The Legality of adoption is enshrined under the Adoption Act under sections 12 and 39 as “the process whereby a court irrevocably extinguishes the legal ties between a child and the natural parents or guardians and creates an analogous tie between the child and the adopters. The Black Law dictionary also described adoption as the creation of a parent-child relationship by a judicial order between unrelated parties. Adoption implies that the parental rights and duties related to the child will now be vested in the adopters.
Requirements to Make You Eligible to Adopt a Child
The Child Rights Act (2003) which is the primary legislation governing adoption in Nigeria has set out imperative requirements that you must satisfy to make you qualified to adopt a child and they are briefly stated and explained below;
The Child Rights Act provides that you as an applicant must not be less than 21 years of age at the time of the adoption and you must also be at least 21 years older than the child to be adopted.
It is expected and as provided by the Child Rights Act that you who want to adopt a child must be of irrefutable integrity.
Marital Status and Gender
The general rule under the act is that only married couples are allowed to adopt a child. But the Act provided an exception for an unmarried person to adopt under the condition that the applicant has attained the age of 35 years and the child to be adopted is the same sex with the applicant. Nigerian Law does not allow same-sex couples and cohabiting couples to adopt a child.
It is also imperative for the applicant to be financially buoyant to take adequate care of the needs of the child.
Procedure for Adoption in Nigeria
- Engage the service of a Legal Practitioner
The purpose for you to hire the service of a legal practitioner who is vast in the area of child adoption is for the lawyer to direct and represent you in court. There are some probono lawyers willing to offer you free legal advice in Nigeria regarding child adoption.
- Approval From the State Welfare Agency
The next important step is for you as an intending adopter to make a formal application to the State Government welfare Agency for them to furnish you with the approval to commence an adoption process. During this process, you will be interviewed by the Director of social welfare to establish that you are decent enough to adopt a child. There are also compulsory pre-counselling sessions and other sessions to determine your aptness and fitness. After all, sessions have been conducted and the agency is satisfied, it shall grant you the approval to adopt and you will now be allowed to search for an adoptable child. If you successfully get a child to adopt, the child will be allowed to live with you for a period of three months.
- Application to Court
The next step is for you to make an application for an adoption order from a court of competent jurisdiction. This application is done in a prescribed form which shall be submitted to the court registrar along with the following documents;
- Marriage certificate or sworn declaration of marriage where the applicants are married
- Your birth certificate or declaration of age
- Passport photographs
- Medical fitness certificate from a recognized government hospital
- An investigation by State Welfare Agency directed by the Court
Upon receipt of your application, the court gives an order of investigation which is to be conducted by the social welfare officers. This is done for the court to ascertain your credibility as an adopter and the child to be adopted as well. In doing this, the court delegates a guardian ad litem who will act as the child’s adopted guardian and will also represent the child in the proceedings. The guardian is expected to investigate the circumstances surrounding the proposed adoption and files all its findings and report to the court. The interest of the child is protected by the guardian ad litem until the court after satisfying itself with the case and grants the adoption order granting legal custody to the adoptive parents.
- Recommendation by the Appointed Welfare Officer
The welfare officer is expected to keep visiting your home as an adoptive parent until he satisfies himself that the child is well settled and that you as an adoptive parent can cater to the child. If the welfare officer is sure of all these, he moves to submit a positive recommendation in writing to the court.
- Court Order
Before the court grants you an adoption order, the court will first meet with you in court to further appease your suitability. There are circumstances that the court will consider before it grants an adoption order to you and the first and most important is that you can safeguard and promote the welfare and best interest of the child throughout childhood of the child. Secondly, it will put into consideration and ascertain that the wishes and feelings of the child will be given due consideration.
- Final Documentation
If you are successful to attain the adoption order from the court, you can now obtain a new birth certificate for the child stating you as the child’s parents. All actions that occurred in the adoption process and the outcome must be entered into the Adoption Register. The proof of adoption is a certified copy of an entry in the Adoption Children’s Register stamped or sealed by the registrar’s office.
To avoid being arrested for the offence of kidnapping or child trafficking, it is best that you engage the service of a Lawyer in Nigeria for lawful and smooth child adoption. We at elegal consultants are willing to give you free legal advice over this in Nigeria as we have some probono lawyers who will be available to attend to you.
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