The adoption process

General information

An adoptive child can be accepted by a married couple, by a single person or by registered partners. The adoptive parent takes the place of the corresponding biological parent.

The suitability of the adopting person to assume the parenting of an adoptive child is assessed in detail by the youth department of the relevant district authoritytGerman text, the municipal executiveGerman text and, in Vienna, the Youth and Family OfficeGerman text.

Due to the considerable amount of interest in adoption, applicants should expect a waiting period of at least two to three years. Single people and couples who already have biological children generally have a lower chance of being able to adopt a child. If the child’s biological parents have died, relatives of the deceased have a better chance of being able to adopt the child.

Advice

Further information on foreign adoption can also be found at oesterreich.gv.at.

Requirements

  •  An essential requirement for the approval of the adoption is the reasonable expectation or the circumstance that a relationship corresponding to that between biological parents and children will be established or already exists between the adopting persons and the child to be adopted. The adoption must be in the best interests of children who do not have full legal capacity. In the case of children who do have full legal capacity (i.e. who are of full age), on the other hand, there must be a close relationship similar to that of a parent-child relationship. This is particularly likely to be the case if the child to be adopted and the adopting person have either lived together in the same household for five years or have supported each other in a comparably close community. This time span only serves as guidance.
  • There must be no conflicting ‘overriding concern’ in respect of a biological child of the adopting person (e.g. endangerment of the maintenance or upbringing of biological children). Financial interests of the biological children (e.g. reduction of their share in the inheritance) are generally not taken into consideration.
  • Minimum age of adoptive parents:
    The adopting persons, i.e. the adoptive parents, must be at least 25 years old.
  • Maximum age of the adoptive parents:
    The maximum age is not prescribed by law.
  • Age difference:
    The adopting person must be older than the child to be adopted.
  • Marital status:
    As a general rule, spouses/registered partners are only allowed to adopt a child together. The law makes provision for individual exceptions. In non-marital partnerships, however, the child can only be adopted by one parent. In principle, single people may also adopt a child. Further information on stepchild adoption can also be found at oesterreich.gv.at.
  • Both future adoptive parents must consent to the adoption.
  • The personal, social, health and economic conditions must all be right.

Competent authority

Procedure for adopting a child:

Tip

The first-stop shop for assuming the parenting of an adoptive child is the youth department of the relevant district authorityGerman text , the municipal executiveGerman text or, in Vienna, the Youth and Family OfficeGerman text . They offer you advice, information and support when you are preparing for an adoption.

Adoptions can be arranged only by the child and youth support authority, formerly referred to as the youth welfare authority, or by recognised private institutions that are licensed to arrange adoptions in the respective province. The relevant child and youth support authority can provide you with information about this (and about private adoption agencies).

The charging of a fee for arranging an adoption is not permitted!

You should be cautious of supposedly quick and unbureaucratic assistance from private agencies in Austria or abroad!

Procedure

An adoption is brought about by a written contract between the adoptive parents and the adoptive child, and that contract must still be approved by the court.

The adoption contract does not become effective until it has been given judicial approval. The decision on the approval of the adoption contract is taken by the competent local guardianship court (District Court (→ BMJ)German text in the child’s place of residence). Before making its decision, the court (→ BMJ)German text must examine all the conditions for adoption and also hold hearings.

The approval of the adoption contract by the court (→ BMJ)German text can be granted only if the following persons consent to the adoption:

  • the parents of minor adoptive child
  • the spouse or registered partner of the adopting person
  • if applicable, the spouse of the (married) adoptive child or the registered partner of the adoptive child
  • an adult adoptive child unable to make informed decisions
  • the legal representative of a minor adoptive child

Advice

Mothers who are still minors also have the right to consent to the adoption of their child and cannot be forced to release it for adoption.

The following people have the right to be heard in the approval procedure before the court (→ BMJ)German text:

  • minor adoptive children unable to make informed decisions
  • the parents of the adult adoptive child
  • the child and youth support authorityGerman text
  • if applicable, the foster parents or the head of the home in which the adoptive child is located

If the court (→ BMJ)German text gives its approval, the adoption begins to take effect when contractual consensus is reached (a contract is entered into).

The law exhaustively lists a limited number of grounds on which the judicial approval may be retroactively revoked (e.g. if the adoption was effected with the primary intention of enabling the adoptive child to bear the surname of an adoptive parent) or annulled (e.g. if maintaining the adoption would seriously endanger the welfare of an adoptive child who does not have full legal capacity), and the revocation or annulment can take place ex officio or at the request of one of the parties to the contract.

Required documents

The adoption of a child is brought about by a written contract between the adopting person and the child to be adopted and by judicial approval at the request of one of the parties to the contract. If the child to be adopted does not have full legal capacity, the contract is concluded by his/her legal representative.

  • certified copies of the most recent date from the birth register regarding the adoptive child, biological parents and adoptive parents;
  • if applicable, marriage certificates or, even better, certified copies of the most recent date from the marriage register regarding the biological parents and the adoptive parents;
  • confirmation of the registration of the biological parents and the adoptive parents;
  • certificate of nationality of the adoptive child, biological parents and adoptive parents;
  • declarations of consent of the biological parents and the future siblings (if there are any);
  •  power of attorney of the biological parents;
  • if applicable, proof of the university degree of the adoptive child, biological parents or adoptive parents.

Upon request, the confirmation of registration of residence can be obtained by the authority via a search in the Central Civil Register (Zentrales Melderegister, ZMR).

Further information

Links to advice centres and further information can also be found at oesterreich.gv.at.

Legal basis

Sections 191 to 203 of the Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (ABGB)

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 25 January 2021

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Justice