Why Might an Unwed Parent Adopt His or Her Own Biological Child?

Adoption of children is not uncommonly heard of, but what about a mother who legally adopts her biological child born out of wedlock to give the child the status of being her lawful child, so as to protect the child’s interests?

This article explores the implications for both the child and the unwed parent who successfully adopts his or her own biological child. Whilst some of the issues canvassed below apply to adoptions generally, this article focuses on an unwed parent’s adoption of his or her biological child.

What is the Legal Status of a Child Born Out of Wedlock?

Under the law, a child is legitimate only if he or she was born or conceived during the existence of a valid marriage between his or her biological parents. Consequently, a child born out of wedlock is considered illegitimate. Notwithstanding this, it has been said that the effect of illegitimacy has been significantly diminished such that there remains only a residual effect on a child being illegitimate.

Adoption as a Means to Legitimacy

The law offers several avenues to legitimacy, one of which being adoption. When the court grants an Adoption Order, a parent-child relationship is created such that the child is a legitimate child of his or her adoptive parent(s).

Besides changing the legal status of the child, an Adoption Order may also have an impact on the following:

Custody of the child

Besides creating a parent-child relationship between the child and his or her adoptive parent, an Adoption Order also legally severs the naturally created relationship between the child and his or her biological parents.

In the context of a biological parent adopting his or her child, this effectively means that the parent-child relationship between the other biological parent and the child will be severed.

The existence of a parent-child relationship is the basis for a parent to exercise custody over a child. Hence, the effect of an Adoption Order being granted to one biological parent means that the other biological parent may no longer exercise custody over the child.


Adopted children are included under the definition of “child” under the Intestate Succession Act. This means that an adopted child will be entitled to a share of his or her adoptive parent’s estate as if he or she was the latter’s legitimate child.

In contrast, illegitimate children are not included under the definition of “child” under the Intestate Succession Act. Thus, an illegitimate child will not be entitled to any share of his or her natural father’s inheritance if he passes away without leaving a will. The child will only be entitled to a share of his or her natural mother’s inheritance, provided that she does not have other legitimate children.

Maintenance of parents

Once there is an Adoption Order in place, the adopted child would only be liable to maintain the adoptive parent under the Maintenance of Parents Act (i.e. when the parent is above 60 years of age and is unable to maintain himself or herself adequately). Thus, the child is not liable to maintain the parent with whom he or she has an illegitimate relationship with.

Tax relief

With the Adoption Order, a single unwed parent will, as with parents who are married, divorced or widowed, be entitled to pay a reduced amount of taxes because he or she may claim Qualifying Child Relief or Handicapped Child Relief.

What the Adoption Order Does Not Affect

Baby Bonus 

An unwed parent’s adoption of his or her own biological child will not affect the Baby Bonus benefits that a child is entitled to.

Under the prevailing policy, children of unwed parents are eligible to join the Baby Bonus Scheme if the child is a Singapore citizen who was born or has an estimated date of delivery on or after 1 September 2016. However, enrolment into the Baby Bonus Scheme is only in respect of the Child Development Account (CDA) benefits and not for the cash gift of S$8,000.

Under the Baby Bonus CDA benefits, an initial balance of S$3,000 is deposited by the government into the child’s CDA account and dollar-for-dollar matching is given for monies saved in the CDA beyond the initial balance (up to a certain limit).


An illegitimate child’s citizenship status depends on whether the child’s mother is a Singapore citizen.

The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore requires the mother of the illegitimate child to be a Singapore citizen in order for the child to acquire citizenship by birth. Therefore, if the child’s mother is not a Singapore citizen, the child will not be able to acquire Singapore citizenship by birth even his or her biological father is a Singapore citizen. Having an Adoption Order will not, in itself, affect the citizenship status of the child.

Eligibility of parent to purchase a new HDB flat

A single parent will not be able to form a family nucleus with his or her child for the purposes of purchasing a new HDB flat under HDB’s Public Scheme.

One may only form a family nucleus with his or her spouse and children, parents and siblings, and (if he or she is widowed or divorced) children under his or her legal custody, care, and control.

Therefore, a single parent can only apply to purchase a new HDB flat under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme when he or she reaches the age of 35 – having an Adoption Order will not change that.

Maternity or paternity leave

The legitimacy of the child will not affect a single unwed mother’s ability to benefit from the maternity leave period of 16 weeks so long as the child is a citizen of Singapore at the time of birth, or becomes a citizen of Singapore within a period of 12 months after birth.

However, a single unwed father (who is not considered as the child’s natural father) will only be able to benefit from the paternity leave period of 2 weeks if he is the adoptive parent of the child.

School and healthcare subsidies

Regardless of legitimacy status, all Singaporean children will stand to be entitled to the government benefits that support the growth and development of children. All Singaporean children have access to social assistance, education and healthcare subsidies, infant care and child care subsidies.

Can Both the Biological Father and Biological Mother Adopt the Child? 

An illegitimate child may be adopted by either his or her biological mother or father, but they may not do so jointly unless they are married. This is because a joint adoption order will only be granted to spouses. 

Process of Adoption

Prospective adopters of a child must attend a compulsory Pre-Adoption Briefing conducted by the accredited agencies appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (“MSF”).

After submitting an Originating Summons for Adoption with a supporting affidavit and an Adoption Statement, the court will instruct the prospective adopter to seek consent from the Director of Social Welfare from the MSF to act as Guardian-In-Adoption (GIA) for the child during the adoption process.

The GIA’s duty is to safeguard the interest of the child being considered for adoption. After the Director of Social Welfare is appointed as the GIA, investigations will be conducted and an affidavit will be submitted to the prospective adopter upon completion. The prospective adopter then has to submit this affidavit to the court and apply for a hearing date for a grant of the Adoption Order.

Upon the grant of an Adoption Order, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will be able to register the adoption and issue a new birth certificate for the child.

You may also wish to refer to our article on adoption for more information.