption brings in effect an iron curtain down on the legal rights of the natural parents and transfers these to the adoptive parents. This also terminates the parents’ parental responsibility for the child and transfers it to the adopters. The adopters will then be able to exercise parental responsibility in exactly the same way as a natural parent would have done prior to the adoption.

Given the other articles which deal with parental responsibility, an adoptive parent should read the same as if they were a child’s natural parent.

Step-parent adoption

There are certain circumstances where a child has been brought up by a parent and step-parent where either the child and/or the parent and step-parent wish to formalise the legal relationship between the child and step-parent by adoption. Effectively transferring the step-parent into the equivalence of a natural parent.

There is some greater complication in this regard than might appear in circumstances where a child is adopted by a non-related person given that adoption terminates previous legal rights and responsibilities. In effect the application for adoption is not just by the step-parent but also by the natural parent. Because if the application were granted then the natural parents’ legal rights and duties would be terminated in favour of the adoption. In effect the natural parent and step-parent apply together to adopt the child.

This has the effect of terminating the natural parents’ legal rights and duties, including parental responsibility but so far as the parent who lives with the step-parent is concerned this automatically then transfers over and continues through the adoption.

The impact of adoption on parental responsibility

As indicated above therefore once adoption has been completed parental responsibility is automatically terminated for the natural parents and transferred to the adoptive parents. The natural parents will no longer have the right to apply for any Child Arrangement Order such as living with them or contact nor do they have a right to be involved in decisions or processes relating to children’s schooling, religion, education. This all falls directly and only on the adoptive parents.

Adoption and parents’ rights

As indicated above once the adoption is made this terminates the natural parents’ rights and duties including the termination of their parental responsibility. However, a parent must be notified of an application for an adoption and does have the right to oppose the same. This would therefore lead to a contest within the Court arena to determine whether the child should be adopted or not. If the parent opposing is successful the adoption will not take place and parental responsibility will remain with the natural parents and if granted it will terminate the parents’ parental responsibility and grant it to the adopters.

If you need more information or advice on issues surrounding adoption and parental responsibility, please contact our Children team.

This article is part of a series on parental responsibility. If you would like to learn more about parental responsibility, please click here for the full series.