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Adoption is the process where a person applies in court to be considered as the parent of a child.

Who may be adopted?
Any child (a person younger than 18 years of age) may be adopted, where:

  • s/he is an orphan and there is no legal guardian/s or caregiver/s willing to adopt him/her;
  • his/her parent/s or legal guardian/s cannot be established;
  • s/he was abandoned, for example, the child had no contact with his/her parent/s or legal guardian/s for at least 3 months;
  • s/he was abused or neglected by his/her parent/s, legal guardian/s or caregiver/s; or
  • s/he needs a permanent home.

Who can apply to adopt a child?

  • The following persons, older than 18 years of age, can adopt a child:
    • spouses, partners in a life-partnership (including same-sex partners), or other persons sharing and forming a permanent home;
    • a widower, widow, unmarried, or divorced person;
    • a person married to the parent of the child, for example, a stepparent; or
    • the father of a child born out of wedlock.
  • A person cannot be prevented to adopt a child due to his/her financial status.

Who must give consent to an adoption?

  • Each parent of the child (whether married to each other or not) and/or every legal guardian, where applicable.
  • If the child is older than 10 years of age, s/he must also give consent.
  • If the child is younger than 10 years of age, his/her consent will only be required if s/he has the maturity and understanding to consent to the adoption.
  • Consent must be reduced to writing, signed by the person giving the consent and verified by the Children’s Court.

Can consent be withdrawn?

  • Yes, a person who gave consent to an adoption has up to 60 days after the consent has been given to withdraw his/her consent.
  • A Children’s Court must not allow the adoption before the period of 60 days has expired.

When is consent not required?
The consent of the parent/s and/or legal guardian/s of the child is not necessary if the parent/s or legal guardian/s:

  • has a mental illness;
  • abandoned the child and cannot be tracked down;
  • abused or neglected the child, or allowed abuse or neglect to the child;
  • failed to fulfill parental rights and responsibilities towards the child for 12 months;
  • failed to respond to the notice of the proposed adoption within 30 days of receiving it;
  • is the father of the child who did not marry the child’s mother and did not acknowledge that he is the father of the child;
  • the child was conceived from an incestuous relationship between his/her parents; and
  • the court found that the child was conceived as a result of the rape of his/her mother.

What is the adoption procedure?

  • When a child becomes available for adoption, a notice must be served by the sheriff on each parent and/or guardian to request his/her consent to the adoption.
  • An interview should be arranged with a social worker who will compile a report containing information on whether the child can be adopted; if the adoption is in the best interest of the child; medical information in relation to the child; and the eligibility of the prospective parent/s.
  • An application for the adoption of a child can be made in the Children’s Court and must:  
  • be accompanied by the report of the social worker;
  • be accompanied by a letter by the provincial head of Social Development recommending the adoption of the child; and
  • include the necessary consent forms, where applicable.
  • The Children’s Court must take these factors into account before considering whether to allow the adoption:
  • the community, religious and cultural background of the child, the child’s parent/s, and the prospective parent/s;
  • if the adoption will be in the best interest of the child; and
  • any other relevant information contained in the application.
  • Certain fees might be payable during the adoption process, such as professional fees for medical expenses or fees payable to the relevant child protection organisation who assisted with the adoption.
  • If an adoption order has been granted by the Children’s Court, the order, together with the birth certificate of the child, must be taken to the relevant Home Affairs office to record the adoption and any change in surname, where applicable.

What are the consequences of adoption?

  • An adopted child is regarded as the biological child of the adoptive parent/s and all parental rights and responsibilities his/her biological parent/s or previous legal guardian/s had will be terminated.
  • The adoptive child takes the surname of the adoptive parent/s (unless the Children’s Court states otherwise).
  • An adoption will not affect the adoptive child’s rights to property s/he obtained before the adoption.


CAREGIVER: a person other than a parent or guardian who has the right to care for a child. Care is the right of that person to have a child reside primarily with him/her and to control or supervise the daily life of that child.

CHILDREN’S COURT: a special court dealing with matters relating to children. Every Magistrate’s Court shall be a Children’s Court and the High Court is the upper guardian of all children.

CHILD BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK: a child whose parents were not married to each other at the time of the child's conception or at any time after the birth of the child.

GUARDIAN: both husband and wife are guardians of a child born from the marriage; the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the guardian, unless the father acquires guardianship, for example, by living in a permanent life-partnership with the mother; or the court may appoint a guardian. Guardianship includes safeguarding the child’s property or property interests; representing the child in legal matters; and consenting to marriage, adoption, removal from South Africa, or an application for a passport.

INCESTUOUS RELATIONSHIP: a sexual relationship between persons who are closely related, for example, brothers and sisters or a father and his daughter.

PARENT: the biological father or mother of a child who has full or limited parental rights and responsibilities over his/her child.

PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES: to care for a child, maintain contact with the child, act as guardian of the child and to contribute to the maintenance of the child.

SHERIFF: a person who is authorised to deliver court documents, such as summonses and notices.

How can LegalWise assist you?

Should you require an explanation of your rights on this topic, please contact your nearest Branch.

How can LegalWise assist you?

Should you require an explanation of your rights on this topic, please contact your nearest Branch.


The information contained on this website is aimed at providing members of the public with guidance on the law in South Africa. This information has not been provided to meet the individual requirements of a specific person and LegalWise insists that legal advice be obtained to address a person’s unique circumstances. It is important to remember that the law is constantly changing and although LegalWise strives to keep the information up to date and of a high quality, it cannot be guaranteed that the information will be updated and/or be without errors or omissions. As a result, LegalWise, its employees, independent contractors, associates or third parties will under no circumstances accept liability or be held liable, for any innocent or negligent actions or omissions by LegalWise, which may result in any harm or liability flowing from the use of or the inability to use the information provided.

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