Adoption can be defined as the legal means by which an adult voluntarily and legally assumes the parental responsibility of a child, after the child's biological parents have been absolved of their parental rights and duties. Given the fundamental adjustments that occur in a child's life during and after his adoption, it is clear that this is a sensitive area of family law. Thus, it is not surprising that the legal framework prioritizes the welfare, and best interests of the child throughout the adoption process. The Adoption Law of 1995 (the "Law") contains the conditions and procedures for the adoption of a minor in Cyprus, and this article aims to explain some of the key provisions under this law.
Who can apply to adopt?
The adoption process, which begins when an application is submitted to the Family Court. Section 3(3) of the Law, outlines the two requirements that prospective applicants must meet before applying.
Firstly, it is necessary for the applicant to be a permanent resident in Cyprus, or at least have resided in Cyprus for 2 years immediately before submitting the application. If a couple is making a joint application, then at least one of them must fulfil the above requirements. The applicant must be residing in Cyprus on the date that the application is made.
Secondly, at least one of the applicants must have reached the age of 25, and the Court must be satisfied that the adoption would be in the best interests of the child, taking into account the ages of both. However, this age restriction will not apply if the applicant is adopting the child of their spouse. Similarly, a relative of the child can apply for an adoption order upon reaching the age of 21.
If the above requirements are satisfied, Section 3(4) of the Law states that an application may be submitted by the following:
- Two spouses for a joint adoption;
- The child's biological father with his wife or the mother with her husband, jointly
- The spouse of the child's mother or the spouse of the biological father of the adopted child
Under Section 7(1) of the Law, an unmarried person may also apply, and the Court will grant the adoption order if it is satisfied that there are special reasons for doing so. Currently, the Law does not contain any provisions for the adoption of a child by a same-sex couple.
What does the Court consider before granting an adoption order?
In accordance with Section 5 of the Law, the Court will grant an adoption order provided certain conditions are satisfied. Such conditions include the following:
- The consent of the child's biological parents or guardian has been given for the adoption, having full knowledge of the nature of the results of the adoption;
- The granting of the adoption order is in the best interests of the child, with the child's wishes being taken into account if their age and intellectual capacity will allow it;
- The child has resided with the applicant under their care and supervision for a period of three consecutive months prior to the issuance of the adoption order and, continues to reside with the applicant or one of them and is under his or their care and custody;
- A report has been made by the Social Welfare Services confirming the suitability of the applicant for the purposes of adoption. This statement is not binding on the Court, but it is a useful indicator for the protection of the child's best interests.
The above factors will be considered by the Family Court in determining whether it will grant the adoption order. As stated in the leading case of Papaioannou and another v Palaiologou (2002) the court will always regard the best interests of the child as the most important factor in making this decision.
The Legal Results of Adoption
After an adoption order has been issued by the Family Court, the adopted child will be considered as the legal and natural child of the adoptive parents, and under no circumstances will it be considered the child of any other person. The adopted child will then be entered into the Register of Adopted Children, kept by the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court.
This means that all the duties and obligations regarding the care and maintenance of the child will cease to apply to the biological parents and will instead be given to the adoptive parents. In addition, the adoption order would terminate any obligations arising from any agreement, will, or court order regarding child support benefits, or any other matters relating to parental duties.
The seriousness of the adoption procedure is emphasized in the case of Re Kyriakides et al (1990), as the biological parents will lose their status as the child's natural parents, and their parental rights will be terminated. It is also noted that the child will no longer be entitled to an inheritance from their biological parents, but instead they will have the right to receive an inheritance from their adoptive parents.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.