What is adoption?

Adoption is a permanent legal arrangement where the legal rights of the birth parents over the child are removed and full legal rights are given to an adoptive family.

The change is permanent unless consent to adoption is revoked by the birth parents within 28 days after signing the consent to adoption form, the adoption is discharged by the Court, or another adoption occurs.

What are my rights if I am adopted?

If you are adopted, you generally have the same rights and privileges as any other child.

Can I find out who my biological parents are?

If you are under the age of 18 it is possible for you to obtain identification information about your biological parents as long as your adoptive parents give their written consent. If you are over 18, you do not require permission to obtain this information.

Your biological parents have a legal right to find out your identifying information when you turn 18. If you are under 18 then your adoptive parents must give their written consent before your identifying information can be obtained by a birth parent.

How do I get information?  

To obtain your adoption information, you must contact Past Adoption Services at the Department for Community Development (08 9222 2555 or 1800 622 258). You will need to fill out an application form, have your signature witnessed on the form and show your proof of identity when the form is signed.

What if there is an adoption plan?

In WA, unless the Court decides otherwise, every adoption has an adoption plan that has been negotiated by your birth parents and your adoptive parents. This facilitates the sharing of information about you between your birth and adoptive families and states whether and how often contact between you and your birth family may occur. Under some adoption plans there may be no provision for exchange of information or contact.

What if there is no adoption plan?

In the unlikely event that there is no adoption plan, it is still possible for you to obtain information about your birth parents.

What if I don’t want them to contact me?

Before 1 June 2003 it was possible to register a contact veto against your birth parents that made it illegal for them to contact you. However, no new contact vetoes can now be placed. You can still apply for a Court Order from the Family Court of Western Australia to prevent the Department from releasing your identifying information. The Court Order will be granted if the Court believes that releasing your information will place you at serious risk. Also, if your adoption plan stipulates that there will be no contact with your birth parents, they will face heavy penalties for breaching this.

Can I move in with my birth parents?

After an adoption is made, your adopted parents have full parental rights and responsibilities. That means it is generally expected that you will live with your adoptive parents. The terms of your adoption plan will tell you in what form and when any contact with your biological parents can take place. However, you are not breaking any law if you leave home.

For more information about leaving home, see our Lawstuff topic 'Leaving Home'.

Can my birth parents adopt me again?

Re-adoption is possible but requires the permission of your adopted parents and birth parents.

Who can adopt me?

There are different categories of adoption. Most adoptions are between people that do not know each other. In these situations, the adoptive parents can adopt a locally born child or a child from overseas. These are known as local and intercountry adoptions.

In step family adoptions, children can be adopted by a step-parent. Also, a child may be adopted by someone who has had the responsibility for long term care of the child.

Because adoption alters the legal status between people, adoption by relatives other than a step-parent is prohibited – if your aunt was to adopt you, for example, she would legally become your mother and your mother would then be your aunt, so things can get very confused! If however, one of your relatives wants to be responsible for your long term care, they can get court orders from the Family Court to do so.

What is taken into consideration when my adoption is being considered?

In WA, the fundamental consideration in the adoption process is the best interests of the child. Adoption of the child only occurs in circumstances where there is no other appropriate alternative. If you are over 12 years old when you are being adopted, your wishes will be taken into consideration in the decision making process and the adoption will not take place without your consent.

Other criteria will also be considered such as the applicants’ physical and mental ability to care for you until you turn 18, their ability to provide a suitable family environment, whether they have not been found guilty of certain offences and whether they are individuals of good reputation.

Do I have any rights to inherit my adoptive parents’ property when they die?

Inheritance occurs when someone dies, and their property, for example, their house and money, is transferred to someone else. Parents’ property is usually inherited by their children.

In WA, once you are adopted into a family, in the eyes of the law you become a child of your adoptive parents. Therefore you have the same rights that a birth child has with regard to inheritance of your adoptive parents’ property when they die (but you have no rights of inheritance from your birth parents).


Last updated 22 September 2010

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