Australian family units are diverse and take many forms including step-families and blended families.
Adoption is the legal process whereby a child becomes, in contemplation of law, the child of the adoptive parents and ceases to be the child of the birth parent. In South Australia, adoption is authorised through the Department for Child Protection. Prior to an adoption order being considered, a parent must make an application for the Family Court of Australia for leave to proceed under Section 60G of the Family Law Act 1975. Step-parent adoptions are rare in South Australia as a Parenting Order is usually seen as being in the best interests of a child as opposed to an Adoption Order.
The Court will not make an adoption order in relation to a child under 18 years of age unless satisfied that adoption is in the best interests of the child and, taking into account the rights and welfare of the child, is clearly preferable to any alternative order that may be made under the laws of the State or Commonwealth.
The following are some of the further requirements that need to be satisfied under the Adoption Act 1988 (SA):
- The child must be in South Australia and the adoptive parent must be a resident/domiciled in South Australia;
- If the child is over the age of 5, the court must consider their opinion;
- The biological parent and step-parent need to have lived together for at least 5 years unless there are special circumstances.
- Each person who is a parent of the child must consent to the adoption (unless the court dispenses with the requirement for consent).
It is important for parents and step-parents seeking to adopt their step children in South Australia to obtain legal advice before embarking on this process.