Q: My step-daughter is now eleven-years old and she has lived with me and her mum ever since we got married seven years ago. Before that she hadn’t seen her dad since she was two. He even stopped sending her birthday cards. Now he has popped up again from nowhere and is showering her with expensive presents. She doesn’t want to know but it’s still very unsettling for her. I would like to adopt her to give her stability and her mum wants that too, and when her dad was nowhere to be found I thought that might be possible. Now we don’t know what to do for the best, can you help?
A: There are various options available to you depending on the outcome you wish to achieve. If you wish to become your step-daughter’s permanent legal parent, an application to Court for an Adoption Order is required. This has severe implications as it would end the legal relationship between your step-daughter and her father and terminate his parental rights. You would become the legal parent, sharing Parental Responsibility with her mother.
Alternatively, you may achieve the stability you are seeking by applying to Court for a Child Arrangements Order to formally state who your step-daughter is to live with. This Order would grant you shared Parental Responsibility (alongside others with Parental Responsibility) and allow you to be involved with important decisions regarding your step-daughter. This Order would not sever the legal relationship between your step-child and her father.
Another way of acquiring Parental Responsibility is to enter into a formal agreement (if those with Parental Responsibility give consent) or to apply to Court for a Parental Responsibility Order (if consent to an agreement cannot be obtained). Before making a decision on how to proceed it would be beneficial to seek legal advice from a specialist family lawyer.
(Article published 27/03/2017)