Adding To Your Family With Love And Intent
New parents should enjoy the process of adopting a child. However, in many cases, legal paperwork and other issues complicate the matter, leading to confusion and stress in what should be a happy time. Having a trusted attorney by your side throughout the adoption process can alleviate the anxiety that adoption issues such as paternity determination, termination of parental rights and home studies may bring up.
At the family law office of The Gufford Law Firm, P.A., our lawyers and staff bring decades of legal experience to the table as we provide comprehensive adoption representation to clients across the South Florida Treasure Coast. We want our clients to understand the many aspects of adoption, and we educate them on these issues, allowing them to make informed decisions.
An In-Depth Look At Several Types Of Adoptions
Just as there are different types of adoptions, there are also different issues that may stem from adoptions. Our office confidently handles varieties of adoptions, including the following:
- Stepparent and relative adoptions
- Nonrelative adoptions
- Same-sex couple adoptions
- International adoptions
- Adult adoptions
Stepparent And Relative Adoptions
The most common types of adoption that we handle are by stepparents or relatives such as grandparents. The beauty of a stepparent or relative adoption is that it is much more of a streamlined procedure and in most cases the high cost associated with a home study can be avoided. The meaning of the term “stepparent” is easily determinable as the spouse of a parent. However, the term “relative” for purposes of the statute is defined with a bit more complexity as “a person related by blood to the person being adopted within the third degree of consanguinity.” The term “consanguinity” describes one’s kinship with the person who is being adopted.
The chart at the bottom of this page entitled “Consanguinity And The Degree Of Family Relationships” shows who would qualify as close relatives based on relationships with the person to be adopted. You must fit into category 1, 2 or 3 in order to qualify for a relative adoption. In many cases, showing the court that you are the aunt or uncle of the child to be adopted can be difficult to prove and marriage/birth/divorce records may need to be obtained in order to prove your legal status with the adoptee.
If you don’t qualify as a close relative, never fear, as you may still pursue an adoption. Florida Statute 63.042 provides for adoptions by the following:
63.042 Who may be adopted; who may adopt:
(1) Any person, a minor or an adult, may be adopted.
(2) The following persons may adopt:
(a) A husband and wife jointly
(b) An unmarried adult
(c) A married person without the other spouse joining as a petitioner, if the person to be adopted is not his or her spouse, and if:
1. The other spouse is a parent of the person to be adopted and consents to the adoption; or
2. The failure of the other spouse to join in the petition or to consent to the adoption is excused by the court for good cause shown or in the best interest of the child.
(3) No person eligible under this section shall be prohibited from adopting solely because such person possesses a physical disability or handicap, unless it is determined by the court or adoption entity that such disability or handicap renders such person incapable of serving as an effective parent.
(4) No person eligible under this section shall be prohibited from adopting solely because he or she desires to educate the adopted child at home.
Thus, if you don’t qualify as a “relative” to a close enough degree (or at all), you may qualify as a nonrelative. Adopting as a nonrelative does make the process a little more involved, but it can usually be achieved. Also, under the statute, you don’t necessarily need to be married to adopt.
An intermediary such as an attorney or a third-party like an adoption agency or a similar entity can facilitate the adoption of a child in Florida.
We generally recommend that a third party serve as an intermediary or adoption entity. When a third party handles placement, an attorney can preserve his duty to his client without becoming a party in the case. We have a wide variety of experts to refer to our clients. This type of expert can serve as an intermediary or adoption entity if one is required.
A wide variety of agencies can serve as intermediaries for adoption. Examples are the Florida Department of Children and Families and Catholic Charities. A note of caution: Beware of companies and law firms that claim to do everything “in house.” We have seen prospective parents fall prey to companies run by people who are essentially engaging in baby selling and often charge steep prices for each and every service under the sun. We will gladly advise you on how to choose wisely if you are shopping for an adoption intermediary.
Once a child is ready for placement, one of our attorneys can help file correct documents with the court and guide the adoptive parent(s) through essential legal processes.
A nonrelative planning to adopt a child must first be approved through the home study process. We can assist with locating the proper expert from our network to advise prospective parents through this process, usually at a much lower price than what we have seen others charge.
If our law firm handles your case, we will advise you through all phases of the adoption process, including helping you to get a new birth certificate afterward, to make your family relationship official.
Same-Sex Adoptions (LGBTQ)
Adoptions by same-sex couples were banned in Florida until 2015. The ban targeting potential LGBTQ parents was ruled unconstitutional in 2010 and was lifted altogether in 2015. Today, prospective adoptive parents’ same-sex relationships do not pose legal obstacles to adoption.
In the case of an international adoption, parents typically find an eligible child abroad, adopt him or her in another country, obtain an immigrant visa for the child through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, previously known as INS) and bring him or her to the U.S., where the child is then granted U.S. citizenship upon entering the country. Our law firm advises clients on compliance with international requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention, as well as U.S. Department of State requirements verifying that the child has been cleared for adoption.
It is not only minor children who are eligible for adoption. Many older individuals and couples become interested in adopting adults to become their legal sons and daughters. While this phenomenon surprises many people, it may serve a number of purposes such as:
- To streamline guardianship and/or inheritance rights for a trusted and loved caregiver, distant relative or another special person who has filled or will fill the role of a son or daughter through adoption.
- To overcome obstacles to adoption during childhood such as biological parents’ objections: When nurturing ties exist throughout a young person’s growing up but legalities prevent adoption, that young person can give his or her own consent after becoming an adult. This process is common for full legitimation of parental relationships with stepchildren and foster children who have helped form a family for years. It can also legitimize a relationship with a biological father whose paternity was never formally confirmed.
- To preserve adoptive parents’ names and replace adoptees’ family names: When an adult gives consent for his or her own adoption, a new birth certificate may be created, just as with an adopted minor. Family ties with unnamed biological parents will be permanently severed.
True Dedication To Our Clients
We are a firm that is truly dedicated to our clients. Each client has direct contact with their attorney throughout the adoption process. We concentrate on making each adoption as efficient and painless as possible.
Contact an adoption lawyer at The Gufford Law Firm, P.A., today. Call 772-221-1922 or 866-603-9936 or complete our online intake form. We clearly explain the adoption process so each client can focus his or her attention on the new addition to the family. We offer a free initial consultation, at which time we discuss the unique case and needs of each prospective client. Se habla español!