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Adoption in Spain is a legal process that follows very strict rules in order to protect the interest of the child to the fullest. Law 21/1997 of 11th November introduced several requirements for parents requesting adoption and the adopted child, both nationally and internationally.

Any person who is a resident in Spain, whether Spanish or a foreigner, can apply to adopt. Compared to other European countries the process is slightly easier and thus many couples all over Europe elect to take up residence in Spain for few years with the objective of adopting a child.

From a legal point of view the adoption process is long and complicated. Here a Spanish child can only be adopted when he is abandoned, the parents are known and have authorized the adoption or if the parents are losing the “patria potestad” (the parental authority, in practice when the parents are deemed inadequate for parenting). This leads to a situation where there are children in reception centres that cannot be adopted and their status there is merely temporary, so the family will only have the possibility of receiving the minor in kinship foster care.

In practice the demand for the adoption of Spanish children is so high, that the average waiting time for a couple is around 9 years.  This means that the only real alternative for adoption for a couple that resides in Spain is international adoption.

Legal Requirements for any kind of adoption (national or international)

The adoption process is regulated by the competence of the autonomous communities and the process might change from place to place in Spain. Nevertheless there are several basic requirements to be met:

  • One of the adopting parents must be over 25 years old.
  • Both parents are more than 14 years older than the adopted child.
  • The couple has been considered suitable for parenting by the social services of the autonomous community where the couple is resident. For this a suitability certificate and a psychological report will be required, both drafted by a team of social workers and psychologists. The reports from the team will cover aspects related to the maturity of the couple, its motivation for adopting a child, economical situation and cultural aspects related to the country they want to adopt from, to name but a few.
  • Depending on the autonomous community the mother should not be more than 40 years old for very young children. In Andalusia the difference between the mother and the child cannot be more than 42 years.

The child’s country of origin may impose additional requirements. For example in cases of adoptions from China, the parents have to be more than 30 years old. In adoptions from Guatemala or the Philippines an ecclesiastic document certifying that the couple is married by the Catholic Church will be needed. In most countries priority will be given to married couples.

Length of the adoption process

Couples looking to adopt a child need be aware to that the process will be long. Length can vary from 8 to 20 months for a child from Eastern Europe, 8 to 30 months for a child from Latin America and from 8 to 15 months for the Far East. In practice the process will be much longer and some of our clients added a couple of years to these figures. Bear in mind that in most cases the adoption of the second child is extremely quick compared to the first.

The adoption Process

The process is complex from the administration point of view and the stamina and determination of the adopting couple will be put to the test. Depending on the country of the child, it might require trips and additional interviews with the foreign authorities. Most families follow the process through registered agencies in the town where they live.

The documents required to initiate the process can vary from community to community but in general you and your partner will need a birth certificate, the marriage certificate (for a married couple), medical certificates, a certificate attesting the absence of criminal records and a certificate certifying your level of income. All the documents must be translated into Spanish by an official translator and have an apostille.

Adopting a Child

The adoption process in Spain is very complex, even though it has to be said that it is simpler than in countries like the UK and Denmark. It is recommended to get the assistance of a Spanish lawyer specialized in international Family law and international adoption procedures. This will certainly make the process easier.