The adoption process

How do I adopt?

Adoption Act 1955, ss 5, 13

Adoption applications are made to the Family Court.

Before the court make any Adoption Order, a social worker will write a report about the adopting parents. The report will usually include a police check.

Firstly, the court will make an Interim Adoption Order. This is like a trial period where the potential adopting parents don’t have full parental rights of the child. After this trial period, a full order may be granted and, if it is granted, the potential adopting parents become the child’s legal parents.

The Adoption Act doesn’t require a lawyer to be appointed for the child, but the Family Court will often appoint one anyway.

How the Family Court decides whether to make an Adoption Order

Adoption Act 1955, s 11

The Family Court must be satisfied that:

  • the person applying is a fit and proper person to raise a child. They will look at things like their ability to bring up, educate and financially look after a child, and
  • the adoption will support the wellbeing and interests of the child (this is decided case-by-case), and
  • the person applying will respect the conditions made by any of the child’s guardians about the child’s religious upbringing.

If an adoption application has been made mainly for other purposes (for example, to obtain immigration status), the court won’t grant the Adoption Order.

What does “open adoption” mean?

Re Adoption Application 009/6/98 (1999) 18 FRNZ 647; [2000] NZFLR 247

Open adoption means that the birth parents continue to know the child, or are kept updated about the child’s life and, in some circumstances, the birth contacts can continue to see the child. It will be up to the birth and adoptive parents to decide how this will work, including how often the birth parents can see the child.

What are the steps for an “open adoption”?

The legal process for an open adoption is similar to a closed adoption and so are the legal consequences (losing the right and responsibility to parent the child).

Can you enforce an open adoption agreement?

Yes, but it can be difficult. You would need to start proceedings in the court to enforce an open adoption. If the adoptive parents decide to stop passing information to you, or move somewhere where it’s not possible for you to have regular contact with the child, there may not be a lot you can do.

Open adoption agreements rely on both of you wanting to make it work and the adoptive parents allowing you to keep in contact.

Did this answer your question?

Parents, guardians and caregivers

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children

Phone: 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459)

This web page has information about the adoption process.

Family Court

The Family Court website includes information on the topics in this chapter.

Family Court fee waiver forms

Department of Internal Affairs

This DIA webpage has information on how to obtain original birth certificates for adopted children.

Parents can now register their baby’s birth online at:

“What happens to your children when you part?” (pamphlet)
Phone: (04) 472 7837

This New Zealand Law Society pamphlet covers guardianship, care of and contact with children, how disputes are resolved, and other child-focused issues. Access the pamphlet online or order hardcopies from the New Zealand Law Society.

Inland Revenue

Phone: 0800 221 221

Inland Revenue’s Child Support webpage has a wide range of forms and guides for parents and caregivers.

Alternative dispute resolution – Resolution Institute is a community of mediators, arbitrators, adjudicators, restorative justice practitioners and other DR professionals. – AMINZ (Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand).

There are many kinds of “alternative dispute resolution” that, depending on your personal situation, may be cheaper and more successful than going to the Family Court. These include counselling, mediation and negotiation. You can find out more at the above websites

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Supervised Contact Services

The ANZASCS website has information about organisations that are approved as providers of supervised contact services.

“Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet

This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.

Order hard copies from:
Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley
Phone: (04) 499 2928

Email: or visit to buy a copy or access free online.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

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