Florida Adoption Lawyer

If you’re thinking about adoption—either as an adoptive parent or family, or if you’re considering placing a child for adoption—you may understand that it’s a very complex process. Some people find the mountains of paperwork overwhelming, while others are unsure what type of adoption would be a good fit for their situation. A consultation with a Florida adoption lawyer may help answer your questions, so you can make an informed decision about how you want to proceed.

What Does a Florida Adoptions Lawyer Do?

Adoption lawyers may fill several roles. Some focus exclusively on adoptions, but many also practice in other areas of family law. This can be helpful in some situations where you may not be sure if adoption is the legal remedy you need. For example, if you are caring for an ill relative’s child long-term and need the ability to make legal decisions for the child’s care, a guardianship may be more appropriate depending on the parent’s condition and prognosis. (We’ll talk a bit more about family adoptions later in this article.)

If you are a prospective adoptive parent or family, your adoption attorney may help you in several ways. In some cases, they may recommend you find an adoption agency or assist you in finding one, or they may help you pursue an independent adoption. They can also explain the process of a family or stepparent adoption if you are considering one of those options.

Your attorney will also assist you with those mountains of paperwork. This is a big relief for many of our clients as the forms can be complicated and confusing. One or more court appearances may be required to complete an adoption and your lawyer will appear and represent you in those hearings. 

Some adoptions are very straightforward, and while they usually take months to be finalized, they may proceed without difficulty. In other situations, there may be issues that hold things up. In many cases, it may be as simple as a form that wasn’t filled out or filed correctly. There may be issues with the birth certificate and, depending on several factors, there may be a waiting period while the biological father is contacted. (Your Florida adoption attorney can answer any questions you have about your particular situation, including notice requirements.) Before the adoption is finalized, a social worker may need to complete a home study and file a report for the judge. Occasionally, issues come up at this point. Often, they can be addressed or remedied and the adoption can proceed as planned. Your lawyer can advise you on your options if you need to address a judge’s concerns for some reason or provide additional documentation.

Regardless of how smoothly the adoption process goes, it is always helpful to have an experienced Florida adoption lawyer at your side to answer questions and advise you on the process. Here are some general questions people commonly ask about adoption. Your lawyer can advise you on more specific issues.

What are the Requirements to Adopt in Florida?

Generally, you can adopt if you are an adult over the age of 18 and have the financial means to care for a child. You should also be physically capable of being an effective parent, and should not have any felony convictions.

Do I Need an Adoption Lawyer?

It is recommended to have an attorney to complete the complicated legal process. In some cases, people who go through an adoption agency will have a lawyer recommended to them by the agency. In other situations, you may want to find your own attorney and pursue an independent adoption without an agency (if possible).

Can I Advertise That I Am Seeking Adoptive Parents for a Child On My Own?

No, it is illegal for individuals to advertise that they are seeking to adopt or place a child for adoption. This is for the safety of everyone involved, including the child. Only licensed adoption agencies or attorneys may place such advertisements. If you want to pursue an independent adoption, your attorney can serve as your main adoption professional and assist you with the process.

Can I Begin the Adoption Process Before I Give Birth?

Yes, in Florida you may begin the adoption process as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed. If you are unsure what you want to do and considering your options, it’s a good idea to seek a free consultation with an adoption attorney. They will answer any questions you have about adoption and explain your options so that you have the information you need to make a decision. However, under Florida law, you can’t sign the final paperwork until several days after the birth, and the adoption usually won’t be finalized until months later.

Open and Closed Adoptions

In the past, most non-family adoptions were closed, meaning the adoptive and biological parents had no contact after the adoption, and in many cases, never met at all. Closed adoptions are still available today and are usually handled by a third party, such as an adoption agency or attorney. In some cases, religious or charitable organizations may also facilitate the adoption.

However, today, open adoptions are becoming much more common. In these situations, the birth parent/s meet with the adoptive family, often months before the birth. In many cases, the birth parent/s may choose the family they think is the best fit for the child. Sometimes, they agree to have some level of contact or interaction after the adoption, such as occasional updates or pictures of the child, or even contact when the child is older.

