If you wish to formally adopt a child in Queensland, it is important for you to understand the legal process required to transfer parental rights and responsibility from your child’s biological parent to you (the adoptive parent).

Once your child is formally adopted, the biological parent ceases to have any legal rights and/or responsibilities for your child. Given this represents a significant change for your child and the parents (biological and adoptive), processes have been put in place to ensure all parties, including your child:

  • understand the adoption process and its implications; and
  • provide informed consent to the adoption.

If you do not meet the criteria to formally adopt a child, you may be able to make an application in the Family Court for parenting orders, including an order for parental responsibility.

Step-parent adoption explained

It is not uncommon in blended families to see a new partner take on the role of a parent to a step-child. There may be a number of reasons for this, including the biological mother or father choosing to have little to no involvement in their child’s life.

In those circumstances, the new partner may seek to formally adopt the step-child.

In Queensland, the process of adopting a step-child is regulated by the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) in conjunction with the Adoption Act 2009 (Qld). It requires a new partner to undertake the following steps:

  • to make an application to the Family Court seeking leave (approval) to commence the process of adopting a step-child; and
  • to make an application through Adoption Services Queensland to commence the adoption process.

The adoption process is not straightforward. The Family Court and Adoption Services Queensland must carefully consider any application made in order to ensure that it is in the best interests of a step-child.

For this reason, the application will not be successful unless the following criteria are met;

  • the new partner is over 18 years of age;
  • the new partner is a Queensland resident and an Australian citizen;
  • the new partner has lived with the step-child for more than 3 years;
  • the step-child is at least 5 years of age but no older than 17 years of age;
  • both biological parents provide informed consent to the Application or there are grounds for the Court to dispense with the consent of one of the biological parents.

The overarching criteria is the need to ensure that an adoption is in the best interests of the child.

Information about consent to adoption

Consent is a fundamental requirement of the adoption. This is because once a child is formally adopted, the biological parent loses all involvement in the child’s life. For this reason, the Family Court and Adoption Services Queensland must give biological parents every opportunity to respond to an adoption application and to provide informed consent.

Before an adoption order is made, all parties to an adoption application must participate in comprehensive counselling and education about the adoption process, how it will change their current roles as parents and what it will mean for the child.

Often, it is difficult for a biological parent to accept an adoption application and therefore provide consent despite adoption being in the best interests of the child.

When applying to the Children’s Court to commence the adoption process the step-parent can apply for an order that the biological parent’s consent be dispensed with, if consent has not been obtained. This type of application must be supported with an affidavit setting out why the adoption is ultimately in the child’s best interests.

In our experience, consent from a biological parent will only be dispensed with if one or more of the following circumstances exist:

  • there is clear evidence that a biological parent has inflicted severe family violence of abuse on the child or a member of the child’s family and an ongoing involvement of that parent in the child’s life would not be in the child’s best interests;
  • the biological parent has had no involvement in the child’s life and the child does not know that person as their parent;
  • the child suffers from serious health or capacity issues that impact on their ability to understand the situation; or
  • the biological parent cannot be located despite attempts being made.

At McLaughlin and Associates Lawyers, we understand the adoption process in Queensland. If you require assistance with an application for adoption, please contact us.