A Comprehensive Guide to the Adoption Process in Singapore

Introduction

When it comes to adoption in Singapore, IRB Law is a trusted and reputable law firm that aids individuals in the adoption process. With a team of experienced adoption lawyers, we provide expert guidance, support, and advice. Our firm is recognized for its professionalism and commitment to client satisfaction. We offer fixed and transparent fees, and provide a free initial consultation to ensure clarity— even at initial stages.

 

Understanding Adoption

Overall, adoption involves the legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from biological parents to adoptive parents. According to the Adoption of Children Act (ACA), when a court passes an adoption order, the child’s legal ties with the biological parents are severed, transferring all rights, duties, obligations, and liabilities the adoptive parents.

 

Eligibility Requirements:

To initiate the adoption process, individuals involved must meet certain eligibility criteria, including:

The child must be below 21 years old and single.

The applicant must be at least 25 years old.

The applicant must be at least 21 years, but not more than 50 years older than the child.

Exceptions can be made if the child and applicant are blood relatives or if married parties are at least 25 years old and seeking to jointly adopt a child who is less than 21 years younger than them.

 

Consent from Relevant Parties

Obtaining consent from relevant parties is crucial in the adoption process. These parties may include the child’s parents, grandparents, guardian, custodian, the party responsible for the child’s financial support, and the applicant’s spouse (if applicable). Specific details about consent from the aforementioned parties are provided below:

According to the ACA, consent from the child’s biological parents is of utmost importance, generally serving as the primary requirement for adoption. It is essential to obtain their consent unless their parental rights have been terminated by a court order or other legal means.

In situations where the child’s parents are below 21 years old, the consent of the child’s grandparents may also be required. This provision ensures that the child’s extended family is involved in the decision-making process and promotes a comprehensive assessment of the child’s welfare.

Additionally, if custody has been granted to a non-parent, such as a guardian or custodian, their consent is necessary to proceed with the adoption. This requirement acknowledges the custodian’s role in the child’s upbringing and ensures their participation in the adoption process.

Moreover, the consent of the party responsible for the child’s financial support is vital. This party may include the child’s biological parents, a legal guardian, or an individual who has been providing financial assistance to the child. Their consent ensures that the child’s financial needs and welfare are adequately considered during the adoption proceedings.

Furthermore, if the applicant is married, the consent of their spouse is generally required. This requirement aims to involve both spouses in the adoption decision, acknowledging the shared responsibility and commitment to raising the child within a stable family environment.

It is crucial to note that the requirements in each adoption vary depending on circumstances of the case. The ACA provides guidelines on the consent process, which is carefully evaluated by the relevant authorities, such as the Family Court or the Adoption Board, to ensure that the interests of the child are prioritized and protected.

 

Types of Adoption Orders

There are three types of adoption orders; Adoption orders can be unconditional, conditional, or interim.

Unconditional adoption orders are the most common type granted by the court. The order effectively terminates the parental rights of the child’s biological parents and establishes a new parent-child relationship between the adoptive parents and the child. An unconditional order grants the adoptive parents full legal authority and responsibility for the child’s upbringing, welfare, and decision-making.

Conditional adoption orders may be issued with specific conditions set by the court. These conditions are imposed when the court deems it necessary to address unique circumstances or concerns surrounding the adoption. The court may attach conditions related to the child’s upbringing, education, religion, or any other relevant factors. Compliance with these conditions is essential to ensure the ongoing validity of the adoption order.

In certain cases, the Family Court may grant an interim adoption, which places the applicant on probation, providing specific directions regarding the child’s upbringing during the probationary period. This type of order is typically issued when the court requires more time to gather information, assess the suitability of the adoption arrangement, or evaluate the progress of the adoption process. During the interim period, the court may direct the applicant to undergo evaluations, assessments, or fulfill certain requirements outlined by the court to determine their suitability as adoptive parents. The court may also provide instructions regarding the child’s care, welfare, or any other relevant matters. After the interim period, the court reviews the situation and decides whether to issue a final unconditional or conditional adoption order.

 

Adoption of Stepchildren

Singapore also provides guidelines for adoption of a stepchild. Singapore citizens seeking to do so can apply to waive the Home Study Report (HSR). However, this does not apply to foreigners adopting stepchildren. Furthermore, if the stepchild is not a Singapore citizen, the adoption process follows that of adopting a foreign child.

