Since the Belgian Civil Code was modified in 2003, adoptions (simple and plenary), even international ones, must go through a strict procedure which does not include anymore the possibility to independently organise an adoption outside the strict framework.
You need to attend a preparation seminar organised by the competent “Central Authority of the Community” and then obtain an aptitude judgment issued by the youth tribunal. Every adoption application is closely monitored by a registered institution or by the central authority, each having the power to decide whether or not to accept the application.
An adoption candidate who resides in Belgium and wishes to adopt a child, who resides in another state, is obliged to undertake the specific procedures in the right order. This ensures that the foreign adoption will be recognised in Belgium and that the adoptee will be allowed to join the adoptive family.
If the adoptee is an adult or if the adoption takes place within the same family (“intra-family” adoption) the rules may vary.
You must also take into account the particular situations such as those which arise from the absence of adoption laws in some states (or the situation of the “Kefala” for example).
In practice, there have been exceptional situations where adopting candidates residing in Belgium have adopted children from overseas with complete lack of respect of the legal procedure. Until recently, recognizing these adoptions was technically impossible. Nowadays, the law of 11 April 2012 allows to recognize in Belgium certain adoption procedures that have been legally put in place abroad. This law meets the desire of families who didn’t wish to circumvent the Belgian law. For example the expat family who adopted a foreign child while overseas, would like to return to Belgium without facing the possibility of having to be separated from the child.
Independent adoption channels are not bluntly restored. The law only aims at taking into account exceptional circumstances, while safeguarding the child’s interests, and while respecting strict and cumulative conditions :
- There can be no fraud against the law
- The child must be a member of the family or have been emotionally linked to the adopting individual prior to any adoption project
- The child must not have any other way to be taken into a family’s charge other than through adoption
- Those involved in the adoption must not have attempted to bypass legal rules such as those pertaining to nationality and access to the territory
- The relevant central authority gives a formally justified opinion after exchange of information with the relevant authority of the country of origin about the possibility of the child’s adoption.
The competent central authority is thus responsible for evaluating these situations and giving its authorisation to adopting candidates to follow the preparation course. It is subsequently possible to obtain retroactively an aptitude judgement. Finally, the central authority can decide to recognise the foreign adoption decision which was previously obtained by the adopting candidates.
In some cases, legal actions or court cases are possible when the adoption has not been recognised, or to convert, annul or review the adoption.
The field of international adoption is a complex one, as it has many practical implications to consider.
Altea offers advice by expert lawyers, adapted to your personal situation.
Contact Céline Verbrouck or Catherine de Bouyalski, specialist lawyers in immigration law and international family law, certified by the Order of Lawyers of the Bar of Brussels.