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This article will give you detailed  Understanding of  Family Law: Adoption, Guardianship, and Surrogacy in India

Introduction to Family Law in India

Family law in India encompasses a range of legal matters relating to family relationships, such as marriage, divorce, child custody, adoption, guardianship, and surrogacy. This article provides an in-depth analysis of three significant aspects of family law: adoption, guardianship, and surrogacy, focusing on their legal frameworks, societal implications, and recent developments.

Understanding Family Law: Adoption, Guardianship, and Surrogacy in India

Understanding Family Law: Adoption, Guardianship, and Surrogacy in India

The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)

I. Introduction to CARA

The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body in India that functions as the nodal agency for adoption. It operates under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Established to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions, CARA plays a pivotal role in ensuring ethical practices and the well-being of children involved in the adoption process.

II. History and Establishment of CARA

CARA was originally formed as a society in 1990 but was later granted statutory status under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. This elevation to a statutory body helped in enforcing greater accountability and standardization in adoption processes across India.

III. Objectives and Functions of CARA

A. Objectives:

  1. To ensure the best interests of children are prioritized in the adoption process.
  2. To streamline adoption procedures, making them more transparent, efficient, and user-friendly.

B. Functions of CARA:

  1. Regulation and Monitoring: CARA regulates both domestic and inter-country adoptions, ensuring adherence to legal procedures.
  2. Centralized Database: Maintains a centralized database of children available for adoption and prospective adoptive parents.
  3. Awareness and Training: Conducts awareness programs and provides training to adoption agencies.
  4. Grievance Redressal: Addresses complaints related to adoption and takes necessary action against malpractices.
  5. Policy Formulation: Assists in formulating policies related to adoption, considering the socio-legal aspects.

IV. Adoption Process Through CARA

The adoption process under CARA involves several steps:

  1. Registration: Prospective adoptive parents register on CARA’s online portal.
  2. Home Study Report: A social worker conducts a home study to assess the suitability of the prospective adoptive parents.
  3. Child Referral: Parents are referred a child based on their preferences and the child’s needs.
  4. Legal Process: Legal procedures are followed, culminating in the court issuing an adoption order.

V. CARA’s Role in Inter-Country Adoptions

For inter-country adoptions, CARA works closely with foreign adoption agencies and Indian diplomatic missions to ensure a smooth, transparent, and legal process. It adheres to the principles of the Hague Adoption Convention, aiming to prevent child trafficking and abduction.

VI. Challenges and Criticisms

Despite its crucial role, CARA has faced challenges, including bureaucratic delays and a shortage of staff. Criticisms also arise regarding the complexity of the adoption process, which can be daunting for many prospective parents.

Legal Criteria and Eligibility


A. Legal Framework: Adoption in India is primarily governed by the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA) of 1956 for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, and by the Guardians and Wards Act (GWA) of 1890 for others. Additionally, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015 plays a crucial role.

B. Eligibility Criteria:

  1. Age: The adoptive parent must be at least 21 years old. There is no upper age limit, but age difference with the child is considered.
  2. Marital Status: Both single and married individuals can adopt. In the case of married couples, consent of both spouses is necessary.
  3. Financial Stability: The adoptive parent(s) must have adequate financial resources to provide for the child.
  4. Health: Good mental and physical health is required to ensure the wellbeing of the child.


A. Legal Framework: Guardianship in India is regulated under the GWA of 1890, allowing appointment of a guardian for a minor’s person or property.

B. Eligibility Criteria:

  1. Age: The guardian must be an adult, generally over 21 years.
  2. Relationship: Preference is often given to close relatives, but non-relatives can also be appointed.
  3. Competence: The individual must be mentally and physically capable of taking care of the minor.
  4. Integrity: The potential guardian should have a sound moral character.


A. Legal Framework: The Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021, governs surrogacy in India. It allows altruistic surrogacy while prohibiting commercial surrogacy.

B. Eligibility Criteria:

  1. Intending Parents: Indian married couples, where both partners are of Indian origin, can opt for surrogacy.
  2. Age and Marital Status: The couple should have been married for at least five years, with the age of the female partner being 23-50 years and the male partner 26-55 years.
  3. Medical Need: Surrogacy is permissible only on medical grounds, which necessitate certification from a doctor.
  4. Surrogate Mother: She must be a close relative, a married woman having a child of her own, aged between 25-35 years, and can be a surrogate only once.

