Number of same sex couples applying for adoptions hits record high

20 November 2017

The number of applications for child adoption orders by same sex couples reached a record 587 in the last year, rising 55% from just 379 five years ago in 2012/13, says Wilsons, a leading private client law firm.

‘Non-traditional’ adoptions, such as those by same sex couples, were made possible by the Adoption and Children Act of 2002, which allowed for a larger pool of potential parents to apply to adopt a child.

The 2013 legalisation of gay marriage in the UK is a major driving force behind the trend. Marriage is seen as a long term, stable institution for bringing up adopted children, which may mean local authorities are quicker to approve applications from married same sex couples than single applicants.

High-profile cases of same sex adoption have attracted considerable media attention in recent years, as the trend has gathered pace. For example, US TV actor Neil Patrick Harris and his husband David Burtka adopted two boys in 2010, and in the UK Elton John and David Furnish adopted two children in 2013.

Applications for adoptions by heterosexual couples drops 12% in one year

Wilsons adds that over the same period, applications for adoption orders from heterosexual couples dropped 12% to 3,561 in 2016/17, from 4,034 in 2015/16.

Wilsons says that heterosexual couples may be exploring other routes to parenthood before considering adoption as an option. Many heterosexual couples might be attracted to options such as fertility treatment or surrogacy for example, as a way to have their child, biologically.

The improvement of fertility treatments could be a contributing factor in the drop in applications for adoption by heterosexual couples. As success rates of fertility treatments such as IVF have grown, more couples might be encouraged to consider it as an option.

Additionally, those looking into surrogacy need a court-ordered parental order, to transfer legal parenthood from the surrogate to the intended parents. Applications for parental orders have more than doubled over five years, to 220 in 2015, from just 96 in 2010*, as more couples use surrogacy as a way to start a family.

Sarah Wood-Heath, Associate at Wilsons, comments: “The door has really opened now for all kinds of alternative couples to start their own family.”

“Same sex adoptions are at a record high, and the legalisation of gay marriage in 2013 has been a catalyst for more non-traditional couples to adopt.”

“In addition, medical advances have meant that alternative birthing options such as surrogacy or IVF are increasingly attractive for many heterosexual couples - there are now so many options for anyone to have a child.”

Applications for adoption orders by same sex couples risen 13%

…whilst applications for adoptions by mixed sex couples have dropped 12% in just one year

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