Conditions for adoption in France

Updated on Friday 11 March 2022


Adoption is, first and foremost, a gesture of love by which a child can be given to a family and a family to a child.

It creates a genuine parent-child relationship between the adopter and the adoptee. However, this relationship will only exist if the adopter expressly asks for it during an adoption procedure and if it is made official by an order from the regional court [tribunal de grande instance]. It is also possible to resort to an adoption procedure between members of the same family. It is then a matter of a simple adoption which does not break the original filiation.

In France, who may adopt?

Jointly: Spouses married for more than two years, not separated from body, whether of the same sex or of different sex. They must both be at least 28 years old, unless they have been married for more than two years.  However, partners in a civil partnership and unmarried couples may not adopt jointly (only one of the partners or one of the members of the couple can be an adoptive parent).

  • Individuals: any person (whether a man or a woman) aged at least 28. However, if the person is married, they must have the agreement of their spouse.

  • In principle, the adopter or adopters must be at least 15 years older than the child they wish to adopt, however, the judge may allow exceptions if the age gap is smaller.
    It should be noted that in the special case of the adoption of a spouse's child, the adopter does not have to meet the age condition. In addition, the minimum age gap between the adopter and the adoptee is reduced to 10 years.

Which children can be adopted?

Not all children can be adopted. Only the following are eligible for adoption:

  • Children in care [pupilles de l'Etat] (children of no known or established parentage, orphans with no family) with administrative consent;

  • Children who are the subject of a judicial declaration of abandonment;
  • Children whose father and mother (or the family council chaired by the guardianship judge, if the child no longer has any parents) have validly given their agreement, in a notarised instrument, for example: children handed over to the child welfare service or to an authorized adoption agency (OAA).

Note: Parents have two months to retract, which is why it is impossible to adopt a baby under two months old.
For children wards of the State, the prefect, with the agreement of the family council of wards of the State, defines the adoption plan. For children handed over to an OAA, the tutor with the agreement of the family council of the tutorship chooses the project.

In addition, for a full adoption, the child must in principle:

  • Be under 15 years of age (up to 20 years in certain cases);
  • Have personally given their consent to the adoption, if they are aged over 13 years;
  • Must have lived for at least six months in the adopter's home.
  • As for a simple adoption, the child must have given their personal consent to their adoption if they are aged 13 or over (the adoptee may be an adult).

What is the adoption procedure?

Except in the case of an adoption within the family (adoption of the spouse's child, of a nephew, etc.), persons who wish to adopt in France must have consent from the Department of Social Welfare for Children (ASE), under the authority of the President of the General Council of their administrative department, after opinion from an approval committee. A social and psychological assessment will confirm that the reception conditions offered by the adopter correspond to the needs and interests of the adopted children. When a married couple having obtained joint approval separates, if one of the two wishes to retain the approval, or if an unmarried couple marries and wishes to obtain joint approval, they must waive the current approval and request a new approval. Moreover, if the adoption plan concerns a child living abroad, the applicant must also meet the legal conditions set by the country of origin of the child in addition to French national rules. Some countries do not allow adoption if the applicant already has a biological child.

Once the consent has been obtained, the prospective adopters must file an application requesting to adopt the child (whether the adoption will be full or simple) at the regional court of the place in which they live. The decision is recorded in the civil status register in the child's place of birth and is mentioned in the family record book [livret de famille]. 

Full adoption breaks all ties of filiation with the birth or biological parents and creates a new filiation with the adopter. The adopted child becomes the reserved heir of his adopter, however, he no longer inherits from his original family. Conversely, through a simple adoption, the adopted child retains all of his ties with his family of origin. The adoptee inherits from both families, but he does not benefit from free transfer rights in his adoptive family.

Regarding the adoption procedure within blended families, full adoption is rare since it removes other ties of filiation.

It concerns children whose:

  • parentage is not established with the second parent,
  • the other parent has been withdrawn of his parental rights
  • the other parent died without leaving any grandparents behind.

Note: If the step-parent is not married to the parent of the minor child, an adoption isn’t possible.

Most of the time, simple adoption is preferred.

What is the difference between a simple adoption and a full adoption?

The effects of these two types of adoption are different:

  • Full adoption definitively severs the parent-child relationship between the adoptee and their birth family (except when the adoptee is the child of the spouse). In this case, the adoptee has a new parent-child relationship which replaces the previous one;

  • Simple adoption creates a new parent-child relationship between the adopter and the adoptee. But it does not sever the parent-child relationship between the adoptee and their birth family: the two relationships coexist.

What is international adoption?

The term international adoption is used when the prospective adoptee is not a French national. Adoptions of this kind are subject to strict rules (compliance with the laws in the country of origin and laws in the host country, in particular) which ensure legality and transparency.

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