What is Adoption?
Adoption is a process whereby parental rights over a child are conferred to the applicants. Once adoption is complete, the parental ties to the original parents are severed. The adopters become the parents and take on all parental rights, duties, obligations and liabilities in relation to the child. Married spouses may jointly apply for adoption of a child.
In Singapore, child adoption is primarily regulated by the Adoption of Children Act (ACA). For more detailed information about the eligibility of adoptive parents, procedure, legal implications of adoption, and other related eServices, do visit the Ministry of Social and Family Development Adoption Portal.
Once the adoption is complete, it may also be possible to change the name of the child by executing a deed poll.
Who Can I Adopt?
Only a child who is under the age of 21 may be adopted. Further, the child must never have married. Children from foreign countries may also be adopted but different laws may apply, depending on the child’s nationality.
Under the ACA, a sole male applicant will not be allowed to adopt a female child unless there are special circumstances that justify the adoption as an exceptional measure.
It is also possible to adopt children born through surrogacy arrangements. However, homosexual couples may face difficulty adopting such children given Singapore’s public policy against the formation of same-sex family units.
Adoption of a stepchild
The process for the adoption of a stepchild differs depending on the citizenship of the stepchild. Generally:
- If the stepchild is a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident, the procedures for adopting a local child apply.
- If the stepchild is of foreign citizenship, then the procedures for adopting a foreign child apply.
It should be noted that additional procedures will apply if your stepchild is from the People’s Republic of China.
Requirements for Adopting a Child
Eligibility of applicant
To adopt a child, you must be:
- 25 or above;
- At least 21 years older than the child;
- However, if you are under 25, or not more than 21 years older than the child, the adoption may still be granted if the two of you are blood related, or exceptional circumstances exist;
- If you are applying to adopt as a sole individual, and you are a male, the Court will not allow the adoption of a female child, except when special circumstances exist;
- Not more than 50 years older than the child.
In Singapore, homosexual couples will not be able to jointly apply to adopt a child. This is because the ACA only allows joint applications from married spouses, and same-sex partners are currently unable to marry in Singapore. One partner will have to make the adoption application as a sole individual instead.
Other requirements for adoption under the ACA include:
- Welfare of child: The court must be satisfied that the adoption order is made for the welfare of the child before it makes an adoption order. The wishes of the child can be taken into consideration as well, depending on the age of the child and his or her level of understanding.
- Exchange of money: Unless allowed to by the court, the applicant must not receive, or have agreed to receive, any payment or other reward for adopting the child. The birth parents of the child cannot give, or agree to give, any payment or reward for adopting the child either.
- Consent: Before an adoption order can be made, consent must be given by every person whose consent is necessary (see below).
Whose Consent Must be Obtained for the Adoption?
Before adopting a child, you will need to obtain consent to the adoption from:
- Your married spouse, if any;
- The parents of the child (or the parents/guardians of such parents, if the child’s parents are below 21);
- The guardian of the child, if any;
- Person who have custody of the child;
- Persons liable to support the child.
However, in special circumstances, such as if the parents of the child have deserted the child, or if your spouse is in a coma and is unable to give consent, the Court can exercise its discretion to waive this requirement.
Under the ACA, it is also important that every person whose consent is necessary understands the nature and effect of the adoption order. This is especially applicable to the child’s birth parents, as they need to understand that the adoption order will permanently deprive them of their parental rights.
The detailed procedures for adopting a child can be found on the website of the Ministry of Social and Family Development:
Possible Outcomes of the Adoption Application
Based on your application and the court’s discretion, your application to adopt a child may result in one of the following outcomes:
- Unconditional adoption order: This is the most ideal outcome – your adoption application is successful without any conditions set out by the court. The relationship between the child and their birth parent(s) will cease, and you will be legally acknowledged as the parent of that child.
- Conditional adoption order: The court may impose terms and conditions on an adoption order as it thinks fit. These terms and conditions vary on a case-by-case basis.
- Interim order: The court can postpone the making of an adoption order and instead make an interim order, which gives the custody of the child to the applicant for a period of a maximum duration of 2 years. This 2-year time frame acts as a probationary period for the applicant, and the court can impose terms on how the applicant is to provide for the child’s maintenance and education, or how the applicant is to supervise the child’s welfare, as it deems fit.
- Proceedings adjourned: The court may choose to temporarily put the case on hold to obtain further information on the adoption application.
- No adoption order granted: While the court has the power to grant adoption orders, it can refuse to make such orders as well. The court usually rejects adoption applications in cases where there was a failure to meet all the stipulated criteria.
Adoption Agencies in Singapore
Adoption can be a tricky business. In Singapore, due to the low birth rate locally, the low number of local babies given up for adoption (unwanted pregnancies are usually aborted), as well as a fall in available babies from neighbouring countries, the total number of adoptions amounted to only 358 in 2013.
Some couples are hesitant about dealing with adoption agencies (local and foreign, which can charge fees as high as $35,000), and prefer to deal directly with the birth parents. Adoption agencies are usually for-profit entities – a Google search using the terms “singapore adoption agencies” will produce a number of search results leading to the homepages of said agencies.
However, there are two agencies – Touch Adoption Services and Apkim Centre for Social Services, accredited with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, which are voluntary welfare organisations.
Nevertheless, couples may feel that they do not want to engage the services of an agency for various reasons. Looking to online forums, couples sometimes contact and strike up deals with the birth parents that may not be wholly legal.
Adoption Fee Issues
Here are some adoption fee-related issues that may not be widely known to the public:
- Section 11 of the ACA prohibits payments to the birth parents in return for giving up the child for adoption.
- However, the usual practice is for the adoptive parents to reimburse the birth parents for prenatal and post-natal expenses, which can include the hospital and medication bills. The court must approve of any payments or rewards made to the birth parents before the adoption is legalised – see section 5(c) of the ACA.
- Adoption scams exist. In one case, two victims paid the scammer a sum of money in consideration for the adoption of the same child, but the scammer kept both the money and the baby. In response to those incidents, lawyers have opined that under such circumstances the victims should make a police report, and may even sue to retrieve their money.
This article was re-published with permission from SingaporeLegalAdvice. The information provided above does not constitute legal advice. You should obtain specific legal advice from a lawyer before taking any legal action. Although we try our best to ensure the accuracy of the information on this website, you rely on it at your own risk.
Also READ: How Do I Become a Foster Parent in Singapore?