 

Residency Requirements:

To be considered for adoption under the Singapore law, the child being adopted must be a resident of Singapore. This includes Singapore citizens, Singapore permanent residents, or Dependant’s Pass holders. A child residing in Singapore on a visit pass, student’s pass, or special pass is not considered a resident.

 

The Adoption Process

The adoption process begins with attending a compulsory Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB) to learn about adoption procedures and parenting responsibilities. After identifying the child for adoption and obtaining consent from necessary parties, the applicant must gather official documentation and prepare an itemized list of adoption-related expenses.

Submitting an adoption application to the Family Court, either in-person or through a lawyer, leads to further steps, such as filing a request at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) with specific documents. If the application is successful, a Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA) is appointed to safeguard the child’s interests, and an investigation by the MSF follows. A hearing at the Family Court determines if the adoption order is granted.

 

 

Case Analysis: A Deep Delve into WKT v WKV [2023] SGFC 6

Summary of the case:

The case of WKT and another v WKV [2023] SGFC 6, heard in the Family Court, Singapore, involved a dispute over the adoption of a child by foster parents, with the biological father contesting the proceedings. The court had to consider the paramount welfare of the child versus the biological father’s desire for potential reunification with his daughter, with whom he previously had limited contact. The Director-General of Social Welfare was appointed as the Guardian in Adoption (GIA) to conduct investigations, which concluded that the adoption would be in the child’s best interest. The court, after hearing arguments from both parties, allowed the adoption. Discontent with the decision, the natural father appealed.

The Applicants in this case were a married Singaporean couple, who had been foster parents to the child since her birth. The child’s natural parents, who were incarcerated, had consented to the child being placed in foster care. The natural mother later consented to the adoption, but the natural father, who had limited contact with the child, objected. The court proceedings involved several hearings and adjournments as the natural father sought legal aid and new legal representation.

After considering the evidence, written submissions, and oral arguments, the court dispensed with the natural father’s consent and granted the adoption to the foster parents. The court’s decision was based on the welfare of the child, considering the child’s bond with the foster parents and the limited contact with the natural father. The natural father, dissatisfied with the decision, filed an appeal. The court outlined the grounds for its decision and reiterated the importance of considering the welfare of the child as the paramount factor in adoption cases.

Please note that this summary provides an overview of the case and should not be considered legal advice. For a complete understanding of the case and its implications, refer to the full judgment and consult with legal professionals.

 

Issues considered in this case:

Issue 1: The Law regarding whether the Court should dispense with the Natural Father’s Consent

The court analysed the requirements under section 4(4) of the Adoption of Children Act 1939 to determine whether the natural father’s consent should be dispensed with. Section 4(4)(a) relates to abandonment, neglect, or persistent ill-treatment, which did not apply in this case as there were no allegations of such conduct. Section 4(4)(b) refers to physical or mental incapacity, which also did not apply as the natural father’s incarceration did not constitute incapacity. Therefore, the court focused on section 4(4)(c), which allows the court to dispense with consent based on the circumstances of the case. The court referred to previous cases, such as Re BJU and Re B, which provided guidance on when consent can be dispensed with. These cases considered factors such as the child’s well-being, attachment to the foster parents, and the natural parent’s ability to provide care and stability.

 

Issue 2: Whether granting or dismissing the Adoption would be in the best welfare of the Child

In this case, the court considered the child’s well-being and relationship with the foster parents. The child, who was 8 years old at the time of the hearing, was described as shy but well-adjusted. She had a close and loving relationship with the foster parents and expressed a desire to stay with them permanently. The child had also formed strong bonds with her younger foster siblings. The court noted that the child had special needs, showing improvement under the care, support, and treatment provided the foster parents. The court evaluated the background of the natural parents, who had a history of drug addiction and incarceration. Furthermore, though there were no allegations of persistent ill-treatment or neglect, the natural father had limited contact with the child.

Based on these considerations, the court found that granting the adoption would best protect the child’s welfare. The child had formed strong bonds with the foster parents, who provided a stable and loving environment. Reunification with the natural father would disrupt the child’s sense of security and potentially expose her to instability and risk. The court emphasized the importance of prioritizing the child’s best interest in adoption proceedings.

Please note that this summary provides an overview of the court’s analysis of the issues and should not be considered legal advice. For a comprehensive understanding, it is advisable to consult the full judgment and seek professional legal assistance.

