Placing a child up for adoption is a difficult decision. When making your decision you need to clearly understand what an adoption means for you and your child.

Once a child is adopted the law treats the child as if they were the naturally-born child of the adoptive parents.  This ends the birth parent’s legal relationship with the child, except for the purposes of forbidden marriages/civil unions and the crime of incest.  

As a result, adoptions affect child support and maintenance, the child’s rights to property and succession, and the child’s address and citizenship. It will not change a child’s race or nationality.

If you know the identity of the adopting parents, then once you sign a formal consent to an Adoption Order being made, you cannot change your mind.

If you do not know the identity of the adopting parents, you cannot change your mind once an Interim or Final Adoption Order is made.  It is therefore crucial that you carefully consider whether an adoption is best suited to your situation.

There are other alternatives to an adoption.  This includes the making of Parenting and additional Guardianship Orders, which has the effect of providing the appointed person with legal status to care for and make decisions for the child, without removing the legal link to the birth parents.

Adoption process

Once you have decided that you wish to give your child up for adoption, you need to select who you want to be the adoptive parents.  This might be based on a profile provided through Oranga Tamariki, or you may wish to have a family member or someone you know adopt your child. You then need to sign your consent to the adoption for the legal process to begin.

Birth mothers must wait at least 12 days after giving birth to consent to an adoption. During this time the child may remain in your care, or the care of extended family members. The child can also be placed with an Oranga Tamariki approved caregiver if required.

There are formal legal requirements that must be meet in order for your consent to be valid.  Your consent must be witnessed by a lawyer, a District Court Judge or Registrar, and the person witnessing your consent must explain to you the effect of the Adoption Order.

Once you have given your consent, a copy should be provided to the Ministry of Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, who will then place the child in the adoptive applicants’ care for 28 days. During this time the adoptive applicants must apply to the Family Court for an Interim Adoption Order.

Once the application has been filed, the Family Court will review your consent and assess whether the adoptive applicants will be appropriate parents to the child. The Court will ask for a report on the adoptive applicants from an Oranga Tamariki social worker to help it make this assessment. The report will also describe why you have chosen to place your child up for adoption.

If the Judge has any concerns they may direct that an adoption hearing be held.

Alternatively, if the Judge has no concerns they will make an Interim Adoption Order. Such an Order gives the adoptive parents the right to act as the child’s parents for up to 1 year. While the making of an Interim Adoption Order gives the adopting parents rights to the day-to-day care of the children, the biological mother, and, potentially, biological father, remain the legal guardians of the child until the Final Adoption Order is made.

After 6 months, the adoptive parents can apply to the Family Court for a Final Adoption Order unless the Judge ordered that they could apply sooner.

Mikayla Turner
Family Lawyer
Wellington