To start the adoption legal adoption process all you need to do is set up a meeting with one of our specialist solicitors in adoption. WJM has offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Dunblane and Dunfermline and we can meet you at your local office (or currently via Zoom).
Initial meeting with your solicitor
At the first meeting, you will need to bring proof of ID, such as;- (i) a passport or driving licence; and (ii) a utility bill or bank statement which clearly shows your name and address (and is dated within the last three months).
If you have the child’s original birth certificate, we would ask you bring this along to the meeting. This is sometimes held by the Local Authority.
If you are married or in a civil partnership, you will need to bring along the certificate. If you have been divorced, we will need a copy of your divorce decree. The court requires these certificates and keeps a hold of these certificates for the duration of the adoption proceedings.
This first meeting will typically take about 45 minutes. Your adoption solicitor will talk you through the steps involved in the legal process and you will have the opportunity to ask as many questions as you want about the process.
The Court Process
The next step is to prepare the “Petition”. This is a legal document which is sent to the Court on your behalf asking the Court to grant an Adoption Order for the child.
The petition advises the court of a number of key details including:
- Details of prospective adopter(s)
- Details of the child/children to be adopted
- Details of the child’s birth parents (this is supplied by the Local Authority)
The Petition is then sent to your local Sheriff Court.
The Petition is lodged, what happens next?
Once the Petition is lodged, the Court will do a number of things. The steps which the Court takes at this point depends on whether there is a “Permanence Order with Authority to Adopt” (“POA”) in place for the child.
If there is a POA in place for the child, then the birth parents will no longer hold certain rights and responsibilities for the child and instead, typically certain rights and responsibilities for the child will be held by the Local Authority.
However, if there is no POA in place, the birth parents will usually still have parental rights and responsibilities for the child.
The Local Authority and Adoption Agency will advise you whether there is a POA in place for the child.
What if there is no POA in place?
The Court will typically do four things:
- The court will provide a date for the “Preliminary Hearing”. This is a court hearing which takes place 6 to 8 weeks after the Petition is lodged with the Court.
- The court will notify the birth parents about the adoption proceedings.
- A “Curator ad litem” will be appointed by the Court. The Curator is usually a local solicitor and they will prepare a report for the Court and they will visit you at home with the child for this purpose. The Curator’s report will then make a recommendation as to whether the Adoption Order should be granted, taking account of what is in the best interests of the child.
- A “Reporting Officer” will be appointed by the Court. The Reporting Officer’s role is to speak with the child’s birth parents and ask for their views on the adoption petition. Once the Reporting Officer has spoken with the birth parents, they will prepare a report for the court.
What if there is a POA in place?
The only difference from the above four steps is that the Court does not appoint a Reporting Officer.
If the child’s birth parents do not contest the adoption and the Court is satisfied with the Curator’s report, then the Adoption Order can be granted at the Preliminary hearing.
However, should the birth parents challenge the adoption then additional reports may be required and additional work will be undertaken prior to attending the final court hearing which is called a “Proof”. There can often be a number of court hearings between the first one and the final one but our solicitors will keep you updated at each step of the process.
At the Proof, a Sheriff will hear evidence from all the parties, including from the prospective adopters, from the birth parents and from other witnesses, such as the social worker for the child. The Sheriff will then make an informed decision in relation to what is in the best interests of the child.
The Sheriff’s decision can be made either at the end of the Proof, or if they require additional time to review matters, they will provide a written judgement within 28 days.
If the decision is made to grant the Adoption Order, the birth parents have 28 days to appeal the decision, although appeals are rare.
If no appeal is made within the 28 days, then the judgment made by the Sheriff can be considered final with the Adoption Order being granted.
What happens after the Adoption Order has been granted?
After the 28 day appeal period has expired, our adoption solicitors will contact the National Records of Scotland and request a new birth certificate for the child.
The new birth certificate will show the child’s new name post-adoption and will name you as the child’s parent(s).
The new birth certificate will then be sent to you, along with any other documents which were provided to the court at the outset, for example your marriage or civil partnership certificate.
This draws a conclusion to the legal process and you can continue your life as a family.