Open adoptions provide benefits to both families in many situations. They allow the child to grow up knowing something about their biological family. Some adults who were adopted in closed situations as children say the lack of information about their biological family was frustrating, and may even have strained their relationship with their adoptive family. An open adoption may also be helpful to the birth parent/s, who don’t have to wonder what kind of family the child was placed with if they picked the adoptive family themselves. Additionally, if the child ever needs answers about their medical history, or to find biological relatives for a transplant, etc., open adoptions make tracking down blood relatives and information much easier.

However, there are some situations where people prefer a closed adoption. Everyone is different, and while knowing the child’s situation may be better for some birth parents, others may find it easier to move on if they don’t know. There are also some situations where the biological parent may have concerns for themselves or the child’s safety. For example, someone who became pregnant as the result of an abusive relationship may be worried about the other biological parent tracking down and hurting the child. Survivors of sexual assault may not want any reminders of their trauma, or an adult child showing up and asking about their biological father. In cases like these, a closed adoption is still an option if you feel it would be best for your situation. Your adoption attorney can answer any questions you have.

Stepparent and Family Adoptions

Stepparent and family adoptions are very common. Often, stepparents form a strong bond with their spouse’s child or children from a previous relationship. In many cases, they may want to officially adopt these children so that they may have full parental rights. This is usually allowed as long as the stepparent is an adult, is married to a parent of the child, and doesn’t have a disability that prevents them from being an effective parent. 

Your adoption lawyer will assist you with the paperwork necessary to petition for adoption of a stepchild/ren. In general, they will need to ask you or your spouse for the following information:

  • The stepchild’s date and place of birth.
  • Whether you want to change the child’s last name, and to what.
  • How long you have been the child’s stepparent.
  • The name, age, and physical address of the stepparent and how long they’ve been there (essentially, how long you have lived with the child).
  • Your signature on a document saying you can physically care for the child. (Again, most disabilities won’t prevent you from doing so, but if you have any questions about this your attorney can answer them for you.)
  • A statement about any parental rights that have been terminated in regards to the child. This is to determine if another parent’s consent is needed for the adoption. If the child’s other parent is alive, can be located, and hasn’t had their rights terminated, in many cases you will need their consent. However, there are many stipulations and situations where their consent may not be necessary. For example, biological fathers who were never married to the child’s biological mother usually only have parental rights if they have taken certain legal steps to secure them. If you have any questions or concerns about getting consent from another parent, your attorney can advise you on your options. If the other parent’s rights were already terminated, you will need the case number and date for the termination.
  • You may need to write a brief statement of your reasons for wanting to adopt the stepchild.

Once you’ve answered these questions, your attorney will draft the petition and file it with the appropriate local court. At this time, they may also need to file some supporting documents. These include copies of any judgments terminating parental rights or signed consent from the other parent, documentation that the child was interviewed (depending on their age, this may not be necessary), and reports or recommendations the court has asked for. Unlike typical adoptions, the judge usually doesn’t ask for too many outside reports, such as those from a social worker, unless there is a specific concern they want to address.

Generally, what follows the filing is a notice to interested parties, such as the other parent if their consent is needed. If both parents have consented to the stepparent adoption, or one parent’s consent is not needed (such as in cases of parental rights termination, death, or incapacity), then this notice is unnecessary. In this case, the filing and hearing can happen on the same day if the court’s schedule permits it. If the judge finds everything is in order, they can approve the petition right away.

What are the Legal Implications of a Stepparent Adoption?

The other parent’s parental rights will be terminated, as will their obligation to pay child support. They will also no longer have any rights to make decisions for the child, visit the child, or have a say in how the child is raised. If the parent and stepparent later divorce, the stepparent may be responsible for child support.

The stepparent will now be able to make legal decisions for the child, such as decisions about medical care, or where the minor will go to school or live. They can also give the child their last name if they want. A new birth certificate will be issued for the child, naming the stepparent as their parent.

Family Adoptions

Another common situation is when someone wants to adopt a grandchild, or another relative’s child. Usually in this situation, there is some reason why neither biological parent is able to care for the child. They may be deceased, or incapacitated in some way. Physical or mental health difficulties, addiction, domestic abuse situations, poverty, lengthy prison sentences that encompass most of the minor’s childhood, and other issues may leave them unable to be an effective parent. In the case of grandparent adoptions, one common situation is that the biological parents are teenagers, and simply not mature enough, able, or willing to raise a child yet. Maybe they want to place the child for adoption but their parents don’t want the child raised outside the family so they offer to adopt the baby.

