Guide to Child Adoption in Singapore

Adoption refers to the permanent transfer of all parental rights and responsibilities from a child’s birth parents to their adoptive parents. In Singapore, adoption is governed by the Adoption of Children Act (“ACA”).

The first step towards adopting a child is to determine whether one meets the eligibility requirements. If you are looking to adopt a child in Singapore, the eligibility requirements are stated below.

Only Residents of Singapore can apply to adopt

You and your spouse must be residents in Singapore to adopt (that is, you must be Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents, or holders of Employment Pass, Dependent Pass or any other Pass which the Family Court deems as residents in Singapore).

Your age

You and your spouse must be at least 25 years old and at least 21 years older than the child to be adopted.

This rule may be waived if you or your spouse and the child are related by blood or if there are other special circumstances. For example, the court may allow the adoption if your nephews and nieces are tragically orphaned and wish to adopt them even though you are not yet 25 years old and are not at least 21 years older than them.

The maximum age gap between you and child

Both you and your spouse should not be more than 50 years older than the child. This is to ensure that you are physically and financially able to look after the child.

Your marital status

If you are a single male, you will not be allowed to adopt a girl unless special circumstances justify the adoption. For example, if you are married, you must obtain the consent of your spouse.

Who can be adopted

The child to be adopted must be below 21 years of age.

You can also adopt your stepchild. You can apply to MSF to waive the Home Study Report (HSR) if you are a Singapore Citizen. This is not applicable for foreigners adopting their stepchildren.

If your stepchild is a Singapore Citizen, the process is the same as adopting a child who is a Singapore Citizen.

If your stepchild is of foreign citizenship, the process will follow that of adopting a foreign child.

The child must be a resident of Singapore (i.e. a Singapore Citizen, Singapore Permanent Resident or Dependent Pass holder). However, a child is not regarded as a resident if the child is residing in Singapore on a visit pass, a student’s pass or a special pass.

Home Study Report

Before the adoption is approved, you must apply for a Home Study Report.

A Home Study Report (HSR) is a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the adoption and the circumstances of your family. It also assesses whether you and your spouse are eligible and ready to adopt a child. A Home Study is conducted by professional social service staff from voluntary welfare organisations accredited by MSF.

Pre-adoption Briefing

You and your spouse must attend a compulsory Pre-Adoption Briefing (PAB) before you apply for a home study or start the adoption legal proceedings.

Endorsement from your home country (for non-Singapore Citizens who would like to adopt a foreign child)

If you are not a Singapore citizen, you must obtain endorsement from your home country through your embassy or High Commission. In addition, your country must support and recognise the adoption. There is a prescribed form in the ACA to show that you have obtained support from your home country.

Additional important information

Payment to the child’s natural parents for the adoption is not allowed except for childbirth expenses.

You must also get consent from the following parties:

  • The child’s parents;
  • The child’s grandparents (where the child’s parents are below 21 years old);
  • The child’s guardian (if applicable);
  • The child’s custodian (in cases where custody of the child has been granted to a non-parent);
  • The party responsible for supporting the child financially (in cases where this does not automatically apply to the child’s parents); and
  • Your spouse (if applicable).

How the court decides

If the above conditions are met, the Court may grant an adoption order. Adoption orders may be unconditional, conditional (where the court sets differing conditions on a case-to-case basis), or interim (where the applicant is essentially placed on probation). In addition, the Court is free to give directions as to how the child should be raised).

What is the adoption legal process?

The adoption process begins with the applicant attending a compulsory Pre-Adoption Briefing (“PAB”). The PAB is a one-off 2½ hour session to explain to the applicant everything they ought to know about the adoption process and how to handle being an adoptive parent.

Next, the applicant must identify the child they wish to adopt and obtain notarised consent for the adoption from the individuals listed above. If consent cannot be given for any reason (other than by way of choice), the applicant may apply to Court to have this requirement dispensed under these special circumstances.

At the same time, the applicant must obtain official documentation of the child’s birth certificate or passport (for PRs) and prepare an itemised list of costs incurred in child adoption. The purpose of the latter requirement is to ensure that money has not been paid to the child’s birth parents in return for their consent to the adoption.

Having completed the above steps, the applicant may then submit an adoption application to the Family Court, either in-person or through a lawyer, to which the Court will then direct the applicant to file a request at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (“MSF”) containing the following documents:

  • Date of Pre-Adoption Briefing;
  • Originating summons for adoption;
  • Adoption Statement;
  • Affidavit in support of the originating summons;
  • Consent for adoption by natural parents;
  • The NRICs of the prospective adoptive parents (both front and back)
  • The marriage certificate of the prospective adoptive parents;
  • The birth certificate of the child to be adopted; and
  • A cheque of $250.00 is to be made payable to “AG/MSF”.

If the application is successful, the Court will appoint a Guardian-In-Adoption (“GIA”) to safeguard the child’s interests during the adoption process. In turn, the GIA will appoint a Child Welfare Officer (“CWO”) from MSF to conduct interviews with the prospective adoptive parents and visit the prospective home to determine if the applicants are suitable to adopt a child.

Upon completion of the investigation, MSF will then prepare an affidavit (based on its findings) to be submitted to Court by either the applicants or their lawyers within two weeks. At that point, a hearing date must be booked.

At the hearing, which requires either the applicants or their lawyers to be present, the Court will decide if the adoption order is granted.

Once the Adoption Order is granted

Congratulations! You are now the proud official parent of your adopted child.

Once the Family Court grants the Adoption Order, the Family Court will inform the Registry of Births & Deaths, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to issue a new Birth Certificate for the child. You or your lawyer will receive a letter from ICA to collect the Birth Certificate.

Author

Lim Chong Boon

Head of Family Law & General Litigation Practice

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