How to Legally Adopt a Child in Singapore

by 13 June 2021Family Law & Divorce

There are many circumstances under which married couples and singles may choose to adopt, including situations involving surrogacy or stepchildren. This article covers the basic legal process of adoption in Singapore.

Child adoption in Singapore is primarily regulated by the Adoption of Children Act (ACA). Once an adoption is complete, the child’s ties to their birth parents or prior guardians will be severed, and the adopters will become their new legal parents – taking on all rights, duties, obligations, and liabilities that entails.

What are the requirements for adopting a child?

To adopt a child, you must be:

  • A resident of Singapore, which means you must either be a Singapore Citizen, Permanent Resident, or holder of an Employment Pass, Dependent’s Pass, or any other Pass that is recognised by the Family Court;
  • At least 25 years of age; and
  • Be between 21 to 50 years older than the child being adopted (exceptions may be made under special circumstances or if there is a blood relation).

Singles are allowed to adopt, but if you are a single male, you will not be able to adopt a female child unless under special circumstances. If you are married, you must obtain consent from your spouse before you can adopt.

The adoption process in Singapore

Here are the 5 main steps that most adoptive parents will go through as part of the adoption process in Singapore.

Do note that extra steps or paperwork will be required if you are a non-Singapore Citizen, if the child you intend to adopt is a foreigner (this includes situations where you are adopting your stepchild), or if the child is from the People’s Republic of China.

1. Attend a pre-adoption briefing

It is compulsory that you attend a Pre-Adoption Briefing before proceeding with the rest of the adoption process. You can register online at the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) website. The briefing will cover important information like:

  • The rights and responsibilities of an adopted parent
  • How to talk to your child about their adoption
  • Post-adoption services and programmes that can help

2. Identify a child to adopt

You can identify a prospective child to adopt through friends, family, and other personal contacts. The MSF does not do child-matching unless you are looking to adopt a child under State Care.

Once you’ve identified a child, you will need to obtain notarised Consent from the child’s birth parents or existing guardian(s), stating that they agree to relinquish all rights, duties, obligations and liabilities related to the child.

3. Submit an application to the Family Court

Once you’ve completed the above, you will need to submit an application to the Family Court. The submission can be done in person or through a lawyer, and filing fees will be involved.

A Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA) will be appointed in accordance with section 10(3) of the ACA, and additional interviews and social investigations will be conducted as part of the MSF’s background checks.

4. Await your application outcome

The adoption case is presented to the Family Court, and there are a few possible outcomes:

  • Unconditional Adoption Order: The most ideal outcome, where the child’s relationship with their birth parents or previous guardians will cease and you are acknowledged as the new legal parent of the child.
  • Conditional Adoption Order: The court grants the adoption but may impose certain terms and conditions on a case-by-case basis.
  • Interim order: The court delays the issuance of an Adoption Order, and instead grants interim custody of the child to you for a maximum period of 2 years. This time frame acts as a sort of probationary period, and the court can impose certain requirements related to child maintenance, education, or welfare as it sees fit.
  • Proceedings adjourned: The court places the case temporarily on hold in order to obtain further information about the application.
  • Rejection: No Adoption Order is granted.

5. Collect the child’s new Singapore Birth Certificate

If an Adoption Order is granted, the Court will send it to the Registry of Births and schedule an appointment for you to collect a new birth certificate from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). It is also possible to change the name of the child by executing a deed poll once the adoption is complete.

Can a single man/woman adopt a child in Singapore?

Yes, but in accordance with section 4(3) of the ACA, a single male cannot adopt a female child except in special circumstances.

Can a married woman adopt a child without her husband?

No. According to section 4(5) of the ACA, if a person is married and would like to adopt, they must obtain the content of their spouse before the application can proceed.

Can a foreigner adopt a child in Singapore?

Yes, as a foreigner you can adopt a child in Singapore, but you will need to obtain a Letter of Support (LOS) from your home country’s Embassy or High Commission stipulating that you meet certain requirements. You will also need to apply for a Letter of Approval for MSF to commence their Home Study Assessment before you can proceed with your adoption application.

Hire a family lawyer in Singapore with adoption experience

Depending on the complexities of your case, various additional paperwork may be required before you can legally adopt a child in Singapore, with any discrepancies costing you additional fees and delaying the adoption process.

This is why we recommend that you consult an experienced family lawyer in Singapore to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. Our expert team of dedicated family lawyers at Tembusu Law is committed to helping you present the strongest possible case to achieve swift approval for your adoption application.

Contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any additional questions you may have about the adoption process in Singapore.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.

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