Grandparent or family adoptions carry less red tape than outside adoptions. Usually, there is no home study required and less paperwork. However, it’s still important to have the help of a qualified adoption attorney in case any issues arise. 

You should also remember that the adoption terminates the biological parents’ parental rights. In some cases, if a biological parent is living, they may object to the adoption. Often in these cases, the grandparents want to adopt the grandchild because for some reason they believe the parent can’t care for the child. One situation we see a lot is when the parent/s are struggling with addiction and multiple attempts at recovery have been ineffective. This can be both emotionally and legally challenging as it may pit the grandparent against their own child in court. Many people find it difficult to explain to the court that they think their child is an unfit parent but, in some cases, they may feel it’s necessary to ensure their grandchild grows up in a safe and loving home.

Depending on the specific situation, there may be other alternatives to adoption that will lead to less legal friction. For example, a temporary legal guardianship of the child will allow you to make legal and medical decisions for them, enroll the child in school, etc. In this case, the parent’s rights will not be terminated, and if they become able to care for the child in the future, they may have the legal right to do so. Some grandparents prefer this option if they are hoping their child will recover from their addiction, illness, or whatever is preventing them from being a parent. However, if this doesn’t happen, a grandparent who has legal guardianship can usually apply to adopt the child later if it becomes clear the parent is highly unlikely to ever be an effective parent.

There are also sometimes situations where a parent has essentially abandoned their child by leaving them with a relative and disappearing with no contact. Even if the parent hasn’t been heard from in a long time, this may slow down the adoption process. Typically, the court will want to make an effort to find the parent before approving an adoption. In many cases, if the parent isn’t readily found after a reasonable search, and has been out of the child’s life for some time, the judge will proceed to terminate their rights and approve the adoption.

Many people are unsure of what legal remedy they need when caring for a relative’s child long-term. Your attorney will ask you questions and explain your legal options.

If you need assistance with adopting or placing a child for adoption, or have questions about any potential legal matter, please contact Apfelbaum Law for a consultation. We have offices in Port St. Lucie and Stuart, but provide legal services throughout the Treasure Coast and Florida. 

How Having a Florida Adoption Lawyer on Your Side May Help you

If you’re thinking about adoption—either as an adoptive parent or family, or if you’re considering placing a child for adoption—you may understand that it’s a very complex process. Some people find the mountains of paperwork overwhelming, while others are unsure what type of adoption would be a good fit for their situation. A consultation with a Florida adoption lawyer may help answer your questions, so you can make an informed decision about how you want to proceed.

What Does a Florida Adoptions Lawyer Do?

Adoption lawyers may fill several roles. Some focus exclusively on adoptions, but many also practice in other areas of family law. This can be helpful in some situations where you may not be sure if adoption is the legal remedy you need. For example, if you are caring for an ill relative’s child long-term and need the ability to make legal decisions for the child’s care, a guardianship may be more appropriate depending on the parent’s condition and prognosis. (We’ll talk a bit more about family adoptions later in this article.)

If you are a prospective adoptive parent or family, your adoption attorney may help you in several ways. In some cases, they may recommend you find an adoption agency or assist you in finding one, or they may help you pursue an independent adoption. They can also explain the process of a family or stepparent adoption if you are considering one of those options.

Your attorney will also assist you with those mountains of paperwork. This is a big relief for many of our clients as the forms can be complicated and confusing. One or more court appearances may be required to complete an adoption and your lawyer will appear and represent you in those hearings. 

Some adoptions are very straightforward, and while they usually take months to be finalized, they may proceed without difficulty. In other situations, there may be issues that hold things up. In many cases, it may be as simple as a form that wasn’t filled out or filed correctly. There may be issues with the birth certificate and, depending on several factors, there may be a waiting period while the biological father is contacted. (Your Florida adoption attorney can answer any questions you have about your particular situation, including notice requirements.) Before the adoption is finalized, a social worker may need to complete a home study and file a report for the judge. Occasionally, issues come up at this point. Often, they can be addressed or remedied and the adoption can proceed as planned. Your lawyer can advise you on your options if you need to address a judge’s concerns for some reason or provide additional documentation.

Regardless of how smoothly the adoption process goes, it is always helpful to have an experienced Florida adoption lawyer at your side to answer questions and advise you on the process. Here are some general questions people commonly ask about adoption. Your lawyer can advise you on more specific issues.

