The Basics of Adoption in Florida
Bringing home a new baby from the hospital is one of the moments most celebrated in life. It is exciting to welcome a new life and family member, and an occasion many parents mark as the start of a new transition. Usually, bringing home a new child is the result of a woman giving birth, but many couples may instead pursue adoption due to medical issues with conception and/or pregnancy, or just a desire to provide a loving and safe home to a child. While the majority of adoptions take a considerable time and financial commitment from the adopting couple, the end result is achieved. There are, however, some adoptions that do not have this type of ending. A recent news story discussed a birth mother in Fort Walton Beach who agreed to relinquish her daughter to couple in Florida, but the child was later rejected by the prospective parents after she was born with birth defects not detected in-utero. This type of outcome is unusual, but illustrates how important it is to understand the requirements the state imposes on adopting a child and the obligations the adopting parties assume.
Who Can Adopt
Florida law allows both children and adults to be adopted, and permits any of the following to petition for adoption: married couples jointly, an unmarried adult, or one spouse alone as long as the person being adopted is not his/her spouse. Note that a person otherwise qualified to adopt cannot be rejected solely on the basis of a physical disability, unless a court or adoption entity determines that the disability renders the person unable to adequately care for a child.
The Home Study
The home study is one of the first and most important steps in the adoption process. The home study is an evaluation conducted by a qualified adoption agency to assess whether the prospective parents are capable of providing a safe and stable home. The agency representative will look at the physical environment and atmosphere of the home and neighborhood to see if the parents could give a healthy and safe home to a child. Following this visit, as well as background screenings, reference checks, and life history paperwork, the representative will write a report documenting his/her impressions about the applicant’s capacity to be a good parent.
In order to complete a legal adoption, certain individuals must consent to the termination of their rights over the child. First, unless the child was abandoned or surrendered under the state’s safe haven law, the mother must always consent to relinquishing her rights. On the other hand, the need for the father’s consent depends on his knowledge of and relationship with the child. Specifically, the consent of the father is necessary if any of the following are true:
- the father is married to the mother when the child was conceived or born;
- the child is his through adoption;
- a court determined he was the child’s father;
- an unmarried father filed an affidavit of paternity or is listed as the father on the birth certificate; or
- the father completed a signed acknowledgement of paternity, which was then filed with the state.
In addition, children over the age of 12 and other legal guardians must also provide consent. As for revoking consent, this is only permitted for children younger than six months if a parent can prove it was obtained under fraud or duress. For children older than six months, a parent has three business days to rescind consent.
Talk to a Family Law Attorney
Adopting a child is a wonderful experience, but the process itself is legally complex. If you wish to pursue this goal, it is best to work with an attorney experienced in adoption law. The Fort Lauderdale law firm of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. offers adoption services to prospective parents, and can help you better understand your legal options. Contact the office for a free consultation.