An adoption is a legal process which establishes a parent-child relationship under the law between the adopted child and the adoptive parents. It is a joyful moment for the parties involved if the adoption is successful. However, complications can happen with some adoptions so it is always a good idea for prospective parents to educate themselves on the common problems, pitfalls and proper procedures.
In Florida a person is eligible to adopt if they are an adult living and working in the state, are of good character, and have the ability to provide for the adoptive child. Single adults and married couples may adopt. Additionally, step-parents may adopt the child of their spouse. However, same-sex adoptions are banned in Florida, although there have been successful challenges to this law and the legal landscape surrounding same-sex adoption is constantly changing.
Types of Adoption
For parents who qualify for adoptions, the first step is to take a look at the existing types of adoption in order to determine the best fit for their circumstances. There are four types of adoption that exist in Florida:
- The entity adoption – This is an agency or intermediary (i.e. attorney) facilitated adoption;
- The step-parent adoption;
- The close relative adoption; and
- The adult adoption
Probably the most common form of adoption would be the entity adoption, where prospective parents go through an agency or another go-between to help with the procedures involved with adopting a child. The other types of adoption typically involve the children of other family members, such as a spouse, and are often more straight-forward processes, as is detailed below.
Adoption Procedures in Florida
Each type of adoption in Florida has its own procedure. In order for an adoption to take place in Florida, the court must receive proof that the biological parents of the child understand and accept that they are giving up all their parental rights to the child forever. The child's parent can either consent to adoption surrendering his/her rights to the child, or alternatively, proof can be shown that the parent has abused, neglected or abandoned their child or otherwise failed to protect their parental rights under Florida law. For there to be valid consent, there are some requirements:
- If the child is less than six months of age: The biological mother cannot sign her consent until 48-hours after the child has been born or at her date of discharge (whichever is earlier). The birth father can sign his consent any time after the birth.
- If the child is six months of age or older: The biological mother can sign her consent after which there is a revocation period of 3 days where she may choose to change her mind. The consent must be signed in front of a notary. After the 3 day waiting period, the only way to overturn an adoption is if it is proven that the consent was given under duress or fraud.
If an adoption is a step-parent, close relative, or adult adoption, the process is more simple and immediate. In these cases, the adoptive parent is eligible to immediately finalize the adoption and can terminate the biological parental rights at the same time if they do so at a unified legal proceeding. In the case of step-parent adoptions, if the child is 12 years of age or older, he/she must give their consent to the adoption as well as being interviewed prior to signing the consent. Also, adults do not need the consent of their biological parents.
After the child is placed in the adoptive home, adoptive parents will want to have their adoption "finalized." This entails filing a petition of adoption with the clerk of the court where the termination of the parental rights took place. This petition needs to be filed within 60 days of the termination of parental rights judgment. Then, a final hearing needs to take place after the child has been with the adoptive family for at least 90 days. The exception to this is for step-parent or close relative adoptions.
After the final hearing, the judge will be able to finalize your adoption by issuing a final judgment of adoption which awards the adoptive family full parental rights. It is important to note that once this happens, for all legal purposes, the child will be considered the natural child of the family.
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