Fri 20 Oct 2023

Adoption in Scotland: what you need to know

The circumstances of adoption are different for every family, but it centres on the legal process by which an adopter becomes a child's legal parent. The family law team at Morton Fraser MacRoberts is able to support and guide you through the process.  

There are two ways of arranging an adoption in Scotland:

  • through an adoption agency; or
  • through the non-agency route, where the child is a close family member or a stepchild.

Some of the most frequently asked questions around adoption are: -

Am I eligible to adopt?

  • The child requires to be under the age of 18 and cannot have been married or in a civil partnership previously.
  • Adopters must be aged over 21 years or over but there is no legal upper age limit.
  • Single people can apply to adopt a child and gender does not matter.
  • Same sex couples can adopt.
  • Couples can apply as long as they are living together in an “enduring relationship”.  There is no set amount of time you must have been in a relationship. 
  • Friends or siblings cannot adopt together.
  • Where one party is the birth parent of the child and their partner wishes to adopt, the parent must be at least 18 and the adopter at least 21.
  • The capabilities of the prospective adopters to care for the child during their childhood and into their adult life's will be examined.  This will mean looking at what employment they have and their resources to support the child financially. Racial, cultural and linguistic factors will also all be taken into account.

How do I start the adoption process?

If you wish to adopt a child through an agency, the first step is to contact an adoption agency.  The agency will then need to approve you as an adopter and identify a suitable child. Once you’ve been assessed as suitable and matched with a child by an adoption agency, you will require to inform your local Social Work Department that you wish to adopt, and they will prepare a report for the court. 

If you wish to adopt a child such as a stepchild or close relative, the first step towards adoption is to inform your local Social Work Department that you wish to adopt, and they will prepare a report for the court.

We would recommend getting legal advice at the time you intend to write to your local authority in either of the above situations. If you are adopting through a non-agency route, you require to give your local authority a minimum of three months' notice of your intention to adopt before you can start the court process, so it is important this is done correctly from the outset. Morton Fraser MacRoberts can assist you in giving notice to your relevant local authority.

What is the court process?

An application (called a Petition) is prepared and lodge it with the local Sheriff Court. The court will then fix a Hearing and appoint an independent Solicitor called a Curator to produce a further report on the child’s behalf.

The birth parents will need to consent to the adoption unless the court decides that their consent is not needed, for example if they unfit to care for the child or deceased.

The child's views are also very important. If the child is over the age of 12, they will need to agree to the adoption. The Curator will speak to the child and take their views. If the child is under 12 then their views must be taken into account if the court decides that they are mature enough to have a view on the adoption.

If no objections are received, then a Hearing would be fixed to grant the Adoption Order. The court will only grant an Adoption Order if it is better for the child that an Adoption Order is made rather than not made.

What are the timescales for adoption?

It can often take several months for the local authority to complete their reports given the amount of information that they require to collate. The court process from start to finish assuming no-one objections to the adoption can take on average around six months. Our team of approachable solicitors will keep you informed and supported throughout. 

Can I adopt from overseas?

Foreign adoption can be complex. You need to be eligible to adopt in both the UK and the overseas country you’re hoping to adopt from. The UK government handles all international adoption applications. You require to first go through a detailed suitability assessment before you can be matched with a child. Foreign adoptions also have the added complexities of immigration law. We would recommend taking legal advice at the initial stages when considering an overseas adoption.  We work closely with our Immigration Team within Morton Fraser MacRoberts to ensure you are provided with a holistic service throughout the process.  

What are the costs?

At Morton Fraser MacRoberts we provide clarity on fees and where appropriate, we will aim provide a fixed fees for the process.  Local authorities will often offer to contribute to legal costs for the court application and we work regularly with local authorities providing fixed fee costings. 

Contact us

We are happy to discuss matters whatever stage of adoption you are at. Ellen Bond is an associate in our family law team. Ellen has a keen interest in adoptions and supporting clients throughout the court process. Please contact Ellen Bond on 0131 247 1048 for further information. Or alternatively, please feel free to email on

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