Guardianship in India: Understanding the Legalities

I. Introduction to Guardianship

Guardianship in India is a legal mechanism designed to protect the rights and well-being of minors and individuals who are incapable of taking care of themselves. This document outlines the legal framework, processes, and key considerations involved in obtaining guardianship in the context of Indian law, complementing the broader understanding of family law including adoption and surrogacy.

II. Legal Framework

Guardianship in India is primarily governed by the Guardians and Wards Act (GWA) of 1890. This Act provides the legal basis for appointing guardians for minors and lays down the principles for their welfare. In addition to the GWA, personal laws specific to various religions also play a role in guardianship matters.

III. Types of Guardianship

A. Natural Guardianship: This is automatically vested in the biological parents of a minor child – the father followed by the mother in certain religions, and vice versa in others. B. Testamentary Guardianship: A guardian appointed by the will of a child’s deceased parent. C. Legal Guardianship: Appointed by a court for minors who do not have natural or testamentary guardians.

IV. Appointment Process

A. Filing a Petition: The process begins with filing a petition in the relevant district court. B. Criteria for Appointment: The primary consideration is the welfare of the minor. The financial capability, age, health, and character of the prospective guardian are also evaluated. C. Court Procedure: The court examines the suitability of the proposed guardian and may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the minor’s interests. D. Rights and Responsibilities of Guardians: Guardians are responsible for the minor’s education, health, and property management. They must act in the best interest of the ward.

V. Guardianship and Adoption

While guardianship and adoption both involve the care of a child, they are legally distinct. Adoption is a permanent change in the parent-child relationship, whereas guardianship is usually a temporary arrangement and does not sever the biological parent-child relationship.

VI. Legal Challenges in Guardianship

Guardianship cases can be complex, especially when involving custody disputes, child welfare concerns, or management of the minor’s property. Courts often have to balance the rights of biological parents, the suitability of guardians, and the best interests of the child.

Surrogacy in India: Regulations and Challenges

I. Introduction to Surrogacy in India

Surrogacy, a method of assisted reproduction where a woman agrees to bear a child for another person or couple, has seen a significant evolution in its legal and social dimensions in India. This document explores the current regulatory landscape and the challenges faced in the context of surrogacy in India.

II. Legal Framework regarding Surrogacy in India

The primary legislation governing surrogacy in India is the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021. This Act was introduced to regulate surrogacy services, prevent commercialization, and protect the rights of all parties involved, especially the surrogate mother and the child.

III. Key Provisions of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021

A. Ban on Commercial Surrogacy: The Act prohibits commercial surrogacy, allowing only altruistic surrogacy without any monetary compensation to the surrogate mother except for medical expenses and insurance coverage.

B. Eligibility for Intended Parents: Only Indian married couples who have been legally married for at least five years and have certain medical conditions preventing natural conception are eligible. The age criteria set are 23-50 years for females and 26-55 years for males.

C. Surrogate Mother’s Eligibility: The surrogate must be a close relative of the intending couple, married, having a child of her own, aged between 25-35 years, and she can be a surrogate only once in her lifetime.

D. Establishment of National and State Surrogacy Boards: These boards are responsible for policy-making, regulation, and overseeing surrogacy clinics and procedures.

IV. Challenges in Surrogacy Regulation

A. Ethical Concerns: Ethical issues such as the exploitation of surrogate mothers, child abandonment, and the rights of the child remain areas of concern.

B. Legal and Social Stigma: Surrogacy is often entangled with complex legal issues and social stigma, making it difficult for all parties involved.

C. Limitations on Access: The stringent criteria for eligibility exclude a significant portion of potential intended parents, including unmarried individuals, LGBTQ+ couples, and live-in partners.

D. Health and Welfare of Surrogate Mothers: Ensuring the health, rights, and welfare of surrogate mothers remains a challenge, particularly in the context of rural and economically weaker sections.

V. International Surrogacy and India

India was once a hub for international surrogacy. However, with the new regulations, foreign nationals, NRIs, and PIOs are barred from availing of surrogacy services in India, addressing concerns over legal complexities and child citizenship issues.

