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Adopting a step-child

Step-parent adoption is a legal process for a step-parent to become the permanent adoptive parent of his or her spouse's child. Adoption permanently severs the legal relationship between the child and his or her non-custodial birth parent and their family.

The assessment can only start if:

  • the step-parent is eligible to apply to adopt the child
  • the non-custodial parent/s consents to the child's proposed adoption by the step-parent, or the need for that parent/s consent is dispensed with by the Childrens Court of Queensland.

Eligibility

A child's step-parent is eligible to apply to adopt the child if:

  • the person is an adult who lives in Queensland and is an Australian citizen (or the spouse of an Australian citizen)
  • the person lives with the child and spouse and has done so for at least 3 years
  • the person has been granted leave by the Family Court of Australia under the Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth) to start adoption proceedings
  • the child is at least 5 years old and not more than 17 years old. Applications may be accepted in relation to a child who has turned 17 but is not yet 18 in some circumstances (see below).

Note: a de facto spouse who is the same sex as his or her partner is not eligible to apply to adopt his or her partner's child.

Applications for a child who has turned 17

Applications for a child who is 17 years of age may be accepted if the step-parent can show there is enough time to complete the adoption process before the child turns 18.

This includes demonstrating there is enough time for:

  • the step-parent's eligibility to be decided
  • prescribed information and pre-consent counselling to be provided to:
    • any parent whose consent to the child's adoption is required
    • the child being adopted (only if the child is able to form and express views about the adoption)
  • the 30 day period in which a parent can revoke consent to the child's proposed adoption to expire, or
  • the step-parent to apply to the Childrens Court of Queensland (where applicable), for the need for a parent's consent to be dispensed with, to serve notice on the relevant parent of the application and for the Court to hear the matter
  • information required to inform the assessment of the step-parent's suitability to adopt the child to be obtained, including the step-parent's criminal and domestic violence history, traffic history and information from the Queensland Police Service
  • the home study assessment to be undertaken and a report of the assessment findings to be prepared
  • the step-parent to make an application for a final adoption order, and for the Childrens Court of Queensland to hear the matter.

How to apply

A step-parent seeking to adopt a step-child must complete the Application to Adopt a Step-Child form and forward it to Adoption Services.

Assessment of the application

Applications are carefully assessed as serious consequences result when an adoption order is made. The assessment considers a range of matters including the significance of the child's non-custodial parents and family. Required information for the assessment may include:

  • criminal, domestic violence, traffic and child protection history checks
  • home visits for assessment interviews
  • talking with you, your spouse, children and nominated referees
  • getting information about your health.

Before the application can be assessed, consent from the child’s non-custodial parents must be obtained. If it’s not possible to get the consent of each of the child's parents, the application can only be assessed if:

  • Adoption Services receives new information showing the parent wishes to give consent, or confirms the parent's identity or the whereabouts, or
  • the step-parent makes an application to the Childrens Court of Queensland for an order to dispense with the need for the consent of the parents.

After consent is obtained, the step-parent can pay the required assessment fee. The step-parent's suitability to adopt the step-child can then be assessed.

If the step-parent’s suitability is approved, Adoption Services will:

  • prepare a suitability report for the Childrens Court of Queensland
  • provide you with a copy of the suitability report.

More information

More information on adopting a step-child is available from Adoption Services.

Helpful resources

Alternatives to step-parent adoption

Read about alternatives to step-parent adoption, including parenting orders and changing your family name.

Licence
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated:
1 August 2013

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