Florida

Adoption Laws

Consent to Adoption

Who Must Consent to an Adoption Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.062

A petition to terminate parental rights pending adoption may be granted only if written consent has been executed by:

  • The mother of the minor
  • The father of the minor, if:
    • The minor was conceived or born while the father was married to the mother.
    • The minor is his child by adoption.
    • The minor has been established by court proceeding to be his child.
    • He has filed an affidavit of paternity.
    • In the case of an unmarried biological father, he has acknowledged in writing, signed in the presence of a competent witness, that he is the father of the minor and has filed such acknowledgment with the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health within the required timeframes.
  • Any person lawfully entitled to custody of the minor, if required by the court
  • The court having jurisdiction to determine custody of the minor, if the person having physical custody of the minor does not have authority to consent to the adoption

If parental rights to the minor have previously been terminated, the adoption entity with which the minor has been placed for subsequent adoption may provide consent to the adoption. In that case, no other consent is required.

A petition to adopt an adult may be granted if written consent to adoption has been executed by the adult and the adult’s spouse, if any.

Consent of Child Being Adopted Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.062(1)(c)

A child age 12 or older must consent unless the court determines it is in the child’s best interests to dispense with consent.

When Parental Consent Is Not Needed Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.064

The court may waive the consent of the following individuals to an adoption:

  • A parent who has deserted a child without means of identification or who has abandoned a child
  • A parent whose parental rights have been terminated by order of a court of competent jurisdiction
  • A parent who has been judicially declared incompetent and for whom restoration of competency is medically improbable
  • A legal guardian or lawful custodian of the person to be adopted, other than a parent, who has failed to respond in writing to a request for consent for a period of 60 days or who, after examination of his or her written reasons for withholding consent, is found by the court to be withholding his or her consent unreasonably
  • The spouse of the adopted person if the failure of the spouse to consent to the adoption is excused by reason of prolonged and unexplained absence, unavailability, incapacity, or circumstances that are found by the court to constitute unreasonable withholding of consent

When Consent Can Be Executed Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.082

An affidavit of nonpaternity may be executed before the birth of the minor; however, the consent to an adoption shall not be executed before the birth of the minor except in a preplanned adoption pursuant to § 63.213.

A consent to the adoption of a minor shall not be executed by the birth mother sooner than 48 hours after the minor’s birth or the day the birth mother has been notified in writing that she is fit to be released from the hospital or birth center, whichever is earlier.

A consent by a birth father or legal father may be executed at any time after the birth of the child.

How Consent Must Be Executed Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.082

Consent to an adoption or an affidavit of nonpaternity shall be executed as follows:

  • If by the adopted person, by oral or written statement in the presence of the court or by being acknowledged before a notary public and in the presence of two witnesses
  • If by an agency, by affidavit from its authorized representative
  • If by any other person, in the presence of the court or by affidavit acknowledged before a notary public and in the presence of two witnesses
  • If by a court, by an appropriate order or certificate of the court

A minor parent has the power to consent to the adoption of his or her child and has the power to relinquish his or her control or custody of the child to an adoption entity. Such consent or relinquishment is valid and has the same force and effect as a consent or relinquishment executed by an adult parent. A minor parent, having executed a consent or relinquishment, may not revoke that consent upon reaching the age of majority or otherwise becoming emancipated.

A consent or an affidavit of nonpaternity executed by a minor parent who is age 14 or younger must be witnessed by a parent, legal guardian, or court-appointed guardian ad litem.

The consent to adoption or the affidavit of nonpaternity must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and be acknowledged before a notary public who is not signing as one of the witnesses.

Revocation of Consent Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.082

A consent to adoption executed by the mother within 48 hours of the child’s birth is valid upon execution and may be withdrawn only if the court finds that it was obtained by fraud or duress.

When the minor to be adopted is older than age 6 months at the time of the execution of the consent, the consent to adoption is valid upon execution; however, it is subject to a 3-day revocation period.

If person seeking to withdraw consent claims to be the father of the minor but has not been established to be the father by marriage, court order, or scientific testing, the court may order scientific paternity testing and reserve ruling on removal of the minor until the results of such testing have been filed with the court.