What are the Requirements to Adopt in Florida?

Generally, you can adopt if you are an adult over the age of 18 and have the financial means to care for a child. You should also be physically capable of being an effective parent, and should not have any felony convictions.

Do I Need an Adoption Lawyer?

It is recommended to have an attorney to complete the complicated legal process. In some cases, people who go through an adoption agency will have a lawyer recommended to them by the agency. In other situations, you may want to find your own attorney and pursue an independent adoption without an agency (if possible).

Can I Advertise That I Am Seeking Adoptive Parents for a Child On My Own?

No, it is illegal for individuals to advertise that they are seeking to adopt or place a child for adoption. This is for the safety of everyone involved, including the child. Only licensed adoption agencies or attorneys may place such advertisements. If you want to pursue an independent adoption, your attorney can serve as your main adoption professional and assist you with the process.

Can I Begin the Adoption Process Before I Give Birth?

Yes, in Florida you may begin the adoption process as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed. If you are unsure what you want to do and considering your options, it’s a good idea to seek a free consultation with an adoption attorney. They will answer any questions you have about adoption and explain your options so that you have the information you need to make a decision. However, under Florida law, you can’t sign the final paperwork until several days after the birth, and the adoption usually won’t be finalized until months later.

Open and Closed Adoptions

In the past, most non-family adoptions were closed, meaning the adoptive and biological parents had no contact after the adoption, and in many cases, never met at all. Closed adoptions are still available today and are usually handled by a third party, such as an adoption agency or attorney. In some cases, religious or charitable organizations may also facilitate the adoption.

However, today, open adoptions are becoming much more common. In these situations, the birth parent/s meet with the adoptive family, often months before the birth. In many cases, the birth parent/s may choose the family they think is the best fit for the child. Sometimes, they agree to have some level of contact or interaction after the adoption, such as occasional updates or pictures of the child, or even contact when the child is older.

Open adoptions provide benefits to both families in many situations. They allow the child to grow up knowing something about their biological family. Some adults who were adopted in closed situations as children say the lack of information about their biological family was frustrating, and may even have strained their relationship with their adoptive family. An open adoption may also be helpful to the birth parent/s, who don’t have to wonder what kind of family the child was placed with if they picked the adoptive family themselves. Additionally, if the child ever needs answers about their medical history, or to find biological relatives for a transplant, etc., open adoptions make tracking down blood relatives and information much easier.

However, there are some situations where people prefer a closed adoption. Everyone is different, and while knowing the child’s situation may be better for some birth parents, others may find it easier to move on if they don’t know. There are also some situations where the biological parent may have concerns for themselves or the child’s safety. For example, someone who became pregnant as the result of an abusive relationship may be worried about the other biological parent tracking down and hurting the child. Survivors of sexual assault may not want any reminders of their trauma, or an adult child showing up and asking about their biological father. In cases like these, a closed adoption is still an option if you feel it would be best for your situation. Your adoption attorney can answer any questions you have.

Stepparent and Family Adoptions

Stepparent and family adoptions are very common. Often, stepparents form a strong bond with their spouse’s child or children from a previous relationship. In many cases, they may want to officially adopt these children so that they may have full parental rights. This is usually allowed as long as the stepparent is an adult, is married to a parent of the child, and doesn’t have a disability that prevents them from being an effective parent. 

Your adoption lawyer will assist you with the paperwork necessary to petition for adoption of a stepchild/ren. In general, they will need to ask you or your spouse for the following information:

  • The stepchild’s date and place of birth.
  • Whether you want to change the child’s last name, and to what.
  • How long you have been the child’s stepparent.
  • The name, age, and physical address of the stepparent and how long they’ve been there (essentially, how long you have lived with the child).
  • Your signature on a document saying you can physically care for the child. (Again, most disabilities won’t prevent you from doing so, but if you have any questions about this your attorney can answer them for you.)
  • A statement about any parental rights that have been terminated in regards to the child. This is to determine if another parent’s consent is needed for the adoption. If the child’s other parent is alive, can be located, and hasn’t had their rights terminated, in many cases you will need their consent. However, there are many stipulations and situations where their consent may not be necessary. For example, biological fathers who were never married to the child’s biological mother usually only have parental rights if they have taken certain legal steps to secure them. If you have any questions or concerns about getting consent from another parent, your attorney can advise you on your options. If the other parent’s rights were already terminated, you will need the case number and date for the termination.
  • You may need to write a brief statement of your reasons for wanting to adopt the stepchild.

