Step-parent Adoption

Adoption is one of the ways for a step-parent to acquire Parental Responsibilities and Rights towards a stepchild. However, careful thought must be given before you decide to proceed with an adoption.

The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 has replaced the 1978 Act. The new Act allows a step-parent who is living with their partner to adopt their stepchild. This includes cohabiting heterosexual and same sex couples, and civil partners.

For many parents and step-parents, adoption can be a very positive step that will provide a secure family identity for their child and help them adjust to their new family. However, adoption can only provide legal security for a child and may not provide the emotional stability that many parents and step-parents expect. Consequently, parents and stepparents should carefully consider the possible negatives of adoption, alongside the positives, and whether emotional stability for their child could be provided in other ways.

Is adoption the best option for you?

Some advantages of adoption

  • All members of the family can share the same surname and will be recognised in law as one family unit.
  • A step-parent will have the same legal parental responsibilities and rights towards the child as their natural parent.
  • The adopted child will share the same inheritance rights as the other children from the relationship.

Some disadvantages

  • Adoption is an irreversible arrangement that means the adopted child loses inheritance rights and financial support from the other birth parent and their family. This may not seem important now, but may be important if financial difficulties arise or both parents in the new stepfamily die while the child is still young.
  • Although you may want to put the past behind you, your child may not. Children can remain loyal to their absent parent and fantasise about their original family reuniting long after the parents have moved on. Adoption may feel like a rejection or criticism of their original family.
  • Adopted children can have feelings of loss because their birth parent ‘gave them up’ to someone else, even if they do not remember them. This can result in feelings of rejection or guilt that the child may find difficult to express.