Beginning stages of Adoption in Family Law

A legal adoption requires both biological parents to consent to the adoption unless parental rights have been terminated or if the parents are deemed unfit. Most states don’t allow the parents to consent until after the birth and other states will require a longer time period before allowing the birth parents to sign their rights away. They have  a window of opportunity to change their minds. State laws differ in this respect, but you can check the laws to ensure the time period before consent can be given and when it becomes final.

Adopting a child is a beautiful and selfless thing usually done by people who truly have all the love to give to a child. However, the process is emotionally difficult and bureaucratic to ensure that all parties are in agreement and that the child has the best life possible as a result.

Home Study Conducted by Social Worker

All 50 states require an investigation or “home study” to ensure their fitness to be parents. An agent of the state or a social worker usually does the investigation and examines the home life of the prospective parents and provides a report justifying or negating a recommendation of adoption. No matter what, the court has the final say on these decisions.

A few considerations made by the person conducting the investigation include:

  • financial and marital stability
  • State of lifestyle
  • Presence of other children
  • Obligations of both parents’ professions
  • State of both physical and mental health
  • History on conduct

The home study also provides education to adoptive parents and helps them prepare for adoption by discussing how to handle certain issues like speaking to the child about the possibility of adoption and breaking the news to the family.  If there is a negative report turned in, there is an opportunity to contest it. There are different appeal procedures depending on the state. There will either be a separate procedure or an appeal as part of the original adoption hearing.

No matter what, the court must approve of the adoption. The family must file a petition and attend adoption hearings.

Notice and Petition

Anyone whose signature is required for consent must be notified before the hearing and invited. The legal representative of the child, the child’s parents, and the adoption agency are all parties that must be notified. The notice requirements vary.  A petition will include personal information about the child and the prospective parents which will also include the written consent of the biological parents to the adoption.  

Finishing the hearing and Receiving the Order

If the adoption is approved at the hearing, an order will be issued of approval and finalization of the adoption. The order is called a final decree of adoption and legalizes the relationship and a name change if they opt for one.

Consulting an Adoption Lawyer

You may need to hire a lawyer even if you do work through an adoption agency. You are not legally required to hire one, but you may feel safer doing so because they will be able to guide you in your best interest. Adoption is complex and there are plenty of ways to misstep when working on your own.  Consult a Scottsdale AZ guardianship lawyer with experience to determine the unique factors of the case.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys for their insight into guardianship.