Non-Agency Partner Adoption

What is a Non-Agency Partner Adoption (NAPA)?

Previously known as Step Parent Adoption. 

Adoption offers the child a legally permanent relationship with the adoptive parent which they will have all of his/her life. It means that the resident birth parent and their partner will share parental responsibility for the child. There is no automatic right to adoption and it is not appropriate for every child in step families. The court’s decision is made based on the best interest of the child.

The local authority where the child resides is normally responsible for the assessment of every family that proposes a non-agency adoption, and prepares a report for the court of their findings. A social worker will make several visits to a family and complete various checks. In your area the local authority
commissions Adoption West to undertake this work.

An adoption order severs the legal relationship between the child and the non-resident birth parent.

Find out more about NAPAs

You can make an application to the court for a
partner adoption order if all the following criteria are applicable.
• The applicant is 21 or over
• The applicant is married to the birth parent, or has been cohabiting with the birth parent for at least two years.
• The applicant resides in the British Isles or has been habitually resident here for at least a year.
• The applicant has been continually living with the child for at least 6 months.
• The applicant has notified the local authority in writing of his/her intention to make an
application for an adoption order at least 3 months before submitting an application to the court.
• The child is not yet 18 (although the court can make an order up to the day before a child’s 19th birthday providing the application was made prior to the child’s 18th birthday).

Child’s best interest
Adoption West have a duty to ensure that adoption is in your child’s best Interest. The court will need to establish that adoption will be best for the child throughout his/her life. The assessment process will involve the child being seen alone, it is therefore essential that the child knows the factual details about his/her origins and relationships within the family. It is beneficial if the child is able to understand the implications of their adoption and has knowledge of his/her birth history. It is therefore preferable if children are over the age of five, before considering adoption, but each case will be considered on its own merits regardless of age.

If the child has not yet been told about his/her birth history, we may be able to help with ideas of how to do this. It is important that the child has a record of his/her early life, including photographs, documents, mementoes and details of significant people in his/her life. A special box/folder or photo album can be used for this purpose.

The court will require evidence of a child’s relationship with the applicant in determining the applicant’s suitability in a family relationship. The requirement applies if you are married, have entered into a civil partnership or, are living as partners in an enduring family relationship.

Adoption West define this as a relationship that has lasted at least two years. The applicant must have lived within the same household as the child for at least 6 months preceding a “letter of intent to adopt”.

There is a legal duty for the assessing social worker to interview both birth parents, and anyone else who may have parental responsibility for the child and to ascertain their view. To confirm they are in agreement with your application the court will
require written consent of all persons with parental responsibility for the child.

The social worker will also need to see the child’s brothers and sisters and may wish to see other members of the family. It is important to think of significant people in the child’s life, for example: grandparents, aunts and uncles who might be affected if an adoption order is made.

It is important to recognise that partner adoption constitutes a loss for the child of legal relationships with the extended family of the non-resident birth parent. If the whereabouts of the non-resident birth parent is not known, the court will expect all reasonable efforts to be made to contact that parent to inform them of the application. “If the non-resident birth parent does not consent to the adoption the court will need to be satisfied, where they have parental responsibility that their consent should be dispensed with and, in any case, that it is appropriate to make the adoption order. This will mean a careful consideration of all the circumstances.”

If the child’s non-resident parent is not in agreement with the plan for adoption, you may wish to obtain legal advice from a solicitor experienced in adoption matters. is a website which will enable you to locate solicitors specialising in child care law.

Even if the non-resident birth parent does not have parental responsibility, he/she will still need to be contacted. Information about their life, family, health, education and employment are all important to record as well as their wishes and feelings about the proposed adoption. If the non-resident birth parent is deceased, the court will require a copy of the death certificate. The social worker may want to interview the extended members of the deceased parent.

NB: The courts make it quite clear that the decision to sever the relationship between parent and child is made only when there is evidence that this is in the child’s best interest.

The social worker will ask about contact arrangements in place for the child, and whether financial maintenance was paid by the non-resident birth parent

The local authority has a duty to carry out checks as to the applicant’s suitability and will make contact with various agencies, including police probation and health departments. A DBS will be required for the applicant and anyone aged 18+ years in the household. The child’s school and professional individual’s, who may be involved, will also be contacted.

Adoption West will require you to supply the names and addresses of two referees, who should be people who know you well, and can comment on your parenting of the child. One of your personal referees can be a relative, preferably of your partner.


If a child who is not a British Citizen is adopted in this country by someone (including a step-parent) who is a British Citizen, the child will acquire British Citizenship. In these cases, you must notify the Home Office of the application.
You should also consider what effect this would have on the child’s original nationality – some countries do not allow ‘dual citizenship’ so the child might lose legal ties to their original country. If there is an international element to your stepfamily you should take legal advice on your position before deciding whether to adopt or not.

