UK Adoption Legislation


To be adopted, a child must:

  • be under the age of 18 when the adoption application is made
  • not be (or have never been) married or in a civil partnership

The child’s birth parents

Both birth parents normally have to agree (consent) to the adoption, unless:

  • they cannot be found
  • they’re incapable of giving consent, for example due to a mental disability
  • the child would be put at risk if they were not adopted

Who can adopt a child

You may be able to adopt a child if you’re aged 21 or over (there’s no upper age limit) and either:

  • single
  • married
  • in a civil partnership
  • an unmarried couple (same sex and opposite sex)
  • the partner of the child’s parent

There are different rules for private adoptions and adoptions of looked-after children.

Living in the UK

You do not have to be a British citizen to adopt a child, but:

  • you (or your partner, if you’re a couple) must have a fixed and permanent home in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • you (and your partner, if you’re a couple) must have lived in the UK for at least 1 year before you begin the application process