Step-parent adoption

Step-parent adoption is a way in which you can become the legal parent of your partner’s child or children from a previous marriage or relationship.

In the past, step-parent adoption was the usual way chosen by people who wanted to take legal steps to provide a stable and secure family environment for step-children, enabling them to share the new family’s name and making sure that step-parent’s role, rights and responsibilities are recognised in the event of the death or incapacity of the birth parent.

Nowadays, there is a variety of alternatives available which are likely to be easier to achieve and may be more appropriate – especially for a child who has some involvement with both sides of his or her original family.

Step-parent adoption is achieved through the making of an adoption order by a court. The court will base any decision first and foremost on what is best for the child and will want to consider the alternatives before concluding that adoption is the right option.

Devon Adoption is not usually involved as a ‘adoption agency’ for step-parent adoptions because we have not placed a child for adoption.

Download document2. Adopting a step-child factsheet PDF download

What are the basic requirements?

To be eligible to be assessed to adopt your step-child by Devon Adoption you must be at least 21 years old. You must also be married to, or the partner of, one of the child’s parents for at least two years and also lived with the child full-time for at least six months.

Adoption is a permanent legal order and we will need to be assured that the relationship is likely to last until the child becomes an adult. The adopter will be sharing parental responsibility for the child with their parent. This includes financial responsibilities to the child.

How to Apply

Please consider the alternatives to adoption described above before deciding to make an application for an adoption order. You can contact us at Devon Adoption for a preliminary discussion or you may wish to consult a solicitor who specialises in children and family law. You can find details of local law firms here.

Before making your application to the court, you must formally notify Devon Adoption, giving three months notice, of your intention to apply for an ‘adoption order’ by writing to:
Devon Adoption (SPA)
Devon County Council
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter EX2 4QD

We will advise you how and when to make your application to your local County Court  or Family Proceedings (Magistrates) Court .

The court will ask Devon Adoption to appoint a social worker to provide the court with a detailed report on all the circumstances.

The report is called an Annexe A Report and must contain information about:

  • the child
  • each parent of the child and other family members, including other children
  • what alternatives to adoption have been considered
  • evidence that adequate attempts have been made to trace, contact and seek the views of an absent parent
  • the impact of the proposed adoption on the child and both birth parents
  • whether, taking into account all the circumstances, adoption is likely to be in the child’s best interests.

This report will help the court decide if an adoption order should be made.

How to contact us:

We’re happy to talk to you about what step-parent adoption means, and how to consider all the alternatives available. Call us on 0345 155 1076  or email us


Adopting a relative

To adopt a relative you must be at least 21 years old. You can apply as a single person or apply jointly with your partner. The relative you wish to adopt must be at least 19 weeks old.

Devon Adoption will complete an assessment and the usual checks for adoptive parents.

However, if the relative you want to adopt currently lives abroad, read our information on intercountry adoption.