Understanding adoption law in NSW


Adoption is a daunting, emotional and lengthy legal process. It can be very expensive and it often takes several years to finally achieve the outcome you desire – but at the end of it all, your family has grown and it’s worth every second and every cent.

So what do you need to do to adopt in New South Wales? In this post, we answer your most frequently asked questions about adopting a child in NSW, including what the process involves, how much it costs and how long it takes.

What is adoption?

Adoption is a legal process where the rights and responsibilities of a child are transferred from the biological parents to the adoptive parents. In NSW, adoption orders are made by the Supreme Court.

Who can adopt?

Individuals and couples (either married or de-facto) can apply to adopt a child in NSW. You must meet the following criteria:

  • NSW resident
  • 21 years of age or older
  • At least 18 years older than the child to be adopted
  • Have a good reputation and ability to fulfil the responsibilities of parenting

What does adoption process involve? 

Adoption is a lengthy, stressful process. In NSW, you are required to submit an expression of interest form to the Department of Communities and Justice and attend a three-day seminar in Sydney before you can make a formal application for adoption.

When you lodge a formal application for adoption, you will need to fill out required documents and provide a host of documentation, including medical reports, criminal record checks, personal references, ID and more. Your application will be screened, and you will receive notification in writing if your application can progress to an assessment.

An independent assessor will evaluate your suitability for adoption, which takes a minimum of three months. We’ll discuss the assessment criteria further below.

Before a child is placed in your care, you will need to attend a final interview. Here you will receive all the relevant information about the child’s social and medical history. The assessor will continue visiting you throughout the placement period to offer support and advice, and report on the placement.

Generally speaking, the adoption is finalised by the Department of Communities and Justice six to nine months after the child’s placement.

How much does it cost to adopt in NSW? 

A local adoption will cost $2,782 in departmental fees and $834 in legal fees. Some fees may be waived for permanent care placements.

An application for an overseas adoption costs $9,700. You will also face additional fees including notarisation, legalisation and authentication of documents, immigration fees, travel expenses, charges imposed by the overseas agency and additional legal fees.

If you need to update your application at any stage of the adoption process, you will face additional fees.

Once you have adopted a child, your regular expenses are likely to increase as well.

How long does the adoption process take?

The adoption process can take anywhere between a few months to years. Adopting a child in your foster care can take six to 18 months, adopting a newborn can take two to seven years while adopting a child from overseas can take six years or more.

How are applicants assessed? 

For NSW adoptions, the assessor will take into consideration the applicants’:

  • Physical, emotional and mental health
  • Age and maturity
  • Ability to undertake parenting tasks and attend to the needs of the child
  • Can they provide a safe and beneficial environment (both emotionally and physically)?
  • Financial circumstances
  • Ability to maintain the child’s cultural identity and religious faith
  • Capacity to facilitate contact with the child’s birth parents and family and exchange information about their family
  • General stability of character
  • Quality of their relationship with the spouse and other members of the family and household

The assessor will also conduct a criminal record check, NSW Working with Children Check and obtain information from any Out of Home Care or Adoption Agency you have been involved with in the past.

Are you considering adopting in NSW?  East Coast Law Family Law can help

Whatever your circumstances, it’s crucial to receive sound legal advice before making an adoption application. Adoption law is extremely complex to navigate on your own, so it’s important to have a trusted advisor to assist you throughout the process.

East Coast Family Law can assist you in making applications with adoption agencies, as well as private adoption agreements. We recognise that people wish to adopt for many different reasons. Our family lawyers are experienced, considerate and understanding, we’ll provide you with the best possible advice for your situation.

Contact East Coast Family Law on 1300 735 947 for a consultation.

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