 

Conclusion:

The child’s biological mother had a history of substance dependence and mental health issues, including diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Since 2015, she had been in and out of prison, opting not to initiate any contact with the child after her release. As previously mentioned, the biological also had a history of incarceration for drug-related offenses and had limited contact with the child through supervised visitation. He expressed his concerns about the adoption but acknowledged that the applicants had provided good care for the child. The court considered the suitability of the applicants for long-term care and found that they had been providing stable and loving care. The court also assessed the Natural Father’s ability to care for the child and found that his history of drug addiction and relapse, as well as his limited contact and commitment to access sessions, raised concerns about his ability to provide a stable environment for the child. The court determined that the child’s welfare was of paramount importance and that granting the adoption would provide stability and predictability for the child’s future. On these grounds, the court dispensed with the Natural Father’s consent and granted the adoption.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does the adoption process typically take?

The adoption process in Singapore usually takes an average of 4 to 6 months to be concluded, but the timeline can vary depending on individual circumstances and the complexity of cases.

Can a single person adopt a child in Singapore?

Yes, single individuals are eligible to adopt a child in Singapore, provided they meet the other eligibility requirements and can demonstrate their ability to provide a nurturing and stable environment for the child.

Are there any restrictions on adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity?

There are no specific restrictions on adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity in Singapore. The primary consideration is the well-being and best interests of the child.

What happens if one of the biological parents does not consent to the adoption?

Consent from relevant parties, including the child’s parents, is typically required for adoption. If one of the biological parents does not consent, the court will consider the specific circumstances of each case. In some instances, the court may dispense with the need for consent if doing so is in the child’s best interests.

Can I adopt a child if I already have biological children?

Yes, it is possible to adopt a child even if you have biological children. The suitability of the adoptive family is assessed based on various factors, including the ability to provide a loving and supportive environment for the child.

Do I need to be married to adopt a child?

No, you do not need to be married to adopt a child. Single individuals can adopt in Singapore, but they must meet the other eligibility requirements and demonstrate their ability to provide for the child’s needs.

What is the role of the Guardian-In-Adoption during the process?

A Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA) is appointed by the court to safeguard the child’s interests throughout the adoption process. The GIA ensures that the child’s welfare is protected and may conduct interviews and home visits as part of their responsibilities.

Are there any financial obligations involved in the adoption process?

While there are costs associated with the adoption process, such as legal fees and administrative expenses, the Adoption of Children Act prohibits the payment of money to the child’s birth parents in exchange for their consent to the adoption.

What are the rights and responsibilities of adoptive parents?

Adoptive parents assume all rights, duties, obligations, and liabilities of biological parents upon the granting of the adoption order. They are responsible for the child’s well-being, upbringing, education, and financial support.

Can I choose the gender of the child I want to adopt?

In Singapore, the adoption process prioritizes the best interests of the child. While preferences can be expressed, the final decision is made based on the child’s welfare and suitability of the adoptive family.

How can I prove that I am financially capable of supporting a child?

As part of the adoption process, adoptive parents may be required to provide financial documents or statements to demonstrate their ability to provide for the child’s needs. This can include income statements, bank statements, and employment records.

What are the common reasons for adoption applications to be rejected?

Adoption applications can be rejected for various reasons, such as failure to meet eligibility requirements, insufficient evidence of suitability to adopt, or concerns regarding the child’s welfare. It is important to seek legal advice to understand and address any potential issues.

Can I adopt a child from overseas?

Yes, it is possible to adopt a child from overseas. However, international adoption involves additional legal requirements, including compliance with the laws of both the child’s home country and Singapore.

What is the difference between open and closed adoption?

In an open adoption, there is ongoing contact and communication between the adoptive family, the adopted child, and the biological parents or birth family. In a closed adoption, there is no contact or communication between the adoptive family and the biological parents or birth family.

Can a same-sex couple adopt a child in Singapore?

Same-sex couples are not legally recognized as adoptive parents in Singapore. However, as individual circumstances and legal developments may impact this, it is advisable to seek legal advice for specific situations.

Is it possible to adopt a child who is older than 21 years?

No, the Adoption of Children Act in Singapore only applies to children who are below 21 years of age. Once a child reaches the age of 21, adoption is no longer applicable.

Are there any post-adoption support services available?

Yes, there are post-adoption support services available in Singapore. These services aim to provide guidance, counselling, and resources to adoptive families, ensuring a smooth transition and ongoing support for the child’s well-being.

Can I change the name of the adopted child?

Upon the granting of an adoption order, the adoptive parents have the right to change the child’s name. This is typically done to reflect the child’s new legal status as part of the adoptive family.

What happens if the child’s biological parents want to regain custody?

