Florida Stepparent Adoption
What is a Florida Adoption?
Adoption is the legal procedure by which a child becomes through court action a part of a family other than that of his or her birth parents. An adoption permanently severs ties with birth parents and relatives and transfers the child into a new family where he or she will remain permanently. To the birth parents, adoption usually means relinquishing the child forever without the privilege of seeing the child or being otherwise involved in the child’s life. However in some types of adoptions, called open adoption, birth parents retain the right to communicate or visit the child. Additionally, the birth parents are permanently relieved of all responsibilities of the child’s care and financial needs. To the adoptive parents, adoption means providing for and undertaking the care of a child to whom they will have the same obligations to as a child naturally born to them.
Which Florida Children may be Adopted?
Any child under the age of 18 and present within the state when the petition for adoption is filed may be adopted. An adult may also be adopted. The procedure for adoption of an adult is similar to adoption of minors but considerably simpler.
Who may Adopt a Florida Child?
Adults who live and work in Florida, are of good character, and have the ability to nurture and provide financially and emotionally for a child may adopt. Single adults, as well as married couples, may adopt. A stepparent may adopt his or her spouse’s children.
Florida’s Stepparent Adoption Process and Procedures
Four types of adoptions exist in Florida: The step-parent adoption, the entity adoption (an agency or intermediary facilitated adoption), the close relative adoption and the adult adoption. Each type of adoption has its own set of procedures. This article will address only the process for a Florida step-parent adoption.
Step-parent adoptions are common when one biological parent is willing to give up their parental rights to that step-parent. Typically, an uninvolved parent is willing to relinquish their parental rights to the child, because it alleviates the need to pay future child support and they understand that the child has a chance at a two parent home.
In Florida step-parent adoptions if the child is twelve years of age or older, he or she must give his or her consent to the adoption and must be interviewed prior to signing the consent.
A court presiding over any Florida adoption case must receive proof that facts exist to terminate the biological relationship forever. A biological parent may properly execute a Consent for adoption and surrender his/her rights to their child. Alternatively, a court must hear proof that the parent has abused, abandoned or neglected the child or otherwise failed to protect their parental rights under Florida law in order to terminate the parental rights of the biological parent. Generally an unmarried biological father must register his paternity with Florida’s Putative Father Registry; otherwise, the court will not require his consent before proceeding to complete an adoption plan. An unmarried biological father must register his paternity prior to the filing of a Petition to Terminate his rights or within 30 days of service of a Notice of Intended Adoption Plan.
A Consent for Adoption is only valid and binding when executed pursuant to the specific requirements of Florida Law. According to Florida law, when a child under the age of 6 months is placed for adoption, the biological mother may not sign her Consent for Adoption until 48 hours after the child’s birth or on her date of discharge from the hospital or birth center which ever time is earlier. A birth father may sign a Consent for Adoption at any time after the child’s birth. Additionally, a legal or biological father may sign an irrevocable Affidavit of Non-Paternity at any time, before or after the child’s birth, relinquishing parental rights. When a child is 6 months of age or older, the mother and father may sign the Consent at any time and their Consent is subject to a revocation period of 3 business days.
In cases of children under 6 months as well as children over 6 months, once the Consents are signed with witnesses and notary, and the revocation period has passed if the child is 6 months or older, only the court presiding over the adoption can overturn the Consents upon a finding that the consents were taken by fraud or duress.
In a Florida stepparent adoption, after a court issues a judgment terminating the biological parent-child relationship, the adoptive parents are eligible to immediately finalize their adoption. Furthermore, in a Florida stepparent adoption, the adopting parent has the option of completing the process in a single court date where both the termination of the biological parent’s rights occurs as well as the adoption by the stepparent.
The adoptive parent must be present at the hearing, but may be given permission to appear telephonically with a notary to identify them to the court. The favorable final report of the agency or social worker who was assigned by the court to investigate the adoption must be filed with the court. The Miami adoption attorney will prepare the necessary papers for the court’s consideration. The Dade County adoption lawyer will also present the necessary testimony and evidence to the Florida adoption court. Assuming that all requirements of the statutes and court have been met, the adoption judge will sign a Final Judgment of Adoption
In the Final Judgment of Adoption, the adoptive family can change the name of the child. The Miami adoption lawyer will prepare the necessary paperwork and file it with the vital statistics office of the state in which the child was born. The original birth certificate is sealed and a new birth certificate is prepared which shows the adoptive parents to be the child’s natural parents and states the child’s new name. The new birth certificate is mailed to the Dade County adoption lawyer and forwarded to the adoptive family. Once the new birth certificate is received by the adoptive family, they may apply for a new Social Security number, a passport for the child, and open accounts on behalf of the child.
For all legal purposes, the adopted child will be considered the natural child of the adoptive family. Further, the adopted child will be legally considered as if he or she were born into the adopted family. The adoptive child will be deemed equal with all other children that may then be or later come into the adopted family. This means that the adopted child will inherit equally to those children biologically born into family for purposes of estates and wills. Furthermore, in the event of a separation or divorce from the biological parent, the stepparent has all of the legal rights and obligations of child support, child custody and time-sharing as that of a biological parent.
Vari & Associates, LLC.
The foregoing legal guide was published to inform and not advise the reader about Florida laws. The guide was authored by Attorney Lisa Marie Vari of the Miami, FL family law and adoption law firm of Vari & Associates, LLC.