Adoption transfers the legal rights and responsibilities of a child's birth parents to a new set of (adoptive) parents who are now legally considered to be their parents.
Queensland adoptions are organised through Adoption Services Queensland (Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services), and includes local and overseas adoptions. Privately arranged adoptions are illegal in Queensland and penalties apply.
Adopting a child
The information on this page relates to people wanting to adopt a child in Queensland. If you are a parent considering adoption of your child, see more information here
When adopting a child, you must put your name on the adoption expression of interest register maintained by Adoption Services Queensland. This is a list of people waiting to be assessed for their suitability as an adoptive parent
To be eligible for the register you must:
- be an adult living in Queensland
- be an Australian citizen or have a partner, to whom you are married or who are in a defacto relationship with, who is an Australian citizen
- not be pregnant
- not be an intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement within the Surrogacy Act 2010; if you have been the intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement, the surrogacy arrangement must have ended at least 6 months earlier
- not have custody of either a child under 1 or a child who has been in your custody for less than 1 year (not including children for whom you are an approved carer under the Child Protection Act 1999)
- not already have your name in the expression of interest or suitable adoptive parent registers.
Once you've registered your name/s you can be selected by Adoption Services Queensland to start the assessment phase.
If you have a partner, you must make a joint expression of interest and you must both be eligible for the register
See the Queensland and Intercountry Adoption Handbook for more information about being assessed as suitable adoptive parents for a child in Queensland.
Visit the Queensland Government website’s adopting a child in Queensland for more information about completing an adoption expression of interest form.
Ailan Kastom child rearing practice in Torres Strait Islander families
Ailan Kastom child rearing practice is a culture practice followed by generations of Torres Strait Islander families raising children in supportive and loving extended families. Under Ailan Kastom child rearing practice a child’s biological (birth) parents may agree for another couple (the culture parents) within their extended family to permanently raise their biological child as the culture parent’s own.
A new law called Meriba Omasker Kaziw Kazipa (Torres Strait Islander Traditional Child Rearing Practice) Act 2020 (Qld) allows Ailan Kastom child rearing practice to be legally recognised and establishes a process to do so. Under the law, a child or adult who has been raised under Ailan Kastom child rearing practice can now get their legal identity (eg their birth certificate, Medicare, and Centrelink records) to match their cultural identity. The person’s parentage is transferred from the birth parents to the cultural parents. They become a child of the cultural parents and the cultural parents become the parents of the person. You must apply for a cultural recognition order for a child or adult to get their Ailan Kastom child rearing practice legally recognised. Legal Aid Queensland and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) in Queensland can help you apply for a cultural recognition order. Call our Indigenous Hotline on 1300 650 143 or ATSILS on 1800 012 255.
Read our factsheet for more information.
Disagreeing with a decision about your suitability
If you're found ineligible or unsuitable for the adoption expression of interest register, then Adoption Services Queensland must give their reasons for the decision. If you disagree with their decision, you can have it reviewed by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)
Adopting with a disability
Adults with disabilities can face problems meeting the adoption guidelines. Contact the Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services for more information.
Adopting your stepchildren
Adoption is a serious and final legal step and it's not usual to formally adopt stepchildren because parenting orders can be made to meet a child's needs without adoption.
A child’s stepparent (ie the married or defacto spouse of a parent of the child) can apply to adopt the child if:
- the person is an adult living in Queensland, and is an Australian citizen (or the spouse of an Australian citizen)
- the person has lived with the child and partner for at least 3 years
- the person has been given permission by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia under the Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth) to start adoption proceedings
- the child is at least 5 years old and not older than 17 (an application may be accepted for a child who has turned 17 in some situations).
An application for a 17 year old may be accepted if Adoption Services Queensland decides:
- the adoption process can be completed before the child turns 18
- the grounds for making an adoption order in favour of the applicant are likely to exist. Visit the Queensland Government website’s adopting a child in Queensland for information about adopting a 17 year old
Agreeing to an adoption
The child's mother, father and/or guardian must freely and voluntarily agree (consent) to the adoption before the Childrens Court can make an adoption order.
If the father's identity is unknown, and the mother is solely responsible for the child then the department must:
- establish the father’s identity and/or locate them so they can be involved in the adoption process
- give the father information about agreeing to the adoption
- inform the father about applying for a parenting order for the child in the family law courts.
If a stepparent is adopting the child, each of the child’s parents must agree before the Childrens Court can make an adoption order.
Under the Adoption Act 2009 (Qld), the Childrens Court may dispense with the need for a parent or guardian to consent to the child’s adoption in certain situations (eg where a person is withholding consent unnecessarily, or if they don’t have capacity to consent).
Disputes with the other parent
Both the child's mother and father will need to agree to the adoption (regardless of their marital status) before proceeding.
In some situations, the adoption can proceed without both the parents' agreement if it is in the best interests of the child. Contact Adoption Services Queensland for more information.
Child support payments
Once the adoption order has been made, the child’s birth parents no longer have to pay child support, as their parental rights and responsibilities will be removed and transferred to the adoptive parents.
Changing a child's name
The adoptive parents can change the child's name during the adoption process, however the court will only make an order changing a child’s existing first name if the court is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances that warrant the making of the order.
What other options are available?
Adoption may not be the only option available for you. For example, you don't have to legally adopt a child to have parental responsibility for them. In some situations, the family law courts can make parenting orders relating to a person who isn't the child's parent.
Making the adoption final
Once the adoption order has been made final, the child then becomes the 'legal' child of the stepparent and they become the 'adoptive parent/s' of the child. The law no longer recognises that a parent-child relationship existed between the child and the birth parent.
The Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services will organise for the final adoption order to be registered with the Registry for Births, Deaths and Marriages and a new birth certificate will be issued. The new certificate will be registered in the name of the child (after adoption) and will include the names of the new (adoptive) parents.
Acknowledgement—prepared using information which is copyright to the Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services.
Do I need legal advice?
You may need legal advice if you:
- are considering adoption for your child
- have been asked by the other parent to agree to allowing your child to be adopted by somebody else
- want to know about what other options (other than adoption) are available to give you parental responsibility for a child (eg parenting orders).
Get legal advice
We may give legal advice about adoptions.
We can't give legal advice to prospective adoptive parents about how to adopt a child or disputes about your suitability to adopt.
The following organisations may be able to give you legal advice.
Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help with your matter.
Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.
Who else can help?
These organisations may be able to help. They don't give legal advice.
Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services – helps parents considering adoption for their children, children needing adoptive placements, people seeking to adopt children, and people seeking information about a past adoption.
Department of Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships – (Disability Services) helps people with a disability and their families to access the support and services they need. The Disability Information Service provides a free, statewide information resource.
Family Relationship Advice Line gives information about the family law system in Australia.
Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia deals with family law cases. Court forms and information on family court processes are available online.
Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages record life events in each state and territory, including registration of births, deaths, marriages and adoptions.
Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.
Last updated 31 January 2023
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