Couples and singles throughout New Zealand look toward adoption as a viable option for becoming a parent. There is a myriad of reasons why adoption is a favourable option for parenthood. If you are planning to adopt you need to be aware of the important considerations and processes involved to ensure you are giving yourself and the child, the best chance of a positive outcome and a smooth transition into your family lifestyle.

The adoption of children within New Zealand is dealt with by the Adoption Act 1955, and applications are made to the Family Court. If the child is “habitually resident” overseas, then it is considered an inter-country adoption and a separate piece of legislation applies, namely the Adoption (Inter-Country) Act.

In this article, we look at the process for domestic adoptions and what you can expect when you decide you want to adopt a child New Zealand.

Who can apply?

Married couples and those in “stable and committed” de-facto relationships are eligible to make a joint application. This definition includes same-sex couples.

Individuals can make sole applications for adoption with one restriction – sole male applicants cannot adopt female children unless there are “special circumstances”. To discuss what circumstance(s) fall into this category talk to our experienced family lawyers.

There are some age restrictions for applicants, depending on the relationship they have with the child.

Where do I start?

It is a good idea to obtain early legal advice if you are considering adopting a child. You should also contact Oranga Tamariki’s adoption service: Oranga Tamariki. They offer a group information session and you will need to go through an approval process.

If you intend to adopt, before you can have that child in your care for the purpose of adoption (without an Adoption Order in place) you must have the approval of a social worker.

What information do I need to provide?

In order to adopt you need to apply to the Family Court for an Adoption Order. Various documents need to be filed with the Family Court, including the child’s birth certificate, and you will need to include the following information:

  • your age
  • your health status
  • your financial circumstances
  • the sex, age and state of health of any children you have
  • why you want to adopt the child
  • how long the child has been living in your home
  • a statement that no payment or reward has been, or will be, made for the adoption
  • a statement of any religious conditions made by any parent or guardian
  • details of your relationship with the child
  • whether you have been refused an Adoption Order before.

Do the parents of the child need to consent to the adoption?

Generally, yes. The Court will want written consent from the parents and guardians of a child, although this can be dispensed in limited circumstances.

If a married person is making a sole application, the Court will also want consent from that person’s spouse.

What happens once an adoption application is filed?

A social worker will meet with the applicants and prepare a report for the Court. The report will be a comprehensive account of the adoption including the perspective of the birth family and the child, along with any proposed contact agreement. The intention is to provide the Family Court Judge with a detailed look at how the new family will operate in the best interests of the child. The report is required for an accurate and objective review of all information from both sides of the adoption and is given serious consideration prior to a recommendation.

More information on the social worker’s report can be found on the Ministry’s website.

The social worker will make a recommendation to the Court on whether they think the order should be made, but that is not binding on the Judge. A hearing will then take place, and if successful an Adoption Order will be made (usually this is an interim order, to begin with, but the Court can decide to make a final order in the first instance in special circumstances).

What does the Court need to be satisfied with before they make an adoption order?

Before an order is made, the Court must be satisfied that:

  • The applicants (the proposed adoptive parent(s)) are fit and proper people to have the role of caring for the child, and that they are sufficiently able to bring up, maintain and educate the child; and
  • That the welfare and interests of the child will be promoted by the adoption, having regard for the wishes of the child; and
  • That any religious condition imposed by any parent or guardian of the child is being complied with.

For more information:

If you are considering adoption, getting early legal advice will ensure that you are well-informed about the process and risks. We can guide you through all application stages and provide clear and concise communication to help you better understand the process.

Have you considered surrogacy? Learn more:

For more information or to book your initial consultation, please contact our Wellington & Rotorua based family lawyers:

Debbie Dunbar | 04 495 9940 |
Maretta Twentyman | 07 349 7482 |
Anna Chapman | 04 495 8905 |

Adopt a child - child on the beach