Adoptions in New Zealand have declined over the last 30 years, with fewer and fewer applications being filed, due to the reduced number of children being put up for adoption.  However, it is still an important and unique part of the Family Court system. People who wish to adopt generally have to go through a long process in Court and with social workers, with no guarantee of success.

An adoption order cannot be made unless the person applying is over the age of 25 and is 20+ years older than the child, or is 20 years old or more and a relative of the child.

A single male cannot adopt a female child unless the Court is satisfied that the applicant is the father of the child. or that there are special circumstances which justify the making of an adoption order.

An application must also have a consent form filed by the birth mother of the child, and if known and recorded, the birth father or any other person who is already a legal guardian of the child. The consent from the birth mother can only be accepted if the child is 10 days old or older.

The Court also is required to appoint a social worker to investigate the child and adoptive parents’ domestic situation and file a report. An interim adoption order cannot be made without this report.

Once a social worker and the Court are satisfied, an interim adoption order is put in place for a minimum of six months.  A final adoption order can then only be made after that six months ends and there are no concerns for the care of the child with the adoptive parents. If there are things that a Court needs to look at before a final adoption order is made, a hearing will be held to deal with these issues.

If you are wishing to adopt a child, whether you are a relative of the child or a foster parent, it is important to know what steps you need to take throughout the Court process, and seek early advice from a lawyer who practices in Family Law.

Shaun Cousins
Family Lawyer