Adoption in Malaysia is referred to as a process whereby a person takes legal responsibility to a child from the child’s biological or legal parents and taking care of as his or her own. The interest of the adopted child needs to be protected as follow:
- Can legally deal with school registration, passport application, and other official matters;
- To prohibit biological / natural parents take back the child;
- As legal beneficiaries (issue) under Distribution Act 1958 in the matter of intestate estate; and
- Can able to change the surname of the child.
In order to protect the best interest of the adopted child, there are two separate but concurrent law in Malaysia to deal with this matter, which are Adoption Act 1952 (applicable for non-Muslims only) and Registration of Adoptions Act 1952 (usually applicable for Muslims and the act is silent on legal effect of the registration). Usually, adoptive parents are advised to obtain an order for adoption under the Adoption Act 1952 due to the silent effect of the registration.
Once a child adopted under the Adoption Act 1952, the child is legally presume born in lawful wedlock of adoptive parents. It requires a formal application to court and hearing in the judge’s chamber. An interim order will be grant in the first hearing and a welfare officer will be appointed by the judge as the guardian ad litem to monitor and investigate the welfare of the child. Usually, the subsequent hearing will be about 3 months later for the judge to grant the adoption order, only if the judge satisfied with the welfare report of the child and no doubt of adoptive parents’ intention for the adoption application.
The adoption order needs to be sent to the National Registration Department (NRD) to issue a new birth certificate that carries the name of the adoptive parents and child as if the child was born to the adoptive parents. However, if the child’s original citizenship is uncertain or unknown, NRD will not declare the child be a Malaysian citizen. In such a situation, adoptive parents are advised to apply to the Minister of Home Affairs under Article 15A of the Federal Constitution for the child’s citizenship.