Conclusion: The Evolving Landscape of Family Law in India

Family law in India, particularly concerning adoption, guardianship, and surrogacy, is evolving to address contemporary social realities and ethical considerations. It is crucial for prospective parents and legal practitioners to stay informed about these legal frameworks to ensure compliance and the protection of the rights and welfare of all parties involved.

FAQs on Family Law in India: Adoption, Guardianship, and Surrogacy

  1. What is the main authority for adoption in India?
    CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) is the main authority overseeing adoptions in India.
  2. Can foreigners adopt a child from India?
    Yes, foreigners can adopt from India, but they must follow the inter-country adoption guidelines set by CARA.
  3. What are the eligibility criteria for adopting a child in India?
    Eligibility criteria include age, financial stability, and a stable mental and physical health status, among others.
  4. How long does the adoption process usually take in India?
    The process can vary, typically taking several months to a year, depending on various factors like documentation and legal procedures.
  5. What is guardianship in Indian law?
    Guardianship refers to the legal responsibility of a person to care for a child whose parents are unable to do so.
  6. Who can become a guardian in India?
    Any adult who is capable of caring for a child and is deemed suitable by the court can become a guardian.
  7. What is the difference between adoption and guardianship in India?
    Adoption permanently changes the legal parent-child relationship, while guardianship is a temporary arrangement.
  8. Is surrogacy legal in India?
    Surrogacy is legal but heavily regulated, and commercial surrogacy is banned.
  9. Who can opt for surrogacy in India?
    Only Indian married couples, single women, and widows can opt for altruistic surrogacy as per the current laws.
  10. What are the ethical considerations in surrogacy?
    Issues include the rights of the surrogate mother, the child, and the impact on society.
  11. Can single parents adopt in India?
    Yes, single parents can adopt, but there are specific guidelines and restrictions in place.
  12. What is the role of CARA in inter-country adoptions?
    CARA regulates and facilitates the process, ensuring legal and ethical compliance.
  13. Are there age limits for prospective adoptive parents in India?
    Yes, there are age limits, which vary based on the age of the child being adopted.
  14. How is the child’s consent obtained in adoption?
    For children aged 5 and above, their consent is required in the adoption process.
  15. Can a child choose their adoptive parents?
    In some cases, older children may express preferences, but this is not a decisive factor.
  16. What legal processes are involved in guardianship?
    Legal processes involve filing a petition in court and obtaining a legal guardianship order.
  17. How does one become a legal guardian?
    By filing a petition in the relevant court and fulfilling all legal requirements.
  18. Can guardianship rights be revoked?
    Yes, if the guardian is found unfit, the court can revoke guardianship rights.
  19. Who can opt for guardianship in India?
    Relatives, family friends, or any suitable person as deemed by the court.
  20. Is gender a factor in determining eligibility for adoption or guardianship?
    No, gender is not a determining factor; eligibility is based on various other criteria.
  21. What are the rights of surrogate mothers in India?
    They have the right to proper medical care, insurance, and a choice to accept or decline surrogacy.
  22. Can same-sex couples opt for surrogacy in India?
    Currently, the law does not permit same-sex couples to opt for surrogacy in India.
  23. What happens if the adoptive parents pass away?
    A guardian or new adoptive parents can be appointed as per legal procedures.
  24. Can adopted children inherit property?
    Yes, once legally adopted, children have the same rights as biological children in terms of inheritance.
  25. Is there a legal difference between adopting a boy or a girl in India?
    No, the legal process is the same regardless of the child’s gender.
  26. How is the child’s welfare ensured in adoption and guardianship cases?
    Through background checks, home studies, and continuous monitoring by authorities.
  27. Can NRIs adopt from India?
    Yes, NRIs can adopt, but they must follow the guidelines for inter-country adoption.
  28. What are the psychological considerations in adoption and surrogacy?
    Counseling and psychological evaluations are part of the process to ensure the well-being of all parties involved.
  29. How are disputes in adoption and guardianship cases resolved?
    Disputes are resolved through legal proceedings, often involving family courts.
  30. Can a surrogate mother claim custody of the child after birth?
    Under the current law, a surrogate mother cannot claim custody of the child after birth.

Sources :-

1. The Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021,

2. Guardians and Wards Act (GWA) of 1890

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