Finalizing an adoption can be a joyful moment in which a child is placed in a loving home and a new family is created. However, the legal process involved in petitioning for an adoption can be arduous and time-consuming, especially if the child is not a relative or a stepchild. If you or a loved one is considering an adoption, it is vital to contact an experienced adoption attorney who can ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.
In Florida, there are four types of adoption:
- Entity adoptions;
- Step-parent adoptions;
- Close relative adoptions; and
- Adult adoptions.
Prior to initiating any type of adoption proceeding, courts must establish that a child’s relationship to his or her biological parents has been permanently severed. This requires proof of a biological parent’s decision to consent to the surrender of all rights to his or her child.
Alternatively, a court can order a parent’s rights terminated if there is evidence that the child was abused, neglected, or abandoned. Adult adoptions are the only exception to the requirement that consent be obtained before an adoption can be finalized, although the individual petitioning for adoption must still provide notice to the child’s biological parents.
A consent for adoption is only considered valid when it fulfills certain requirements, including that:
- When a child younger than six months old is placed for adoption, the biological mother cannot sign a consent for 48 hours after the birth, although a birth father may consent at any time;
- When a child is older than six months, the mother and father may sign the consent at any time, but can revoke it within three days;
- The consent be signed by witnesses and notarized; and
- That the consent was not given under duress.
Unmarried biological fathers are required to register paternity with the state’s Putative Father Registry before a petition is filed to terminate his rights, or within 30 days of being served a Notice of Intended Adoption Plan. If a father fails to register, a court is not required to obtain his consent before finalizing an adoption.
After a court terminates the biological parent-child relationship, an adoption can be finalized. In entity adoptions, the process cannot be completed until 30 days have passed since the judgment terminating parental rights was ordered or 90 days after the child was placed in his or her new home. However, in situations where a child is being adopted by a step-parent or relative, the parents can immediately finalize the adoption.
Additionally, in step-parent and close relative adoptions, adopting parents can utilize a unified legal process, which means that the order finalizing the adoption also terminates the biological parents’ rights. This is commonly used in adult adoptions.
Work with Joyce A. Julian, P.A., for Your Adoption Matter
The laws concerning adoption can be daunting, so if you are considering adopting a child, our adoption attorneys can help you understand the process and your legal options. Please contact Joyce A. Julian, Attorney at Law, at 954-467-6656, to schedule a consultation.