What is adoption and how does it happen?

Adoption is the legal procedure by which a child that lacks any biological or legal parents to care for them to be able to have “substitute” parents authorized by the Court to act in place of the biological parents. Adoptions become necessary in the event that biological parents predecease their children, biological parents surrender their parental rights or a court of law terminates the parental rights of a child An adoption is a serious matter because it determines the entire future of the child by permanently severing ties with birth parents and relatives and transfers the child into a new family where he or she will remain permanently. The adoptive parents assume all of the rights and responsibilities that were vested in the biological parents for providing the child with the support, care and other necessities required for the child to become an adult. Under most circumstances, an adoption means the biological parents no long have any rights and often no contact with the child any longer. While some types of adoptions, termed open adoption, biological parents still have the right to communicate or visit the child. Additionally, 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 to whom they will have the same obligations to as a child naturally born to them.

According to recent Florida Bar research, the following are the restrictions and requirements for a child to be adopted within the state:

-Any minor (a person under 18 years) located within the state when the petition for adoption is filed may be adopted. Sibling groups, or children with the same biological parent(s) may also be adopted together. While an adult may also be adopted, most adoptions involve minor children. The procedure for adults is similar but considerably simpler.

-Most adults who live and work in the state, are of good character, and have the ability to nurture and provide for a child may adopt. Single adults, as well as married couples, may adopt. A stepparent may adopt his or her spouse’s children.

-A person may not be prohibited from adopting solely because of a physical disability unless it is determined that the disability renders the person incapable of being an effective parent. Florida law specifies that homosexuals are not eligible to adopt, but recent judicial decisions have challenged this law.

-Florida’s current adoption law balances the interests of all parties, the biological parents, the adoptee and the adoptive parents. However, the biological parent’s rights are primary until that parent voluntarily surrenders their rights or fails to act to protect their rights under Florida Law.

-Four types of adoptions exist in Florida: The entity adoption (an agency or intermediary facilitated adoption), the step-parent adoption, the close relative and the adult adoption. Each type of adoption has unique procedure.

-A court presiding over any Florida Adoption must receive proof that facts exist to terminate the biological relationship forever. A biological parent may properly execute a consent for adoption and surrender his/her rights to their child. Alternatively, a court must hear proof that the parent has abused, abandoned or neglected the child or otherwise failed to protect their parental rights under Florida law. Proof of the death of all known biological parents will serve as evidence that no biological relationship currently exists. For example, although there are exceptions, an unmarried biological father must register his paternity with Florida’s Putative Father Registry; otherwise, the court will not require his consent before proceeding to complete an adoption plan. An unmarried biological father must register his paternity prior to the filing of a petition to terminate his rights or within 30 days of service of a Notice of Intended Adoption Plan. The adoption entity involved with the placement is required to serve a known and locatable unmarried biological father with a Notice of Intended Adoption plan that advises him of Florida’s Putative Father Registry and the steps he must take to avoid a default and waiver of any claim of rights to the child.

-The adult adoption is an exception to this rule. The consent of the biological and legal parents are not required to complete such an adoption, however, the petitioner must provide notice to the biological or legal parents.

-A consent for adoption is only valid and binding when executed pursuant to the specific requirements of Florida Law. When a child under the age of six months is placed for adoption, the biological mother may not sign her consent for adoption until forty-eight hours after the child’s birth or on her date of discharge from the hospital or birth center which ever time is earlier. In these circumstances, a birth father may sign a consent for adoption at any time after the child’s birth. Additionally, a legal or biological father may sign an irrevocable Affidavit of Non-paternity at any time, before or after the child’s birth, relinquishing parental rights. When a child is six months of age or older, the mother and father may sign the consent at any time and their consent is subject to a revocation period of 3 business days. In either case, once the consents are signed with witnesses and notary, and the revocation period has passed if the child is six months or older, only the court presiding over the adoption can overturn the consents upon a finding that the consents were taken by fraud or duress.

-After a court issues a judgment terminating the biological parent-child relationship, the time frame for completing the adoption differs. In the case of an entity adoption, the adoptive parents are not eligible to finalize their adoption until 30 days after the judgment terminating parental rights or 90 days after placement of the child in their home, which ever event occurs later. In the step-parent, close relative and adult adoption, the adoptive parents are eligible to immediately finalize their adoption. Additionally, in stepparent and close relative adoptions, the adopting parent(s) have the option of proceeding in a unified legal process in which the order finalizing the adoption also simultaneously terminates parental rights. A unified proceeding is typical for adult adoptions.

-When pursuing the entity adoption, prospective adoptive parents must decide whether to pursue their adoption through an agency or an attorney (“intermediary”). Prospective Adoptive Parents should only chose an adoption entity that instills in them a significant level of trust. They should fully research the entity’s credentials, obtain references and recommendations and fully understand the procedures and costs. The same law applies to both the agency and the attorney/intermediary adoption.

-Step-parent adoptions are common when one biological parent is willing to give up their parental rights to that step-parent. After adoption, the step-parent has all rights and responsibilities of the biological parent. In step-parent adoptions, as with all other adoptions, if the child is twelve years of age or older, he or she must give his/her consent to the adoption and must be interviewed prior to signing the consent.

It is not uncommon that biological parents, through death of other circumstances, lose the ability to care for their children and substitute parents must be found . Adoption is a common solution to that problem. It is important that, when faced with that situation, proper consideration is given to the unique needs of the child. If you have any questions adoption, you owe it to yourself to obtain advice from a qualified, experienced and compassionate attorney before making a major decision that could have a lifelong impact on the lives of you and your loved ones. Dan Newlin & Partners are exactly those types of attorneys. Call now for free advice on adoption, family law, and other legal issues. The call is free, but the advice could be priceless. Call Dan Newlin & Partners now at (407) 888-8000.