Once an adoption order is granted, the child’s legal ties with the biological parents are severed. The biological parents generally do not have automatic rights to regain custody. However, exceptional circumstances may be considered by the court on a case-by-case basis.

How can IRB Law Adoption Lawyers assist me throughout the adoption process?

IRB Law adoption lawyers provide comprehensive legal assistance and guidance throughout the adoption process. Our experienced lawyers can help you understand the requirements and navigate legal complexities, ensuring that your adoption journey is handled with care and professionalism. We offer personalized support to meet your specific needs and advocate for the best interests of the child involved. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and to discuss how we can assist you.

 

Glossary of Terms in Adoption in Singapore:

  1. Adoption Suitability Assessment (ASA): A comprehensive assessment conducted by authorized adoption agencies to evaluate the suitability and readiness of prospective adoptive parents to adopt a child.
  2. Authorised Adoption Agencies (AAA): Organizations recognized and authorized by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to facilitate and oversee adoption processes in Singapore.
  3. Birth/Natural Parents: The biological parents of the child who is being considered for adoption.
  4. Disclosure Briefing: A mandatory briefing attended by prospective adoptive parents that provides guidance on issues related to disclosing a child’s adoption status and discussing their birth circumstances.
  5. Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA): A public officer appointed by the Minister for Social and Family Development to safeguard the interests of the child during the adoption process.
  6. Joint Adoption: Adoption carried out by a married couple together, where both spouses participate as joint applicants.
  7. Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB): A compulsory briefing session attended by prospective adoptive parents to provide information and guidance on the adoption process and the responsibilities of adoptive parents.
  8. Prospective Adoptive Parents: Individuals or couples who are considering adopting a child and have initiated the adoption process.
  9. Relevant Person: Refers to someone who is a parent, guardian, custodian, or financially responsible for the child.
  10. State’s Care: Refers to children who are under the care and custody of the state, usually in a children’s home or with foster parents.
  11. Surrogacy: The arrangement in which a woman carries a pregnancy and gives birth to a child on behalf of another individual or couple, who become the intended parents of the child.
  12. Unconditional Adoption Order: An adoption order granted by the court without any additional conditions or requirements.
  13. Interim Adoption Order: An adoption order issued by the court on a provisional basis, typically subject to certain conditions or further assessments.
  14. Placement: The act of placing a child with prospective adoptive parents for the purpose of adoption.
  15. Consent: The agreement or permission given by relevant persons, such as birth parents or guardians, for the adoption of a child.
  16. Birth Certificate: A legal document that records the birth of a child and includes important information such as the child’s name, date of birth, and parentage.
  17. Adoption Order: A court order that legally establishes the adoptive parents as the child’s legal parents and severs the child’s legal ties with the biological parents.
  18. Adoption-related Service: Services provided in tandem with the adoption process, including counselling, assessments, and support services for adoptive parents and birth parents.
  19. Adoption Agency: An organization or entity involved in facilitating adoptions, providing services such as matching adoptive parents with children, conducting assessments, and facilitating the legal process.
  20. Child Trafficking: The illegal act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring, or receiving a child for the purpose of exploitation, including adoption-related activities that involve the illegal movement or sale of children.

Please note that this glossary provides general definitions of terms related to adoption in Singapore. It is important to refer to the specific provisions of the Adoption of Children Act and consult with legal professionals or authorized adoption agencies for accurate and detailed information related to adoption in Singapore.

 

Details of the ACA and Relevant Legislation:

In Singapore, the Adoption of Children Act 2022 (ACA 2022), which will take effect in 2023, is a significant legal framework governing adoption. It replaces the previous Adoption of Children Act 1939, with the aim of prioritizing the best interests and welfare of children, ensuring a fair and balanced approach to adoption, and establishing a robust regulatory system for the adoption process.

Under the ACA 2022, several key changes have been introduced to enhance the adoption process and ensure the suitability of adoptive parents. Let’s delve deeper into these changes:

Eligibility to Make an Adoption Application: To make an adoption application, the applicant(s) must be habitually resident in Singapore. For joint applicants, at least one of the applicants must be a Singapore Citizen, or both applicants must be Permanent Residents. However, sole applicants must be either Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents. Persons convicted of serious crimes are prohibited from adopting to prioritize the safety and well-being of the child.

Guardian-in-Adoption (GIA): Previously, applicants needed to make a separate application for the consent of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to act as the Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA). However, under the ACA 2022, a public officer appointed by the Minister will automatically assume the role of the GIA. This change streamlines the process and ensures consistency in safeguarding the child’s interests.

