Adoption is a wonderful opportunity to expand your family. The path to adoption can take many turns, and every case is unique. Below are some common questions we get as adoption attorneys.
WHAT IS AN ADOPTION?
An adoption is the process whereby a non-biological parent becomes a legal parent of a child. It determines who will legally take care of the child (parental rights and responsibilities), and permanently severs ties with birth parents and their families. In some adoptions (called open adoptions), birth parents retain the right to communicate or visit the child. In any event, the birth parents are permanently relieved of all responsibilities of the child’s care and financial needs. To the adoptive parents, adoption means providing for and undertaking the care of a child as though the child was born to them. Due to the unique and complex nature of every adoption, partnering with an experienced adoption attorney is highly recommended.
WHO CAN BE ADOPTED?
Any minor (a person under 18 years) present within the state when the petition for adoption is filed may be adopted, and sibling groups may be adopted together. An adult also may be adopted.
WHO CAN ADOPT AND WHO CANNOT ADOPT A CHILD?
Any adult who can nurture and provide for a child may adopt. Single adults, as well as married couples, may adopt. A stepparent may adopt a spouse’s children and grandparents may adopt their grandchildren. Those who are not biologically related to a child may adopt. It is now legal for gay couples or individuals to adopt a child. A person may not be prohibited from adopting solely because of a physical disability, unless of course it is determined that the disability renders the person incapable of effectively taking care of the child.
DO I HAVE TO GET AN ADOPTION HOME STUDY BEFORE THE ADOPTION CAN BE GRANTED?
Maybe. If you are seeking to adopt a stepchild, a grandchild, or any child related within the third-degree, you do not have to get an adoption home study. Otherwise, if you are not related to the child, you will have to complete an adoption home study. This involves a background check, an in-person evaluation of your home before and after placement of the child in your home, and communication with references. These services are performed by a licensed care social worker. Get in touch with a specialized adoption attorney to discuss the details of your case.
DO THE BIRTH PARENTS HAVE TO COOPERATE WITH THE ADOPTION?
No, but if they do not consent, you will need to prove that they failed to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child and thereby implied their consent. This is a contested adoption. However, the easiest and most efficient course is to get the biological parents to sign a written consent and file the case as an uncontested adoption. The birth parents must be served, but if one or both birth parents cannot be located, they can be served by publication.
HOW LONG DOES AN ADOPTION TAKE?
Many adoptions begin with identifying a child for adoption. This can take months or years. However, once the child is identified and placed, the process can be relatively fast. If the birth parents consent to the adoption, the adoption can be completed in three-four months. If they do not consent, and a trial is needed to determine whether the adoption should be granted over their objection, then the case can take considerably longer. An experienced adoption attorney can help you navigate the twists and turns of your case.
HOW MUCH DOES ADOPTION COST?
The legal fees and costs for your adoption will depend on whether the birth parents sign a written consent to the adoption, or whether a trial will be needed. If the birth parents cannot be located, there will be additional costs for publication. There are also court filing fees. But, in certain cases, the fees and costs associated with your adoption can be written off as a tax credit.
HOW DO I START THE ADOPTION PROCESS?
Give us a call at (850) 613-6923 or contact our office to schedule a consultation. You should consult with an experienced Florida adoption attorney and understand your rights before deciding to proceed with an adoption case. We have offices in Fort Walton Beach and Miramar Beach to serve clients in Okaloosa County, Walton County, and surrounding areas.