Following the revocation period for withdrawal of consent or the placement of the child with the prospective adoptive parents, whichever occurs later, consent may be withdrawn only when the court finds that the consent was obtained by fraud or duress.

An affidavit of nonpaternity may be withdrawn only if the court finds that the affidavit was obtained by fraud or duress.

Criminal Background Checks for Prospective Foster and Adoptive Parents

Requirements for Foster Parents [1]

The department shall conduct a criminal history records check on all persons being considered by the department for placement of a child, including all nonrelative placements. All members of the household of the person being considered and frequent visitors to the household also must be checked.

A criminal history records check may include, but is not limited to, submission of fingerprints to the Department of Law Enforcement for processing and forwarding to the FBI for State and national criminal history information, and local criminal records checks through local law enforcement agencies. A criminal history records check also must include a search of the department’s automated abuse information system.

The department may not place a child with a person other than a parent if the criminal history records check reveals that the person has been convicted of any felony that falls within any of the following categories:

  • Child abuse, abandonment, or neglect
  • Domestic violence
  • Child pornography or other felony in which a child was a victim of the offense
  • Homicide, sexual battery, or other felony involving violence, other than felony assault or felony battery when an adult was the victim

The department may not place a child with a person other than a parent if the criminal history records check reveals that the person, within the previous 5 years, has been convicted of a felony that falls within any of the following categories:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • A drug-related offense

Requirements for Adoptive Parents Ann. Stat. §§ 63.092; 63.089(4)(b)(2); Admin. Code § 65C-16.007

The preliminary home study must include a records check of the central abuse registry and a criminal records check on the intended adoptive parents.

No minor may be placed in a home in which there resides any person determined by the court to be a sexual predator or to have been convicted of any of the following offenses:

  • Child abuse
  • First-degree or second-degree murder
  • Sexual battery that constitutes a capital, life, or first-degree felony

In regulation:Abuse hotline checks must be conducted on all adoptive applicants. For applicants who previously have been foster parents or have adopted in other States, abuse hotline checks must be completed in the previous State. Abuse hotline checks must be current within 30 days of placement of an adoptive child in the home. Abuse hotline checks also must be conducted on all other household members who are age 12 or older.

Criminal background checks through local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies will be conducted on all persons age 12 or older residing in the prospective adoptive home. For applicants who have been foster parents or who have adopted in other States, local and State checks must be completed in the State of previous residence.

Juvenile delinquency checks must be conducted on all household members age 12 or older as a public record search. If this check reveals a juvenile justice record, this information must be addressed in the home study, and a determination must be made regarding possible impact on the adopted child.

Applicants who have been convicted of a crime specified under § 39.0138 within the past 5 years cannot be approved until 5 years have elapsed. At that time, the applicants also must be referred to the adoption review committee. Applicants who have been found guilty or pled guilty or nolo contenderefor crimes not listed in § 39.0138 shall be carefully evaluated as to the extent of their rehabilitation.

Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights Ann. Stat. § 39.806

Grounds for the termination of parental rights may be established under any of the following circumstances:

