Adoption is many things; it is significant, challenging, and life-changing for the adopters, the adopted child, and their biological parents.

Adoption is a process that creates a formal legal relationship between the child and their adoptive parents and dismantles any legal ties the biological parents have with their child.

The process of adoption is involved and complex; it can be time-consuming as well as emotionally draining for the applicants.

Who can adopt?

Eligibility for adoption is the million-dollar question, and most of the answers can be found in Singapore’s adoption laws contained in the Adoption of Children Act (ACA), with the process overseen by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

Couples adopting

Only couples in opposite-gender marriages are considered eligible to apply to adopt a child in Singapore. A man and a woman married in another country may apply to adopt, providing their marriage is valid both in the country where it took place and in Singapore.

For joint applications from married couples, one applicant must be a Singaporean citizen, or both applicants must be permanent residents.

Single person adoption

Single people may apply to adopt in Singapore. A sole applicant must have Singaporean citizenship or be a permanent resident.

A sole male applicant cannot apply to adopt a female child unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Habitual residency

Sole or married applicants must be habitually resident in Singapore. Habitual residency is usually assessed by an applicant’s work location and the length of time they have lived in Singapore.

Age requirements

Typically, adoption applications will only be accepted from people at least 25 years old. They should also be a minimum of 21 years older than the adoptive child.

Some exceptions to this rule usually involve cases where the applicant and child are biologically related.


Anyone with a record of a serious offence, such as a conviction for drug-related crimes or sexual violence, cannot adopt a child. There are some very limited exceptions to this rule, such as if the offence was committed a long time ago when the applicant was a minor.

Children eligible for adoption

  • Only minors may be adopted in Singapore, so that is children below the age of 21.
  • The child must be single and have never married.
  • The child must be a resident of Singapore.
  • The child must be a Singaporean citizen, permanent resident, or pass holder.

Applicants looking for children to adopt may find suitable children through authorised adoption agencies or the MSF for children in state care.

Adoption from the perspective of the child

The court protects the child’s interests. The court must be satisfied the adoption is in the child’s best interests and will promote their welfare.

The court will consider the child’s wishes depending on their age and level of maturity.

Adoption from the biological parents’ standpoint

Adoption cannot proceed until all parties have consented to it, particularly the child’s biological or birth parents.

The birth parents will be permanently deprived of their parental rights over the child and any future contact with them, so the court must be satisfied the parents fully understand what they are agreeing.

In some situations, the court may dispense with the birth parent’s consent. These include scenarios where the parents are convicted drug addicts, the parents intentionally harmed or ill-treated the child, failed to provide proper care, or they are incapable of caring for the child either due to physical or mental infirmity or because they are in prison.

If the birth parents contest the adoption, the court may require applicants to undergo counselling, mediation, or psychotherapy to ensure that any issues arising from the adoption process are managed and amicably resolved. This is to guarantee the future well-being and safety of the child.

Pre-adoption requirements

Before formally embarking on the adoption process, there are various stages an applicant must go through.

Pre-adoption and disclosure briefings

MSF-approved adoption agencies hold these sessions and cover issues such as the adoption process and what it entails, the care of an adoptive child, and how to tell that child they are adopted.

Adoption Suitability Assessment (ASA)

Applicants also must undergo a home study assessment. Elements of this include an examination of their financial stability and their ability to interact with the child. These are not the only criteria.

The process of child adoption in Singapore

Once the mandatory briefings are concluded, and the applicants have obtained a satisfactory ASA and identified a child they want to adopt, there is a formalised process to follow, which starts with applying for an adoption order to the Family Court.

Obtaining the consent of the biological parents

Consent from the birth parents must be notarised to prove it is genuine. The applicants must also obtain the child’s birth certificate and passport if the child is a permanent resident.

Consent from MSF

Applicants must obtain formal consent from MSF’s Director-General of Social Welfare and submit this to the Family Court. The primary purpose of the consent is to protect the child’s interest by examining the circumstances surrounding the adoption, and ensuring all the legalities are complied with.

The consent process may also include a recommendation to the court about the applicant’s suitability. However, the court is not obliged to follow this.

Child Welfare Officer (CWO) interviews

A Child Welfare Officer is appointed to conduct interviews to learn more about the applicant’s status and situation, which may involve home visits. After the CWO report, the MSF prepares an affidavit which is submitted to the Family Court.

Family Court hearing

A hearing date is set at which the court will decide the result of the adoption application. The hearing must be attended by either the applicants or their lawyer. The court will reach a decision and issue a court order.

Adoption orders

Unconditional adoption order

This is an adoption order which succeeds, and there are no conditions imposed; the applicants become the legal parents of that child.

Conditional adoption order

The adoption is successful, but certain conditions are imposed on the order.

Interim order

An interim order acts as a probationary period. The court gives temporary custody of the child for up to two years. The court may also impose conditions concerning the child’s welfare, education, and maintenance.

Full adoption can follow an interim order, but the court also has the right to reject the adoption application at the end of the temporary period.

Rejection of application

The court rejects the application. There can be several reasons for this, but usually, it’s because the applicants have failed to satisfy all the requirements.

Applicants have a right to appeal the court’s decision, and any appeal must be filed within fourteen days. Security for costs is required to appeal any adoption order made under the Adoption of Children Act. Currently, the figure for this is S$3,000.

Final thoughts on adoption in Singapore

Adoption is a complex and long-drawn-out process with many legal requirements to satisfy, all there to protect the future of an adoptive child and advance their welfare. It is essential to appoint an experienced family lawyer to help manage the adoption process, which is more likely to lead to a successful and happy outcome.

This content was written and reviewed by a lawyer but it does not constitute legal advice. We always recommend engaging a lawyer before taking any legal action.

Frequently asked questions

What rights and responsibilities do adoptive parents take on?

Adoptive parents assume full parental responsibility and rights for the adopted child. This includes all duties, obligations and liabilities relating to that child’s care, well-being, health, and education.

Can same-sex couples adopt in Singapore?

Same-sex couples cannot adopt in Singapore. Couples must be legally married to adopt, and same-sex partners are not currently allowed to marry in Singapore.

What happens if an applicant provides false or misleading information to advance an adoption application?

Providing fake or misleading information to the adoption authorities is an offence which can result in a fine of up to S$5,000, a prison term of twelve months, or both.

Are adoptive children issued with a new birth certificate after adoption?

Successful adoptions mean the adoptive child will be issued a new birth certificate from the Registry of Births & Deaths, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

Children can apply to see their adoption file when they achieve adulthood, and this will disclose the identity of their biological parents. Adoptive parents who the court awards an unconditional order, may change the child’s name if they wish by deed poll; they don’t have to keep the name given by the birth parents.

How long does the adoption process take?

On average, it takes between five and seven months to adopt a child in Singapore. The process is longer if the child is from a foreign country.