A stepparent can soon adopt their stepchild and have a “legal relationship” with them, as per the latest regulations – stipulated under the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 – that will come into effect on January 16. The definition of children eligible for adoption will now include those of a relative as well as of a spouse from an earlier marriage, surrendered by the biological parent(s), PTI reported.

Earlier, only an orphan or a child abandoned or surrendered by the biological parents was allowed to be adopted through the Central Adoption Resource Authority, the central government body that monitors and regulates all adoptions in India. As per the new regulations, even a relative will be allowed to adopt a child.

“There is no law in India that defines the legal relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild,” said Lieutanent Colonel Deepak Kumar, CEO of the adoption authority. “There has always been a gap, and we are seeking to address that.” The new regulations have also waived off the age criteria for prospective adoptive parents.

In the case of a stepchild’s adoption, the couple, including one of the biological parents, must register with the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System and also get the other biological parent’s consent. For this, an application for an adoption order needs to be filed in a court.

For adoption by a relative, the prospective parent(s) will need the consent of the biological parents, if they are alive, or approach the Child Welfare Committee. A relative can be a paternal uncle or aunt, a maternal uncle or aunt, or a paternal or maternal grandparent.