Step-parent adoption is not always the most appropriate choice for a family. There are alternatives which may more appropriately secure a child’s place in your family.
For example, a step-parent who is married to the resident birth parent can gain Parental Responsibility (PR) by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with all those who hold parental responsibility or by applying to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order or Child Arrangement Order.
Parental Responsibility Agreement
A step-parent married to a birth parent may obtain parental responsibility if all those with parental responsibility give consent to the agreement.
For more information about parental responsibility agreements visit the Parental rights and responsibilities GOV.UK website.
Parental Responsibility Order
This is a court order that specifies that a named person has parental responsibility for a child. Parental responsibility is then shared between the holder and any birth parent who already has parental responsibility (or anyone who has also acquired parental responsibility by way of a court order).
For instance Jack is five years old and lives with his mum and her new husband. Jack is starting school in the spring, and his mum and step-dad would like everyone to have the same name when he starts school so they feel more like a family - but also, more practically so his step-dad can agree any medical treatment Jack might need if he hurts himself in the playground. Jack does see his birth father from time to time and always gets a present for his birthday and Christmas. A Parental Responsibility Order gives Jack’s step-dad the authority he needs to sign forms for school. Jack’s surname can be changed by deed poll, if all those with parental responsibility agree to the change of name.
Child Arrangement Order
This is a court order that specifies the name of the person or persons with whom a child is to live. The named person automatically acquires parental responsibility for the child and this is shared with anyone else who has parental responsibility for the child (usually birth parents). The order lasts until the child reaches the age of 16 or 18.
Not making an order at all
If a family cannot agree, or a court considers an order or agreement not to be in the best interests of the child, they will not make an order.