How to adopt a child in Australia – the legal process

Child smiling. How to adopt a child in Australia.

by | Oct 25, 2022 | Blog, Children

Whether you’re adopting because it’s something you’ve felt passionately about for a long time, or because your personal circumstances mean conceiving a biological child isn’t possible, adoption is an exciting journey to start on. 

Of course, during an adoption, the child’s welfare is paramount, and this means there are significant legal child custody hurdles you will need to cross in order to adopt a child in Australia. Here, we’ll provide a brief description of Australia’s adoption process, so you can start the process with your eyes wide open.


What are the types of adoption in Australia?

We have two main types of adoption in Australia – local adoption, and intercountry adoption.

  1. Local adoption refers to adopting a child who was either born in Australia, and is still permanently living here, or a child who may have been born overseas but now resides in Australia. Within this type of adoption, there is a sub-division between cases where a child is adopted by someone they know, for example a step-parent or legal guardian, or, more commonly, when the adoptive parents have never met the child before.
  1. Intercountry adoption is when a child is adopted from a foreign country and then brought to live in Australia with the adoptive parents. In these instances, the process is managed by the Attorney General’s Department. Intercountry adoptions can only occur with children from countries that have entered into an agreement with Australia to facilitate adoption.
How to adopt a child in Australia. Dad reading a book to adopted daughter.

The legal process for adoption in Australia 

The crux of adopting a child in Australia involves acquiring an adoption order. This document formalises the legal transfer of all parental responsibilities and rights from the child’s biological parents to the adoptive parents. In addition, an adoption order removes the rights the child has regarding his or her biological parents – for example, to any inheritance. 

In Australia, the law allows single people and couples, both married and de facto, to adopt children. However, some states give preference to couples, so it can be harder to adopt on your own. 

It’s important to understand that each state and territory has its own unique child adoption requirements, so you’ll need to contact the relevant government department in your region to find out exactly how it works. You should also be aware that different states and territories have different minimum ages for adopting – for example, in West Australia it’s 18, whereas in NSW it’s 21.

Finally, you’ll need to be comfortable with the concept of open adoption, which is now the norm nationwide in Australia. Open adoption means that, except in some circumstances, contact with the child’s birth family is expected to be maintained throughout their lives. As their adoptive parent, you’ll play an important role in facilitating this – a child custody lawyer will be able to talk you through these details.


Adopting a child from another country

This can often be a long process, and involves multiple approvals. Firstly, you will need to be granted permission to adopt a child by your local state or territory government. If you’re successful in this application, the country from which the child will be adopted also needs to give their approval. 

At this stage, the body responsible for adoption in that country will determine whether there’s a child in need of adoption and, if there is, they will send you a placement proposal. Upon accepting this proposal, you’ll then need to travel to that country to finalise the adoption and bring the child back to Australia with you.

Whether you’re looking to adopt a child you already know, or a child from overseas, the last thing you need is to get bogged down in the often complicated legal processes involved. At Testart Family Lawyers, we have the experience and expertise to guide you through this child custody journey to make it as smooth and stress-free as possible, so you can focus on building your family.  

For more information on how we can help, contact our experienced team today.