Adoption in India, for a long time, fell within the ambit of personal laws, and there was no uniform legal framework that governed the adoption of children. Thus, adoptions were a purely religious matter, and members of certain religions — specifically, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism — were essentially prohibited from adopting children, as their personal laws did not permit it. Instead, they had to resort to assuming guardianship of children, under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. The only religious communities that could adopt children were Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, whose personal law, codified in the form of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, allowed for adoption of children.
In 2015, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act) was enacted, which (among other things) introduced a uniform legal framework for adoption for India, allowing for non-religious adoption. The JJ Act has homogenized the Indian law on adoption, which was scattered and ridden with religious requirements before 2015.
The JJ Act assesses any prospective adoptive parent on certain parameters, such as health, financial stability, etc. In this article, we will discuss the eligibility requirements for adopting a child under this law.
To be considered as a prospective adoptive parent, you must meet certain eligibility criteria, which will be assessed by the Specialized Adoption Agency, on the following parameters:
The law assesses prospective adoptive parents on both mental and physical health. Thus, you must be physically fit, and have no life threatening medical condition. Further, you must be mentally and emotionally stable.
You must be financially capable to be considered for adoption of a child. Although the law has not specified minimum income levels as an eligibility criterion, the social worker (who is assigned to conduct the home study) will evaluate the capability and motivation of the prospective adoptive family to provide reasonable living standards to the child.
You do not have to be married in order to be considered for the adoption of a child. However, there are different eligibility criteria, depending on whether you are married or single. The criteria are:
- If you are single: As a single person, you are eligible for adoption. However, only single women can adopt either a girl or a boy, while single men can only adopt a boy.
- If you are married: In case of a married couple, the law requires that both spouses consent to the adoption. Additionally, to be considered for adoption, the married couple must have had at least two years of stable marital relationship.
Under the law, couples with three or more children will not be considered for adoption. However, this does not apply in certain cases: (a) children with special needs, (b) children who are hard to place (i.e. children who have not received any referrals for adoption since a long time), © relative adoption (d) adoption by step-parent. In these cases, couples with three or more children are considered eligible for adoption of another child.
The minimum age difference between the child and the prospective adoptive parent must be at least 25 years. In the case of a couple who wants to adopt, the combined age (i.e. the age of both the prospective parents added) of the prospective adoptive parents shall be counted. There are age criteria that must be conformed to, in order to adopt a child falling within a certain age bracket. These criteria are:
- To adopt a child up to 4 years of age, the prospective adoptive parent, if single, must not be more than 45 years of age. In the case of a couple, the combined ages of the partners should not exceed 90 years.
- To adopt a child between 4 and 8 years of age, the prospective adoptive parent, if single, must not be more than 50 years of age. In the case of a couple, the combined ages of the partners should not exceed 100 years.
- To adopt a child between 8 and 18 years of age, the prospective adoptive parent, if single, must not be more than 55 years of age. In the case of a couple, the combined ages of the partners should not exceed 110 years.
However, this age criteria does not apply in cases of relative adoption and adoption by step-parent.
Adopting a child in India confers a serious responsibility upon you. Once the adoption has been formalized, the child will become your lawful child, with all the rights, responsibilities and privileges that are attached to a biological child. Further, the child’s connections with the family of birth are broken off and replaced by the ties created by the adoption in the adoptive family. However, any property owned by the adopted child before the adoption shall continue to remain the child’s property, along with the obligations attached to the property (such as the obligation to maintain relatives in the biological family). You can read more about the adoption laws in India here.
Kadambari Agarwal is a Research Assistant at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. Views are personal.