Adoption and cohabiting couples


The non-marital family is not recognised by the Irish Constitution and it does not possess the same legal rights and obligations as the family based on marriage.

Under the Adoption Act 2010, a child may be adopted by married couples, a mother or father of the child or a relative of the child. In specific cases, the Adoption Authority of Ireland may decide that it is desirable that some other person can adopt a child.


Unmarried couples may not jointly adopt a child. A joint adoption by a couple is only possible where that couple is married and living together. This rule prevents an unmarried couple from jointly adopting a child even where one of the parties is the biological or legal parent of the child. There are no proposals to change adoption law in Ireland to permit adoption by unmarried couples.

Under the adoption legislation, it is possible for a single person to adopt if the Adoption Authority considers it desirable and it must regard the welfare of the child as its first and paramount consideration. This means that if you are living with a same-sex or opposite-sex partner, you may apply to the Authority to adopt a child in your own right, intending to raise the child with your partner. However, your partner would have no legal rights in relation to the child. The fact you are in a relationship is relevant only when evaluating circumstances that might affect the child's welfare.

For a foreign adoption to be recognised in Ireland, it must comply with the definition of adoption in Irish law. This means that the rule that only married couples may jointly adopt will apply.

Step-parent adoption

Step-parent adoption refers to the adoption of a child by the birth mother (usually) and her spouse, who is not the birth father of the child. If only her spouse adopted the child she would lose her rights and responsibilities in relation to the child and would no longer be the child's guardian. As mentioned previously they must be married to each other for both of them to be able to adopt. They will then both be adoptive parents. You can find out about step-parent adoption on the Adoption Authority's website.


When a child is being adopted there is a requirement to consult the birth father. If the birth father is a guardian his consent is required. You can read more about adoption and consent here.

How to apply

Further information about adoption is available from your local Child and Family Agency adoption service.

Where to apply

Adoption Authority of Ireland

Shelbourne House
Shelbourne Road
Dublin 4

Tel:(01) 230 9300
Contact Form:

Page edited: 12 March 2014