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Adopting a child

If you’re considering adopting a child, you may wonder how this interplays with family law and your parenting rights. Each state and territory have their respective laws regarding adoption, and unfortunately, there is no unfirm system. In Queensland, the relevant legislation is the Adoption Act 2009. Whether you want to adopt your step-child, an Australian child or an overseas child, you must register your expression of interest through Adoption Services Queensland. Because of this system, Queensland’s adoption is mostly an administrative law issue and not a family law issue. The other legislation that plays a part in overseas adoptions is the Hague Adoption Convention.  

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What are the Different Types of Adoption? 

Adoption is the legal process where a child officially becomes a recognised member of a family. Once the adoption is complete, the adoptive parents take over all legal rights and responsibilities from the birth parents. They effectively sever all ties between them and their birth parents and the birth parent’s extended family.  

There are three different types of adoption:  

  1. Intra-family adoption: This is simply the term for a step-parent officially adopting their partner’s child or another family member assuming within their family.  
  2. Intercountry adoptions (adopting a child from overseas) – In Australia, this is the most common form of adoption. When wanting to adopt a child from overseas, the person or couple will have to register their expression of interest and, if deemed suitable, will be placed on a waitlist. 
  3. Local adoption: This is known as ‘closed adoption’ and involves adopting children to people not known to the birth parents. Local adoption is uncommon in Australia, mainly because the birth parents can stipulate the type of family they wish for the child to live with.

Another form of local adoption is when a foster parent wishes to adopt a child that has been in their care for a long time. In this situation, the foster parent still has to go through the same process as if they were a stranger to the child and seek the birth parents’ consent. Again, foster carers wishing to adopt their child should expect delays.  

Inter-country Adoptions 

If considering adopting a child from overseas, you should thoroughly read the Hague Adoption Convention. Adopting a child overseas is not as simple as adopting any child from any country so long as the birth parents’ consent. If wanting to become that child’s legal parents, parties must follow the Hague Convention. Suppose you either don’t comply with the adoption rules stated in the Convention, or you adopt from a non-signatory country. In that case, you risk not returning to Australia with that child because you may not obtain an Adoption Visa.  

How do I Adopt a child? 

If you want to adopt a child locally, there are only a few requirements to express your interest.  

To be eligible to express your interest, you must meet the following pre-requisites:  

  • You must be at least 18 years of age;  
  • You must be an Australian citizen if a sole adoptive parent, or if jointly with a partner, at least one you must be an Australian citizen;  
  • You must be a Queensland resident;  
  • You cannot be pregnant;  
  • You are not an intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement;
  • You must not have custody of either a child aged less than one year or a child who has been in your custody for less than one year (excluding children for whom you are an approved carer under the Child Protection Act 1999); or 
  • Your name must not already be in the expression of interest or suitable adoptive parents registers. 

If you meet these criteria, you can then register your expression of interest by completing this form. The Adoption Service will notify you once you have been deemed eligible. From there, you will receive another notification if you are selected by the Adoption Service to have your suitability assessed. Suppose you are not selected within two years. In that case, your expression of interest will expire, and you will need to lodge another form.  

If you would like to know more about whether you will be assessed as suitable adoptive parents, read here.  

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