Applying for an adoption order
Updated: 01 July 2013
The necessary documents for an application for an adoption order will be filed in the Family Court by a solicitor acting for the adoptive parents (or, rarely, by the applicants themselves).
It is usual for an interim order of adoption to be made first and then, no less than 6 months (unless otherwise determined by the judge) and no more than 12 months following the granting of the interim order, an adoption order can be made following a social worker’s report. When the application and all the necessary supporting documents are filed in the Family Court, s10 of the Adoption Act 1955 requires the Registrar to request a social work report. The Registrar must give you notice of the hearing of the application, as you are entitled to appear at the hearing, to cross-examine, call evidence, and address the Court.
This would only happen if you were to strongly oppose the order being granted. Section 10 of the Act does not require a report if one of the parents is an existing parent of the child, but the Family Court has issued a practice direction requiring a report for these cases. Adoption applications are heard in chambers in informal circumstances, the applicants and the child attending personally unless the court directs otherwise.
Interim order grant
Once an interim order has been granted, the Act requires the registrar of the Court to send written notice of the interim order to the applicants and to the social worker.
Where the Family Court judge has refused to make an adoption order in respect of a child, the applicants can appeal to the High Court against the decision within a month of the refusal.
If there are special circumstances that make it desirable that an adoption order be made in the first instance, the court has powers to grant that order, which finalises the adoption proceedings. One situation that the court may consider is where the child has been settled in the home of the applicants for a considerable length of time and has already become integrated in the family unit.
Revocation of interim order
Section 12 of the Adoption Act 1955 states that “On the application of any person, the court may in its discretion revoke an interim order in respect of any child on such terms as the Court thinks fit”. This would normally apply to people with an immediate interest in the adoption, where:
- the applicants themselves do not wish to proceed with the adoption
- Oranga Tamariki may have serious concerns for the child in that placement
- the birth family present a case for revocation in the interest of the child.
There are provisions for appeal to the Supreme Court for decisions made in respect to revocation.
Effect of interim order
An interim order in respect of a child:
- may require that the adoption order shall not be issued without a further hearing
- does not change the child’s name, but may specify how it is to be changed by adoption
- remains in force until an adoption order is made, or for up to one year
- shall not be deemed to be an adoption order, for any purpose.
While the interim order remains in force:
- the adoptive applicants are entitled to the custody of the child, and shall comply with such terms, as may be specified in the order
- a social worker from Oranga Tamariki may, at all reasonable times, visit and enter the residence in which the child lives
- the child cannot be taken out of New Zealand without leave of the Court
- the adoptive parents shall give a social worker at least seven days notice before changing their residence. When an emergency necessitates an immediate change of residence notice should be given within 48 hours after leaving the previous residence.
Social worker's role when an interim order is in force
While applicants need to get on with parenting the child without feeling unduly under surveillance, the social worker should be able to be consulted or called on for support, particularly if there are initial issues with the communication with the birthparents.
The frequency of visiting should be sufficient to obtain the information required to complete an accurate assessment of the situation for the final order report. Two-monthly visiting is a guideline only – the social worker’s contact with the family should be determined on a case by case basis.
Application for the issue of an adoption order
Applicants may apply to the Court for an adoption order after the prescribed period of six months. The interim order lapses after 12 months. In special circumstances the Court may issue an adoption order before the termination of the prescribed minimum period.
The final report
It is the responsibility of the applicants, through their solicitor, to be mindful of the time to begin to apply for the final order as there is no way to resurrect an application if the 12 month period should expire – the application would have to be made all over again. Social workers may wish to diary the dates so as to be ready to visit and report without delay.
The final order can only be made in respect of the original applicants. In the event that one applicant has died or a couple have separated, the birthparents who consented originally should be consulted again as to whether they agreed to the remaining partner continuing with the adoption.
Effect of an adoption order
Once the adoption order has been made the child shall be deemed to become the child of the adoptive parent/s, and the adoptive parent/s shall be deemed to become the parent/s of the child, as if the child had been born to the parent/s in lawful wedlock. Note the wording “as if” which asserts that the child’s status is identical with that of any children who may be born to the applicants. While this terminology does not reflect the circumstances of a single applicant applying to adopt, the intention is the same.
The registrar will send notice of the adoption order to the reporting social worker as required by section 13(2) of the Adoption Regulations 1959. This is the same information which is sent to the Registrar-General in order for a new birth registration to be made in the adoptive name.
Applications to adopt further children will usually be accepted when an adoption order relating to the previous application has been granted. This guideline is based on appropriate parenting of the children concerned. The Adoption Act 1955 does not impose any restrictions regarding new applications to adopt while applications for other children are still to be granted.