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What is adoption?

Adoption is a legal process that transfers the legal rights and responsibilities of parenthood from a child's birth parents to a new set of (adoptive) parents. This means that if a child is adopted, the child’s birth parents are no longer the child’s legal parent and the child’s adoptive parents become his or her only legal parents.

In Queensland, all adoptions are organised through Adoption Services Queensland in the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. This includes local and overseas adoptions. Privately arranged adoptions are illegal in Queensland and penalties apply.

An adoption order is made by the Childrens Court once certain procedures have been followed.

How do I adopt a child?

To adopt a child you must enter your name on the expression of interest register maintained by Adoption Services Queensland. The expression of interest register is a list of the names of people who have expressed their interest in being assessed as suitable to adopt.

You will be eligible to have your name entered in the expression of interest register if you satisfy this criteria:

  • you make the application with your spouse jointly as a couple (whether you are in a de facto relationship or are married)
  • you and your spouse are adults
  • at least one of you is an Australian citizen
  • you and your spouse are resident or domiciled in Queensland
  • you (or your spouse if you are a man) are not pregnant
  • you (or your spouse if you are a man) are not undergoing fertility treatment and have not undergone fertility treatment in the previous six months
  • you are not an intended parent under an altruistic surrogacy arrangement (within the meaning of the Surrogacy Act 2010 (Qld))
  • if you are an intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement, the surrogacy arrangement ended not less than six months earlier
  • you do not have custody of a child under one year of age or a child who has been in your custody for less than one year
  • you have been in a relationship with your spouse for two years, and
  • your relationship is an opposite sex relationship.

Once your names have been entered into the expression of interest register, you can be selected by Adoption Services Queensland to begin the assessment phase of the adoption process.

What if I disagree with a decision made by the department about my suitability?

If the department finds that you have been found ineligible or unsuitable to express an interest on the register, the department must provide their reasons for the decision, and inform you of your right to have the decision reviewed.

Any decision made by the department that a couple is ineligible or unsuitable to be adoptive parents can be reviewed by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

Can I adopt a child if I have a disability?

Adults with disabilities may face problems in meeting the guidelines to adopt a child and should contact Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services for more information.

Can I adopt my step-children or a child related to me?

Adoption is a serious and final legal step. It is not usual to formally adopt step children or relatives. This is because parenting orders can usually be made to meet a child's needs without adoption.

A child’s step-parent, that is the married or de facto spouse of a parent of the child, will be able to apply to adopt the child if:

  • the person is an adult who is resident in Queensland and is an Australian citizen (or the spouse of a Australian citizen)
  • the person lives with the child and spouse and has done so for at least three years
  • the person has been granted leave by the Family Court under the Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth) to commence adoption proceedings
  • the child is at least five years old and not more than 17 years old (an application may be accepted in relation to a child who has turned 17 but is not yet 18 in some circumstances).

An application relating to a child who has turned 17 years of age may be accepted if Adoption Services Queensland decides:

  • there is enough time to complete the adoption process before the child turns 18
  • the grounds for making an adoption order are likely to exist.

Under the Adoption Act 2009 (Qld), a person can no longer apply to adopt a child who is related to the person (other than a person applying to adopt a step-child).

If adoption by a relative is the best option for securing a child’s long-term care, the department can ask a relative to consider being assessed as a prospective adoptive parent for the child. However, the relative cannot initiate the process.

Who has to agree to the adoption?

The consent of a child’s mother and father and every person who is a guardian of the child must be given freely and voluntarily, or the need for their consent dispensed with, before the Childrens Court can make an order for a child to be adopted.

If a mother is solely responsible for the child or the father’s identity is not known, the department must take reasonable steps to establish the identity and location of a child’s father so he has the opportunity to participate in decisions about the child’s adoption or other long-term arrangements for the child.

After identifying and/or locating a child’s father, the department is required to establish whether he is the child’s father, inform him about how he can consent to the adoption, or alternatively, inform him about how he could apply for a parenting order for the child in the Family Court.

If a child is to be adopted by a step-parent, each of a child’s parents must consent to the child’s adoption before the Childrens Court may make an adoption order.

Under the Adoption Act 2009 (Qld), a parent or guardian’s consent is not required if a court has dispensed with the need for the person’s consent to the child’s adoption.

How does a court dispense with a person’s consent to an adoption?

The Childrens Court may dispense with the need to obtain a person’s consent in certain circumstances (for example where a person is withholding consent unnecessarily or where they do not have capacity to give consent). Further details are contained in the Adoption Act 2009 (Qld).

What if the other parent won't agree to an adoption?

Although the consent of both a child’s mother and father, regardless of their marital status, is needed before a child’s adoption may proceed, there are some situations where adoption is in a child’s best interests and can proceed, despite one or both of the child’s parents having not given their consent. Contact Adoption Services Queensland for more information.

Do I still have to pay child support?

Once the adoption order is made, your parental rights and responsibilities are removed and transferred to the adoptive parents. You are no longer required to pay child support.

Can the adoptive parents change my child’s name?

The adoptive parents can change your child's name during the adoption process. See Registering and changing a child's name.

What other options are available?

You may want to think about options other than adoption. It is not necessary for a child to be legally adopted for a person to have parental responsibility for a child. The Family Court or Federal Circuit Court can make parenting orders relating to a person who is not the child’s parent.

When is the adoption final?

After a final adoption order is made, the child becomes the legal child of the step-parent and the step-parent becomes the adoptive parent of the child.

The law does not recognise that a parent-child relationship existed between the child and the birth parent.

The Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services arranges for a copy of the final adoption order to be registered with the Registry for Births, Deaths and Marriages and a new birth certificate is issued for the child. This new certificate is in the child’s name as it is after the adoption and includes the names of the child’s new (adoptive) parents.

Acknowledgement—Prepared using information which is copyright to the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • are thinking about giving up your child for adoption
  • have been asked by the other parent to consent to allowing your child to be adopted by somebody else
  • want to know about options other than adoption that allow you to have parental responsibility for a child, including parenting orders.

Get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice about adoption.

We cannot give legal advice to prospective adoptive parents about how to adopt or about challenging a decision by the Department about your suitability for adoption.

The following organisations may be able to give legal advice on your matter.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to see if they can help with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.

Family Relationship Advice Line provides information about the family law system in Australia.

Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to assist with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Counselling services these services provide information, counselling and referral on adoption related issues.

Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services - Adoptions Services Queensland assists parents considering adoption for their children, children requiring adoptive placements, people seeking to adopt children, and people seeking information about a past adoption.

Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services - 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 Court deals with family law cases. Court forms and information on family court processes are accessible from their website.

Missing Link Adoption Support Ministry provides a support group for anyone involved in adoption, and assistance for reunions with birth relatives.

Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages record life events in each state and territory, including registration of births, deaths, marriages and adoptions.

Related links and information
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