The legal provisions regulating national and international adoption procedure in Russia are:
- Family Code (Chapter 19);
- Code of Civil Procedure (Chapter 29);
- Federal Law dated the 16th of April 2001 No 44-ФЗ ‘The State Data Base on Children Left Without Parental Care’.
- Decree of the Government dated the 29th of March 2000 No 275 ‘Rules about Placement of Children with View of Adoption and Monitoring of Conditions of Their Life and Education in Families in Russia and Rules about Registration of Children who are Russian Citizens Adopted by Foreign Citizens by Russian Consulars’ (last modification the 14th of December 2019);
- Decree of the Government dated the 4th of April 2002 No 217 ‘The State Data Base on Children Left Without Parental Care and Monitoring of its Formation and Use’;
- Decree of the Government dated the 4th of November 2006 No 654 ‘Foreign Adoption Agencies and Their Activity in Russia’.
The principle of subsidiarity of international adoption laid down in Article 21 (b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, governs the procedure of international adoption.
Who can be adopted? Only a child under the age of 18 can be adopted. Parental agreement to the adoption must be given (art. 129 of the Family Code) or be dispensed with (Art. 130 of the Family Code) if his/her parents:
- are dead;
- their whereabouts is unknown, they have been judicially declared missing or dead;
- they have been judicially limited in capacity;
- they have been deprived of parental authority;
- they abandoned the child more than 6 months ago and have failed to discharge their parental obligations.
Additional requirements for intercountry adoption:
- the child cannot be placed in a foster family in Russia;
- relatives of the child, regardless of their citizenship and place of residence are not willing to adopt him/her;
- twelve months have passed from the date of entry of information about a child in the Federal Data Base on Children Left Without Parental Care.
Who can adopt? Joint and sole applications can be made, but only a married couple can make a joint application. A sole application can be made by a single person or by a married person if the other spouse cannot be found, or if they have been living separately for more than one year and his/her place of residence is unknown. The question of marital status is connected with the aspiration of the legislator to provide the child with mother and father parental models, serving the best interests of the child. A 16-years difference between the prospective adopter(s) and the child is necessary (Art.128 of the Family Code). Russian legislation does not recognize the requirement of a maximum age limit or a maximum age difference between the adopter(s) and the adoptee.
Art.127 of the Family Code imposes certain requirements on prospective adopters. They are formulated negatively in the sense that the article contains a list of circumstances that make a prospective adopter unsuitable to adopt. Thus, persons who are not suitable to adopt are:
- persons who are incapable or enjoy limited capacity;
- persons deprived of the right of parental custody;
- ex-adopters, if the previous adoption was revoked through his/her fault;
- persons with previous criminal convictions;
- persons whose income does not allow them to financially cover rearing a child;
- persons who don’t possess a permanent place of residence;
- persons whose accommodation conditions do not conform to sanitary and technical requirements and standards;
- persons who cannot discharge their parental duties due to health conditions;
- persons who have not completed parental training courses (“School of Foster Parents”) in Russia or, for foreign citizens, in a respective country, if the program of parental training courses satisfies the Russian authority in terms of the subjects covered;
- persons who have registered a same-sex partnership/marriage according to the legislation of a respective country;
- single persons who are citizens of countries where it is possible to register a same-sex partnership/marriage.
Evaluation Procedure: The authority is given to the child protection office of the place of residence of the prospective adopter(s) or of the place of residence of the child to evaluate the eligibility of a candidate(s).
The candidate(s) applies to the child protection office having enclosed the following documents:
- a CV;
- a document from their place of work indicating the level of their salary;
- a document confirming the rights to their home property;
- a certificate from the Ministry of Internal Affairs indicating that the person has no convictions for a crime against health or life;
- an official medical certificate from a State or municipal medical establishment regarding the health condition of the candidate(s);
- a copy of the marriage certificate (if the person is married).
- a foreign citizen who is not married must additionally provide a document from the competent authority of his/her State, attesting that the legislation of that State does not recognize same-sex partnership as a marriage.
Court procedure The procedure of court hearing of adoption cases is regulated by the Russian Code of Civil Procedure. Courts of the first instance at the place of residence of the child are competent to hear domestic adoption cases, higher courts are competent to hear international adoption cases (Article 269).
Article 135 of the Family Code and Article 270 of the Code of Civil Procedure stipulates that the applicants (adoptive parents-to-be) may ask the court to modify the name (family name, patronymic and personal name) of the child, his/her place of birth, and his/her age (not more than three months). The court hearing takes place in a closed court session with the participation of the child protection authority, a prosecutor (his participation emphasizes the public interest of adoption cases), the applicant (who may be accompanied by a lawyer, as is always the case in the international adoption cases), and eventually of other concerned persons (Article 273of the Code of Civil Procedure). Who the other concerned persons might be depending on the circumstances of the particular case and on the facts that are to be established in court. Thus, the role of the court is always to establish whether the child has relatives, as well as the reasons why the child’s relatives refused to take him/her into their family. Very often, it is the old age of relatives and their difficult financial situation which causes them to drop the idea of taking a child into a family. The court must also establish how many Russian citizens were aware of the child and what the reasons are for their refusal to take him under foster care or to adopt him. By establishing these facts, the court abides by Article 124 (4) of the Family Code which allows international adoption only if the relatives of a child are not willing to adopt him/her and if a child cannot be placed in a foster family in Russia and applies the principle of subsidiarity of international adoption.
The question of whether the adoptive parents speak Russian and if not, how they are going to overcome the language barrier, considering the age of a child and his language skills, is the focus of the court’s attention in each case. Courts also examine whether the adoptive parents-to-be are going to promote the child’s learning of the Russian language (or another language given that Russia is a multinational country), to encourage the child’s interest in the culture of the Russian Federation. The applicants must explain at the court hearing how it will be possible for the child to learn the Russian language if his/her adoption takes place
The court needs to examine whether the parental training school completed by the adoptive parents-to-be meets the criteria established in the instructions approved by the Ministry of Education on the 20th of August 2012 No. 623 titled ‘Approval of the Requirements for the Training Program for Persons Wishing to Adopt a Child Left Without Parental Care’.
If necessary, the court speaks to the experts and psychologists involved to assess whether adoption will be in the best interests of the child.
Since international adoption cases are difficult, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation issues international adoption reviews, where any misapplication of legal provisions is highlighted.
The Right to Know One’s Origin: Russian family law still firmly adheres to the principle of strict confidentiality of adoption. Thus, Art. 139 of the Family Code stipulates that confidentiality of adoption is guaranteed by law and states that all persons involved are liable to keep the secret of adoption and may disclose it only with the consent of the adoptive parents.
Private Placements for Adoption: It is a criminal offence to make private placements of children for adoption.
Post-adoption follow-up: Adoptive parents are to submit reports about the well-being of the child either through the Russian Consulate in their country or through an adoption agency.