Who can adopt
Adoption by individuals or couples
An individual can adopt someone on their own. If they want to adopt and have a partner, their partner has to agree. If a person applies to adopt alone and the application is successful, the person applying becomes the parent. Their partner won’t be a parent.
Adoption Act 1955, s 3 Cases:  NZFLR 629 (HC);  NZFC 9404
Married couples and de facto couples can adopt a child together.
If you’re in a civil union, the law about adoption is complex and it’s recommended you get independent legal advice if you want to adopt.
Note: Married couples can apply to adopt. The Adoption Act was expressly amended to include married couples of any gender. In 2015, the Family Court decided that if “two spouses” included heterosexual de facto couples, this should also include same-sex de facto couples. But, this isn’t a binding decision – technically another Family Court judge could still come to a different conclusion and refuse an application from a de facto couple who aren’t heterosexual. However, this is unlikely given that adoptions have been granted for couples of all genders in the subsequent years.
Adoption by family
The Adoption Act 1995 specifically covers adoption by:
- a natural (birth) parent alone
- a natural (birth) parent and a step-parent (the spouse of a natural parent) together
- a grandparent
- a brother or sister, or
- an uncle or aunt.
By a parent and step-parent together
A natural (birth) parent and their spouse (child’s step-parent) can adopt a child jointly. No age restrictions apply for this sort of adoption.
Adoption by other relatives
A child’s grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt can adopt the child. The relative must be at least 20 years old to adopt.
A male relative will not be able to adopt a female relative by himself alone unless there are special circumstances.
Adoption outside of the family
The person applying to adopt must be at least 25 years old and must be at least 20 years older than the child, except in special cases.
A sole male applicant won’t be able to adopt a female child unless the person applying is the child’s father or there are special circumstances.