Adopting a Child in Australia – Do You Need a Lawyer?

There are several reasons why you may choose to adopt a child, however, it is a major decision that requires diligent thought and consideration. In addition, navigating the application and selection process can be complicated, time-consuming, stressful, and incredibly expensive. With any major life-changing decision, it is a good idea to seek the advice of an experienced family lawyer. Ringwood is home to Robert Wood and Associates, we are here to help guide you through the legalities of adopting, ensuring a smoother journey to adoptive parenthood. Read on to find out more about adoption in Australia and a few ways in which a solicitor can help you.

What is Adoption?

Adoption is defined as “the permanent transfer of all legal parenting responsibilities from a child’s birth parents (or from the person with parental responsibility or guardianship of the child) to the adoptive parent or parents.” The Supreme Court in the relevant jurisdiction will issue an Adoption Order, this means that all of the child’s ties to their birth family are legally severed.

There are several different adoption options including: Domestic adoption (out of home care or local adoption), Intercountry adoption (an Australian prospective adopter can seek an international adoption from a partner country including Bulgaria, China, India, and Thailand), and Step Parent Adoption (regulated by federal law and adoption law in each state and territory).

Who Can Adopt?

Eligibility to become an adoptive parent in Australia varies according to the statutory provisions in different jurisdictions. Generally, the main requirements are the age, residence, and marital status of the adoptive parent or parents.

Understanding the Adoption Process

A complex process that can take years, the adoption process differs between states and jurisdictions. The below is a general guide.

Expression of Interest – In most states, when you are interested in adopting a child you will be required to complete an expression of interest (EOI) form and return it to the Department of Communities and Justice. This is the first step and establishes your interest in becoming an adoptive parent.

Adoption Seminar – Attending an adoption preparation seminar will give you the information you need to make an informed decision. It will:

  • give you an understanding on the types of adoption and eligibility criteria.
  • inform you on timeframes.
  • advise you on how to lodge an application.
  • run through the assessment process, including circumstances when an adoption might be contested.
  • outline some of the issues and experiences of other adoptive parents.

Formal Application – Once you have attended the required seminars, you can make a formal application for adoption. This involves gathering and supplying a significant amount of information and documentation about yourself, your family, your lifestyle, and your specific circumstances.

Application Screening – Your application will be screened to see if you are a suitable candidate. This means that all documentation relating to your life including medical status, personal references, criminal history, and relationships will be reviewed and assessed. From here, you will receive written notification of whether you can progress with your application. If you are deemed suitable, your name will be added to the Register of approved prospective parents. If your assessment deems you unsuitable, you will be advised in writing along with the reasons why. Under legislation including the Adoption Act 2000, you have the right to ask for this decision to be reviewed.

How Can a Family Lawyer Help?

Adoption laws can be quite complex and strict, and they require you to follow a clearly defined process. Working with a lawyer who specialises in adoption will ensure that you follow the relevant laws and proceed properly. Failure to do so can result in the adoption taking a lot longer than expected or being denied altogether. If the adoption process isn’t completed properly, major complications could arise in the future. Adoption can be a long and drawn-out process, don’t attempt to handle it alone, a family lawyer experienced in adoptions will be able to guide you through some of the more complicated aspects of the process, allowing you to welcome an adopted child into your home sooner rather than later.

Seek the Help of a Family Law Specialist

Adoption can be difficult. Fortunately, it can be made easier by hiring a family lawyer to help you along the way. If you are a step parent wishing to adopt the child of your de facto partner, or you need help navigating the process for an international adoption, our family lawyers are here to help. To speak to child support law experts or if you need an experienced de facto lawyer, Melbourne’s Robert Wood and Associates can help with a diverse range of family law areas. Contact us online or call 9762 3877 today.

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