The adoption process
How do I adopt?
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
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;  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.