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Stepparent adoption

Some people may want to adopt their partner’s child or children. This is often known as stepparent or partner adoption. It means the stepparent taking full parental responsibility for the child in the eyes of the law.

Adoption is a legal process and may not be right for all stepfamilies. You should consider your decision carefully.

As part of the adoption process, we will interview everyone concerned, including:

  • you and your partner
  • the child
  • the child’s other birth parent
  • grandparents

If we make an Adoption Order, this will cut all legal links between the child and the family of their other birth parent. Unless written in a will, the child will lose all inheritance and maintenance rights from their birth family.

You should talk to the child about this decision and consider their feelings. Even very young children will have some level of understanding, so it is important to speak to them first.

In the past, stepparent adoption was chosen as a legal route to providing a secure family environment for stepchildren. It gave stepparents rights and responsibilities in the event of death or incapacity of the birth parent.

Nowadays, there are a variety of alternative options available which are likely to be easier to achieve. They may also be more appropriate if the child has some involvement with both sides of his or her birth family.

Alternative options to consider

Parental Responsibility Agreement/Order

This is the simplest option, when both parents are able to reach agreement. This order gives the partner parental responsibility while still allowing birth parents to retain their parental responsibility.

Formal agreements can also be made for partners who are married to or entered into a civil partnership with the parent of a child.

Change of name

If you want to change a child's name to reflect new family circumstances, you can do this through a solicitor. You would need to have agreement from everyone with parental responsibility.

You can find out more about changing a name by deed poll on GOV.UK.

Special Guardianship Order

Special guardianship provides a legal secure foundation for building a permanent relationship between the child and their special guardian. It preserves the legal link between the child and their birth family.

The special guardian would have clear responsibility for all day-to-day decisions about caring for the child and their upbringing. The child’s birth parents will remain the legal parents, though this will limit their ability to exercise their parental responsibility.

Child Arrangement Order

A Child Arrangement Order will give the person caring for the child parental responsibility. If the order were to state that the child should reside with their birth mother and her partner (for example) then this would give the mother’s partner parental responsibility. However, this does not give the mother’s partner the same rights as a parent.

Using a solicitor

If the resident birth parent and applicant are married, you can go to a solicitor and acquire a parental responsibility agreement for the stepparent. It is a good idea to find a solicitor with experience of family law.

You must agree the extension of parental responsibility to another person, with all those who currently have parental responsibility for the child.

You will all share parental responsibility for the child, so your child’s non-resident birth parent would have to agree with this.

You are responsible for making contact with the child's non-resident birth parent.

Criteria for stepparent/partner adoption

Before proceeding with adoption, you must meet the following criteria:

  • be 21 years old or over
  • be married to the resident birth parent or can satisfy the court that there has been a long-standing family relationship (usually at least a year)
  • be a resident of the UK or have been habitually resident for at least a year

The child must be under the age of 18 at the time of the application to court.

Stepparent information session

Before making your application, you must attend a stepparent adoption information session.

The sessions are an opportunity for you to find out about the adoption process. You can discuss your route to becoming a stepparent, understand the legal orders and alternatives to step-parent adoption, and ask any questions you may have.

Proceeding with adoption

Following the stepparent information session, if you wish to proceed you will be advised to consult with a solicitor and explore alternative options.

You will then be invited to attend an office interview to discuss your personal circumstances. If we agree that you can proceed, you will be asked to complete a Registration of Interest Pack. You will be required to provide full details of all birth parents.

Before making your application, you must give three months’ notice of your intention to apply for an ‘adoption order’. We will then undertake your checks and references.

We will advise you how and when to make your application to your local county court or Family Proceedings (Magistrates) Court.


A social worker will be allocated to complete an assessment and provide a detailed report on all the circumstances. This will help the court decide if an Adoption Order should be made.

The report will contain information about the child, each birth parent of the child, and other family members, including other children. It will also include information about what alternatives have been considered. 

Information within the report will need to evidence that adequate attempts have been made to trace, contact and seek the views of an absent parent.

The report will also include information about the impact of the proposed adoption on the child and both birth parents, and whether adoption is likely to be in the child’s best interests.

If an application for stepparent adoption is successful, the adoptive parent will obtain parental responsibility for the child. It is important to note however that both Adoption Lancashire and Blackpool and/or the court, may decide that an Adoption Order is not appropriate and grant an alternative order.

Information session

Before making an application, you must attend a stepparent adoption information session.

Book a place at an information event

If you'd prefer to speak to someone, then give us a call on 0300 123 6727 and we’ll be in touch with you as soon as possible.