LEGAL EAGLE: The complex matter of adoption

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I have recently got re married and my new husband has a very close bond with my daughter from a previous relationship. My daughter, who is 5, treats my husband as her dad.

Because of this close bond and because my daughter has very little contact with her biological dad I would like my new husband to be able to adopt my daughter. Is this possible and how do I start the process?

There are a couple of options open to you wishing for your new husband to be able to act as a parent in a more formal way to your daughter. As her mother you have automatic parental responsibility for your daughter. This means you are able to make decisions on her behalf such as consenting to medical treatment, which school she attends and where she should live. For fathers it is a little bit different.

If you were married to your ex-partner when your daughter was born, then he will automatically have parental responsibility.

If you were not married when your daughter was born but your ex-partner is named on her birth certificate, then he will also have parental responsibility.

Your husband can obtain this parental responsibility in a number of ways:

1. By signing a parental responsibility agreement. This would need to be signed by all those who currently have parental responsibility for your daughter. Once this is signed and filed at court, your husband will have the same rights and duties as you do.

2. By getting a parental responsibility order. If your ex-partner is unwilling to sign the agreement then it may be possible to apply to the family court for your husband to be given an order which gives him parental responsibility.

3. Adoptions should really be a last resort. The adoption process can be very lengthy and can have a profound impact on families as your family will become involved with social services as reports will need to be written for the court. If your husband were to adopt your daughter it would mean that all legal ties she has with your ex-partner’s family would end. This includes grandparents and any other siblings.

Your daughter would no longer be entitled to any sort of maintenance from your ex partner or any of his family. For reasons such as this adoption by a step-parent is often considered to be too draconian. It is certainly a complex area of law and you would be strongly advised to consult an experienced family solicitor.