International Issues: Even if birth parents live in another country efforts need to be made to gain their wishes and feelings. All documentation will need to be supplied, this may incur additional costs. In situations where there are international considerations, this may be more complex and can take longer to pro-cess.

Birth by sperm donation and/or surrogacy clinic

If you use an anonymous donor at a fertility clinic, the anonymous donor will not have any legal status in relation to your child and will have no involvement in their life. However, children born by an anonymous donor after April 2005 will have the right to receive information about their donor when they are 18 years old.

Regarding acquiring sperm donations form an anonymous donor via social media, advice from CORAM as follows:

Useful links,parental%20responsibility%20for%20the%20partner.

Adoption West advise that if the circumstances detailed on these pages (or any variation of them) apply, you should seek independent legal advice.

You should make an enquiry with your regional adoption agency where you are a resident and register an interest in adopting a child. The local authority assesses your suitability to become the child’s adoptive parent and the appropriateness of adoption. You will be required to give the local authority at least three months’ written notice of your intention to apply to the courts (further advice on these timescales will be provided after you meet with a social worker from Adoption West).
You make an application to court: costs £201.00 per application (not per child).

The local authority submits a report to the court on your suitability and the appropriateness of adoption.
The court considers your application and the adoption agency’s report and makes a decision.

The social worker assessing your family situation will want to meet with each individual: the applicant, the birth parent, the child, and all other significant adults and children in the child’s life. Adoption is a very important step in the life of a child and the adoption application should be made at the right time for the child. The court requires a detailed report about each person within the family and how the individuals relate to one another.

The social worker will discuss with you the recommendations in the report.

When the adoption agency receives written notice of an application, it has to assess and prepare a report to the court about the suitability of the person applying to be an adoptive parent. The report will be compiled by a qualified social worker with experience in adoption case work.

If the applicant or the resident birth parent is British, an adoption order will have the effect of conferring British citizenship on the child.

In cases where there may be issues around immigration status or nationality, the Secretary of State will be informed of the proceedings, in case they should want to become a party to the proceedings.

The report must include:
• Information about the child who is the subject of the application
• Information about the child’s family
• The wishes and feelings of the child and others
• Information about the prospective adoptive parent
• Information about the agency that compiled the report
• The implication of making an adoption order for the people involved
• The relative merits of adoption and other orders
• A recommendation regarding adoption
• A recommendation regarding contact

Court Ruling
The court will consider the adoption application and will check whether to grant an adoption or any other order. The court will make the decision that it believes is in the best interest of the child.

If an adoption order is made the child will be issued with an adoption certificate stating the same name of the resident parent and the adoptive parent as being the parents of the child. The adopted person can apply for a copy of their original birth certificate when he/she reaches 18 and can apply to access their adoption records through the adoption support services in the local authority where they reside.

Please note:
If adoption is the most appropriate way forward, you will need to have the following documents (where applicable) available when applying to the court:

  1. The child’s certified copy of the original birth certificate (not returned)
  2. Certified copy of marriage certificate in respect of the applicant and resident birth parent (returned)
  3. Documents relating to previous marriages –Decree Absolute
  4. Change of name by deed poll
  5. Documents relating to immigration status

There are alternatives to NAPA (parent adoption) which may more appropriately secure the child’s
relationships within the family. A step-parent who is married to the resident birth parent can acquire
Parental Responsibility by entering into a formal agreement with those with parental responsibility, or by applying to the court for a parental responsibility order, or a child arrangement order. The court therefore has several options at its disposal.

No order principle
This is a really important principle that the court must always consider. The court must start from the position that no order shall be made unless the court “considers that doing so would be better for the child than making an order at all”.

Change of Surname
The surname used by a child can be changed by deed poll if all those with parental responsibility are in agreement.

Parental responsibility agreement
You can gain parental responsibility for your step-child by entering into a voluntary formal agreement with all of the other people who have parental responsibility for the child. If all parties with parental responsibility have agreed to sign the agreement, at time of completing the form, and before signing them, all parties who are required to sign must go along to either a Family Proceeding Court, or the Principal Registry of the Family Division to have it signed and witnessed.

Parental responsibility order
If the court grants a parental responsibility order, this gives parental responsibility (PR) to the step-parent but does not remove it from the non-resident birth parent. More than two people can have parental responsibility for a child. It is important to note that if a step-parent is granted parental responsibility by way of a parental responsibility order, they do not lose this if they divorce the biological parent. The legal definition of parental responsibility is “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority, which by law a parent of a child has about a child and his property”

Child arrangement order
A child arrangement order can be made in relation to the child and sets out where and with whom a child should reside, and confers parental responsibility to the applicant.

Note: You do not automatically gain parental responsibility for stepchildren via marriage to their biological parent.

If you are considering other options, we recommend you seek legal advice.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch today.
We will do our best to help.
Phone number for all enquiries is 03303 550 333 or you can contact us via email on

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