Family & Relationship Law 23 March 2022

Can I adopt my teddy?

In a very rare and heartwarming case, a Judge in the Family Court of Western Australia recently made an order for a seven year old boy to adopt his six (6) teddy bears.  The Judge approved the adoption for what is known as a “hug of teddies” under the fictitious International Teddy Act 1908.  The young boy who had written to the Court requesting to adopt his teddies was delightfully surprised by the response.

While Coulter Legal has never dealt with a teddy adoption case (although we would like to!) our Family & Relationship Law team does assist with parenting arrangements for children. So what’s the difference with adoption?

Parenting arrangements

Parenting arrangements relate to a child’s care after parties separate (or in some cases even when there was no formal relationship). These care arrangements can be agreed between the parties informally or be formalised in a parenting order or a Parenting Plan.

A parenting order generally sets out the parent’s responsibilities in relation to a child and the child’s right to spend time with both parents and/or any other person concerned with their care, welfare and development. Parenting orders can be sought in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and can be made with the consent of the parties (through what is called an Application for Consent Orders), or by an application by one of the parties to the Court if an agreement cannot be reached. At this point, parties can still reach agreement on parenting orders or have their matter determined by a Judge.

A parenting order includes provisions for:

  1. Who makes the long term decisions about a child (i.e. education, health, cultural and religious upbringing etc.) – this is called parental responsibility;
  2. Who the child will live with;
  3. Who the child will spend time with, including parents, guardians and grandparents;
  4. Arrangements for special occasions;
  5. Arrangements for communication, such as telephone and video calls; and
  6. Any other issues relating to care, welfare or development of the child or aspects of parental responsibility.

Parties can also enter into a more flexible and informal agreement about the child, called a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan is a document that both parties sign which sets out the child’s care arrangements as outlined above. These are not legally binding but just helpful to have something in writing so everyone is on the “same page”.

A parenting order is more rigid and is legally enforceable.

More information about parenting matters can be found here.

Adoption orders

Adoption orders relate to when one or both of the child’s biological parents stop being the legal parent/s of the child and the adoptive parent/s becomes the child’s legal parent/s.

A child adoption applies to children under the age of 18 years.  There are various circumstances in which child adoption orders can be sought, including by two people who have been married or in a de facto relationship for at least two years, or whose relationship has been recognized as a traditional marriage in an Aboriginal community or group for at least two years.

An adult adoption is different in that it does not require the same steps as a child adoption, such as the parent’s consent or a guardian’s report. It merely requires supporting Court documents from the applicant and adoptee.

A child or adult adoption order is made in the County Court of Victoria.

The Family & Relationship Law team at Coulter Legal can assist you with negotiating or formalising the parenting arrangements for your family in the best way possible.

This article was prepared with assistance from Emilia Sterjova, Seasonal Clerk.

Laura Villemagne-Sánchez.
Laura Villemagne-Sánchez Senior Lawyer Family & Relationship Law View profile
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