Once you’ve answered these questions, your attorney will draft the petition and file it with the appropriate local court. At this time, they may also need to file some supporting documents. These include copies of any judgments terminating parental rights or signed consent from the other parent, documentation that the child was interviewed (depending on their age, this may not be necessary), and reports or recommendations the court has asked for. Unlike typical adoptions, the judge usually doesn’t ask for too many outside reports, such as those from a social worker, unless there is a specific concern they want to address.

Generally, what follows the filing is a notice to interested parties, such as the other parent if their consent is needed. If both parents have consented to the stepparent adoption, or one parent’s consent is not needed (such as in cases of parental rights termination, death, or incapacity), then this notice is unnecessary. In this case, the filing and hearing can happen on the same day if the court’s schedule permits it. If the judge finds everything is in order, they can approve the petition right away.

What are the Legal Implications of a Stepparent Adoption?

The other parent’s parental rights will be terminated, as will their obligation to pay child support. They will also no longer have any rights to make decisions for the child, visit the child, or have a say in how the child is raised. If the parent and stepparent later divorce, the stepparent may be responsible for child support.

The stepparent will now be able to make legal decisions for the child, such as decisions about medical care, or where the minor will go to school or live. They can also give the child their last name if they want. A new birth certificate will be issued for the child, naming the stepparent as their parent.

Family Adoptions

Another common situation is when someone wants to adopt a grandchild, or another relative’s child. Usually in this situation, there is some reason why neither biological parent is able to care for the child. They may be deceased, or incapacitated in some way. Physical or mental health difficulties, addiction, domestic abuse situations, poverty, lengthy prison sentences that encompass most of the minor’s childhood, and other issues may leave them unable to be an effective parent. In the case of grandparent adoptions, one common situation is that the biological parents are teenagers, and simply not mature enough, able, or willing to raise a child yet. Maybe they want to place the child for adoption but their parents don’t want the child raised outside the family so they offer to adopt the baby.

Grandparent or family adoptions carry less red tape than outside adoptions. Usually, there is no home study required and less paperwork. However, it’s still important to have the help of a qualified adoption attorney in case any issues arise. 

You should also remember that the adoption terminates the biological parents’ parental rights. In some cases, if a biological parent is living, they may object to the adoption. Often in these cases, the grandparents want to adopt the grandchild because for some reason they believe the parent can’t care for the child. One situation we see a lot is when the parent/s are struggling with addiction and multiple attempts at recovery have been ineffective. This can be both emotionally and legally challenging as it may pit the grandparent against their own child in court. Many people find it difficult to explain to the court that they think their child is an unfit parent but, in some cases, they may feel it’s necessary to ensure their grandchild grows up in a safe and loving home.

Depending on the specific situation, there may be other alternatives to adoption that will lead to less legal friction. For example, a temporary legal guardianship of the child will allow you to make legal and medical decisions for them, enroll the child in school, etc. In this case, the parent’s rights will not be terminated, and if they become able to care for the child in the future, they may have the legal right to do so. Some grandparents prefer this option if they are hoping their child will recover from their addiction, illness, or whatever is preventing them from being a parent. However, if this doesn’t happen, a grandparent who has legal guardianship can usually apply to adopt the child later if it becomes clear the parent is highly unlikely to ever be an effective parent.

There are also sometimes situations where a parent has essentially abandoned their child by leaving them with a relative and disappearing with no contact. Even if the parent hasn’t been heard from in a long time, this may slow down the adoption process. Typically, the court will want to make an effort to find the parent before approving an adoption. In many cases, if the parent isn’t readily found after a reasonable search, and has been out of the child’s life for some time, the judge will proceed to terminate their rights and approve the adoption.

Many people are unsure of what legal remedy they need when caring for a relative’s child long-term. Your attorney will ask you questions and explain your legal options.

If you need assistance with adopting or placing a child for adoption, or have questions about any potential legal matter, please contact Apfelbaum Law for a consultation. We have offices in Port St. Lucie and Stuart, but provide legal services throughout the Treasure Coast and Florida. 

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