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Campaigners seek to scrap adoption age limit

Last month, the Public Petitions Committee in the Scottish Parliament received evidence from a campaign group seeking to extend adoption rights to people over the age of 18.

Nathan Sparling, aged 28, launched the campaign in March of this year in order to be granted the legal ability to ask his stepfather, Brian, to adopt him and be recognised as his father.

Mr Sparling has never met his biological father and considers his stepfather to have fulfilled this paternal role, stating that “my dad came into my life when I was 12”.

The campaign group are currently petitioning for changes to the existing law – which prohibits people over the age of 18 from being adopted – so that families are able to formalise their relationship in the eyes of the law.

Under the Adoption and Children Act (Scotland) 2007, a court can make an adoption order which transfers the rights and responsibilities of the birth parents over to the adoptive parents. The child becomes a full member of the family, taking on the surname of their adoptive parents, and possesses the same rights and privileges as if they had been born to them.

In addition to being under the age of 18 when the adoption application was made, the child must not (or never have been) married or in a civil partnership, and both birth parents must give their consent if they are capable of doing so.

Delivering the opening statement for the petition, Mr Sparling argued that the current law is in conflict with the European Convention of Human Rights.

He stated: “Finding out that I was not able to be adopted because I’d reached an arbitrary age set by the state left me feeling as though my special moment of asking my father to adopt me was stolen from me.

“Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life, and that there shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society for the protection of health or morals.”

Mr Sparling initially believed that adapting the current law would be a straightforward matter, but he has since called for a new or amended system to put in place to allow for adult adoption.

He concluded: “The current legal system allows for the rights and responsibilities of children to be passed on to adoptive parents and when you turn 18 those rights and responsibilities are dissolved.

“The current adoption order for children under 18 wouldn’t fit for adults.”

Adult adoption has been legalised in countries such as the U.S., Canada, Germany, Spain and Japan.

In addition to formalising the relationship of a stepchild and their stepparent or foster child and foster parent, adult adoption can also be used to transfer inheritance rights, as well as restore an original relationship between adult adoptees and their biological family.

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