Pre-adoption Requirements: The ACA 2022 introduces specific requirements that applicants must fulfil before filing an adoption application, which includes attending a compulsory Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB). PABs provide essential information about the adoption process and the responsibilities of adoptive parents. Additionally, applicants must attend a briefing on the disclosure of adoptive status conducted by Authorized Adoption Agencies (AAA). It is also critical that applicants obtain a valid and favourable Adoption Suitability Assessment (ASA) from an AAA. The ASA assesses the applicants’ suitability to adopt a child and ensures they are prepared for the responsibilities of parenthood. It is necessary to have attended the PAB and resided in Singapore for one continuous year before applying for an ASA.

Consent of Relevant Persons: The ACA 2022 emphasizes the importance of obtaining valid consent from relevant persons involved in the adoption process. Relevant persons include parents, guardians, custodians, and those responsible for the child’s financial support. Consent must be obtained in the prescribed form and witnessed by two individuals who are at least 21 years old. This requirement ensures the transparency and legality of the adoption process, maintaining the best interests of the child.

Additionally, the ACA 2022 addresses various offenses related to adoption. For example, it strictly regulates the publication or broadcast of information/pictures that may identify a child undergoing adoption. Exceptions to this rule are allowed only with the child’s consent, when the adoption is successful, or with the relevant person’s approval. Prohibitions against improper payments, rewards, or inducements for adoption purposes are also established to maintain the integrity and fairness of the adoption process.

Furthermore, the ACA 2022 empowers Authorized Adoption Agencies (AAAs) and the GIA to direct assessments, request further information, and order mediation or counselling if necessary. This enables a comprehensive evaluation of the adoptive applicants, ensuring their suitability to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child.

It is important to note that the ACA 2022 introduces stringent measures to prevent non-compliance. Failure to fulfil obligations, such as reporting offenses, complying with court orders, or providing false information, may result in penalties or legal consequences.

The ACA 2022 represents a significant step towards enhancing the adoption process in Singapore. By prioritizing the child’s welfare, establishing clear eligibility criteria, and enforcing strict guidelines, the legislation aims to facilitate the placement of children in loving and supportive homes while safeguarding their rights and interests.

Please note that this summary is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. For detailed guidance and specific adoption-related matters, it is recommended to consult IRB Law Adoption Lawyers or seek other professional legal assistance.

 

Case Examples: Adoption Success Stories

Please note that these are real cases handled by IRB adoption lawyers. However, the names and identification details of clients have been altered to protect confidentiality.

Case 1: Smith Family Adoption

In the case of the Smith family, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, both Singapore citizens, desired to adopt a child below the age of 5. They met the eligibility requirements and obtained consent from the child’s biological parents. With the assistance of IRB Law Adoption Lawyers, they successfully submitted their adoption application and attended the Pre-Adoption Briefing. The Guardian-In-Adoption was appointed, and the MSF conducted an investigation. Eventually, the Family Court granted an adoption order, and the Smiths became the proud parents of their adopted child.

Case 2: Lim Family Adoption

The Lim family consisted of Mr. Lim, a Singapore citizen, and his wife, Mrs. Lim, a Singapore permanent resident. They sought to adopt their stepchild, who was a Singapore citizen. IRB Law adoption lawyers assisted them in navigating the adoption process and obtaining the necessary waivers for the Home Study Report. The family complied with all requirements, including obtaining consent from relevant parties. Following a successful hearing at the Family Court, the adoption order was granted, and the Lims embraced their new family dynamic.

 

 

Conclusion:

Adopting a child is a life-changing process, and understanding the legal requirements and procedures is essential. IRB Law adoption lawyers are dedicated to guiding you through the adoption process with expertise and transparency. Our legal counsel will provide the constructive support and advice necessary for success at each stage of the adoption process. For further assistance, please reach out to us for a consultation.

 

Author: Mohamed Baiross/IRB LAW LLP

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Meet Some of the Adoption Lawyers at IRB

Mohamed Baiross

Founding Partner

Baiross is the managing partner of IRB Law LLP. He is an experienced lawyer with an excellent reputation across a broad selection of practice areas including divorce, insolvency, crime, probate, syariah, and civil litigation.

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Partner

Kulvinder’s practice focuses on civil and commercial litigation, and matrimonial affairs. She has successfully obtained sole custody and highly favorable access arrangements for her clients (both mothers and fathers).

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