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Step-parent adoption success in the County Court

Family & Relationship Law

Allison Nicholls, Special Counsel and Claire Walczak, Senior Associate in our Family and Relationship Law team recently obtained a Step Parent Adoption Order on behalf of their clients in the County Court of Victoria (County Court). The granting of the adoption follows a three-year journey for our family lawyers and their clients, in what is a rare and complex process requiring specialist knowledge.

What is step-parent adoption?

Step-parent adoption occurs where a step parent wishes to adopt their partner's child. The parties must have been married to each other or living together in a de facto relationship for at least two years.

Adoption means that the birth parent ceases to be the child's legal parent and the adoptive parent becomes the child's legal parent. A new birth certificate is issued as if the child was born to the adoptive parent.

How it works

Pursuant to section 60G of the Family Law Act 1975, the Family Court of Australia (Family Court) may grant leave for proceedings to be commenced for adoption if the Family Court considers it to be in the child's best interests. The County Court will then consider whether parenting orders are adequate or whether an adoption order will better promote the welfare and interests of the child.

In considering this issue, exceptional circumstances must exist.

Exceptional circumstances

In this particular case, the County Court considered the following factors to be exceptional:

  • significant family violence perpetrated by the biological father against the biological mother and child
  • the child had no contact with the birth father since birth
  • the biological father indicated that he did not wish to be involved in the child's life
  • our client (the step father) had fulfilled the role of father to the child since the child was a few months old, and had demonstrated his strong commitment by supporting the child emotionally, socially and financially, and
  • the adoption would create a greater sense of belonging within the family unit than a parenting order, as the child has two step-siblings.

Our clients and their extended families are thrilled with the result.

It can be difficult to obtain court approval for step-parent adoption given the extensive requirements set by both the Family Court and County Court. If you are considering step-parent adoption, we suggest seeking specialist legal advice to discuss what options might be available.

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.

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