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Hertfordshire County Council

Adopting as a step parent


Eligibility criteria, the assessment process, how long it'll take and costs.

Reasons for adoption orders and what's in the best interests of the child.

There are other ways to secure a child's place in your family.

Information from


Apply for an adoption order

An adoption order grants you complete parental responsibility. It confirms who has the legal right to make decisions about the child and removes it from all others, including the the non-resident parent, their family and the local authority.

An adoption order is permanent and cannot be revoked. A new birth certificate will be issued.

To apply for an adoption order, contact us:

Telephone: 01438 843281


You may also need to hire a solicitor depending on your circumstances.

Eligibility criteria

  • You are over 21 years of age
  • You reside in the British Isles or have been habitually resident in the UK for at least a year
  • You are married to the resident birth parent, or are living with the resident birth parent in an enduring family relationship (we recommend for a minimum of 2 years)
  • You have been living with the child for at least 6 months
  • You have notified your local authority in writing of your intention to apply to court for an Adoption Order at least 3 months before submitting an application to court
  • The child is under 18 years of age at the time of the application to the court (although the court can make an order up to the day before the person’s 19th birthday)

More information on who can adopt

The adoption order process
 - including

  • the adoption assessment
  • eligibility criteria
  • what to do if you're not eligible.

How long it will take
 and what factors should you consider before applying.

What it will cost

We don't make any charge, but there are other costs:

  • court fee for lodging the adoption application (the court will advise you on the costs)
  • solicitor’s fees (if applicable – it is unusual for legal aid to be granted)
  • charge for the issue of an adoption certificate.


Is an adoption order the right option?

Adopting a stepchild is commonly considered as a way of showing commitment to a family unit and a relationship and for you to feel more involved in supporting a child and being able to make important decisions for the child.

Other reasons include:

  • Name change
  • Consent to medical treatment
  • Recognition of stepparent role in a child’s life
  • Severing ties with birth family
  • Inheritance
  • Security of family unit
  • Child’s sense of belonging
  • Parental responsibility 

The Children Act recognises that in most cases it is in the child’s best interest for families to come to informal arrangements without resorting to a court order. Usually, family courts wish to encourage children to maintain links with their birth relatives, where possible.  This is important for a child’s sense of identity as they are growing up.

In most cases, a permanent legal decision may not be in the best interest of the child. There is no automatic right to adopt and it is not appropriate for many children who live in stepfamilies to be adopted by a stepparent.


Other ways to secure a child's place in your family

Options for step parents including:

  • parental responsibility agreements
  • parental responsibility orders
  • child arrangements orders.

Change a surname by deed poll

A simple alternative to step parent adoption, if all of those with parental responsibility are in agreement. More information can be found at: 

Can I change my child's name (

Change a child's name (

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