The Legal Requirements and Ramifications of Adopting a Child
Creating a family and leaving children behind to represent one’s values and achievements is a goal of many individuals. Most will achieve this end through the methods of natural reproduction, but others will choose to build a family through adoption. Adopting a child is one of the most rewarding acts a person can do, but the process is not easy, fast or inexpensive. It takes a considerable amount of commitment to see the adoption process through to the end, but the sacrifices are well worth it. Adoption is one of the largest responsibilities a person can assume, and the state has an interest in ensuring the person applying for adoption is able to fulfill this task. Because adoption is not the most common way people add children to their family, those contemplating this choice may wonder what adoption means from a legal standpoint, and what the basics of the adoption process involve.
What Is the Child’s Legal Status?
Florida law limits the number of legally-recognized parents a child may have to two. Legal parents have the authority to make decisions on the child’s behalf related to medical treatment, education, living arrangements and the like. Additionally, they have the obligation to financially support a child until he/she becomes a legal adult, usually at age 18. Thus, when a child is placed up for adoption, the rights of the biological parents must be terminated voluntarily or by a court in order for an adoption to be completed. The original birth certificate is also sealed, and a new one issued with child’s new parents listed. Essentially, when the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents have the same rights and responsibilities held by natural parents, and the child is legally viewed to be equal to a naturally born child of the adoptive parents. This means the child obtains the corresponding right to proper care, and the legal right to inherit from either adoptive parent upon their death.
An Overview of the Adoption Process
Adult Florida residents with good moral character and the financial means to support a child are permitted to adopt. Single individuals and couples are both eligible to adopt, and an adult will only be rejected if a physical or mental impairment inhibits his/her ability to effectively parent. Prospective parents typically pursue adoption through an adoption agency or through an attorney. Both can connect prospective parents with an available child, and assist them through the adoption process. While the actual legal process is two steps – terminating parental rights and finalizing the adoption, several preliminary requirements must be completed before the adoption can proceed, namely the criminal background check and home study.
The home study is an involved procedure that is crucial to the adoption process, and is used to determine if the home is suitable for the child in terms of physical space and safety. In addition, it also involves interviews with all family members to assess the reasons for the adoption and their childrearing practices/philosophies. References are also checked, and employment/financial resources verified. Once these steps are completed, the prospective parents must seek the termination of the natural parents’ rights over the child, which, next to the home study, is the biggest hurdle to overcome. As mentioned above, termination of parental rights can come through consent or court order. A court will waive consent if the natural parents surrendered, abandoned or abused/neglected the child.
How long it takes to finalize the termination of rights depends upon whether the natural parents are easily locatable and/or if a natural parent decides to contest the adoption. Depending upon the circumstances of the particular adoption, the entire process can take several months to well over a year to complete. Consequently, prospective parents are better equipped to enter the process with a longer timeline in mind to avoid frustration over the legal requirements.
Consult a Florida Family Law Attorney
Adoption is an exciting time in a family’s life, but to prevent unnecessary delays or the risk of rejection, an attorney experienced in Florida adoptions should be consulted about completing the process. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. can bring you through the tricky adoption process so the happy result is a new member of your family. Contact us for a free consultation.