Adoption

Adoption FAQs

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1. What are the types of adoption cases that the Rockefeller Law Center handles?

The Rockefeller Law Center is a full-service family law firm, having assisted numerous satisfied clients with adoptions. We are well-versed in adoption law and can help potential clients with any of the various types of adoptions (contested or uncontested) discussed below.

2. What is different about adoptions from other types of family law cases?

Before an adoption can be granted, the parental rights of one or both biological parents have to be terminated. Nevertheless, termination of parental rights are typically either agreed to, have already been ordered by a juvenile court judge in a prior proceeding, or the biological parent fails to respond to the adoption petition seeking the termination. In rare instances, the decision to terminate a biological parent's rights can result in a full contested hearing. Adoptions are decided by a Judge – this is no right to a jury trial in an adoption proceeding.

3. Who can adopt?

"Blood" relatives can adopt; these are the most common forms of adoptions. A "blood" relative includes, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, great-grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles. "Step-parents" also have the right to adopt, but only as long as they are married to a biological parent. Other people who might want to adopt (not a blood relative and not a current step-parent) are considered "legal strangers" to a potentially adoptive child. In this case, these individuals can only adopt if they do so with the permission of DFACS or through an authorized adoption agency.

4. What is the legal issue in an adoption?

As with any other custody issue, the legal standard is the "best interests" of the child. However, to terminate a parent's rights, the court has to make a finding of "unfitness" by a constitutional standard of "clear and convincing evidence".

5. What is "unfitness"?

In most adoptions, unfitness exists where clear and convincing evidence shows that the biological parent:

  • Has abandoned the minor child
  • Cannot be found after diligent search is made
  • Is clinically insane or incapable of giving consent, or
  • Has failed to exercise proper parental care or control due to misconduct or inability to properly provide for the minor child.

For a relative or step-parent adoption, the adopting adult can also specifically show unfitness by proof of clear and convincing evidence that, for a period of one year or longer immediately prior to the filing of the petition for adoption the biological parent has, without justifiable cause, significantly failed to :

  • Communicate or to make a bona fide attempt to communicate with that child in a meaningful, supportive, parental manner, or
  • Provide for the care and support of that child as required by law or judicial decree.

6. Is it always necessary to show "unfitness"?

No! A parent can "waive" or surrender his or her rights and consent to the adoption.

7. What rights do biological fathers have?

The biological father, who never married the biological mother or "legitimized" the minor child, MUST respond to the adoption petition by filing a petition to legitimate the minor child. If he does not do so and the petition for adoption properly pleads a basis for terminating his parental rights, the biological father will lose his parental rights.

8. What rights do biological mothers have?

The biological mother must consent to any adoption unless her parental rights have been terminated.

9. Does the minor child have any rights?

Yes! A minor child older than fourteen (14) MUST consent to the adoption in the presence of the judge.

10. Can an adult adopt another adult?

Yes! As long as the adopting adult and the adult being adopted both consent to the adoption.

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