  • The parent has abandoned the child.
  • The parent’s conduct toward the child or other children threatens the life; safety; well-being; or physical, mental, or emotional health of the child, irrespective of the provision of services.
  • The parent is incarcerated and one of the following applies:
    • The time for which the parent is expected to be incarcerated will constitute a substantial portion of the child’s minority.
    • The incarcerated parent has been determined by the court to be a violent, career criminal; a habitual, violent, felony offender; or a sexual predator.
    • The court determines by clear and convincing evidence that continuing the parental relationship with the incarcerated parent would be harmful to the child.
  • A child has been adjudicated dependent, a case plan has been filed with the court, and:
    • The child continues to be abused, neglected, or abandoned by the parents.
    • The parent has materially breached the case plan by making it unlikely that he or she will be able to substantially comply with the case plan before the time for compliance expires.
  • The parent has engaged in egregious conduct or knowingly failed to prevent egregious conduct that threatens the life; safety; or physical, mental, or emotional health of the child or the child’s sibling.
  • The parent has subjected the child to aggravated child abuse, sexual battery, sexual abuse, or chronic abuse.
  • The parent or parents have committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child, or a felony assault that results in serious bodily injury to the child or another child, or aided or abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit such a murder or voluntary manslaughter or felony assault.
  • The parental rights of the parent to a sibling have been terminated involuntarily.
  • The parent has a history of extensive, abusive, and chronic use of alcohol or a controlled substance that renders him or her incapable of caring for the child and has refused or failed to complete available treatment for such use during the 3-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition for termination of parental rights.
  • A test administered at birth that indicated that the child’s blood, urine, or meconium contained any amount of alcohol or a controlled substance or metabolites of such substances, the presence of which was not the result of medical treatment administered to the mother or the newborn infant, and the biological mother of the child is the biological mother of at least one other child who was adjudicated dependent after a finding of harm to the child’s health or welfare due to exposure to a controlled substance or alcohol, after which the biological mother had the opportunity to participate in substance abuse treatment.
  • On three or more occasions the child or another child of the parent has been placed in out-of-home care, and the conditions that led to the child’s out-of-home placement were caused by the parent.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights Ann. Stat. § 39.806

A petition may be filed when the parents have substantially failed to comply with a case plan for 12 months unless the failure to comply was due to:

  • A lack of financial resources of the parent
  • A failure of the Department of Children and Family Services to make reasonable efforts to reunify the parent and child

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption

Who Must Be Studied Citation: Admin. Code § 65C-16.007

The adoptive applicant and other adult household members must be included in the home study. Criminal background checks will be conducted on the applicants and all persons age 12 or older residing in the prospective adoptive home.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.092; Admin. Code § 65C-16.002

The preliminary home study must be completed by a licensed child-placing agency, a registered child-caring agency, or a licensed professional. The department is required to perform the preliminary home study only if there is no licensed child-placing agency, child-caring agency, or licensed professional in the county where the prospective adoptive parents reside.

In regulation: The Department of Children and Family Services facilitates the adoption of children with special needs. Persons seeking to adopt non-special needs children will be referred to private agencies.

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents Citation: Admin. Code § 65C-16.005

A social study that involves careful observation, screening, and evaluation shall be made of the child and adoptive applicants to select families who will be able to meet the physical, emotional, social, educational, and financial needs of a child, while safeguarding the child from further loss and separation from primary caregivers. In determining which applications for adoption should be approved, the following criteria must be considered:

  • The child’s choice if the child is developmentally able to participate in the decision
  • The ability and willingness of the adoptive family to adopt some or all of a sibling group
  • The commitment of the applicant to value, respect, appreciate, and educate the child regarding his or her racial and ethnic heritage
  • The family’s childrearing experience

Applications to adopt will be accepted from married couples and from single adults. Couples married less than 2 years must be given particularly careful evaluation.

Other qualifications include:

  • The family must have income and resources to ensure financial stability and security to meet expenses incurred in adequate care of the family.
  • The family’s housing and neighborhoods must provide adequate space and the living conditions necessary to promote the health and safety of the family.
  • The physical, mental, and emotional health of the prospective adoptive household members must not jeopardize the safety and permanency of the child’s placement and will be considered in determining the best interest of the child.
  • When families have children by birth or adoption, the anticipated impact of a new child on the family must be considered.
  • Working parents must be willing and able to arrange to be with the child during the transition period.

Elements of a Home Study Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.092; Admin. Code § 65C-16.005

The preliminary home study must be made to determine the suitability of the intended adoptive parents and may be completed prior to identification of a prospective adoptive child. The study must include, at a minimum:

  • An interview with the intended adoptive parents
  • Criminal records and central abuse registry checks
  • An assessment of the physical environment of the home
  • A determination of the financial security of the intended adoptive parents
  • Documentation of counseling and education of the intended adoptive parents on adoptive parenting

In regulation: A minimum of five written references will be required. At least two of the references will be from nonrelatives. References must be obtained from persons who either have had the opportunity to observe the applicant(s) in situations that may give some indication of their capacity for parenthood, or who, as the result of their relationship to the applicant, possess or should possess documentation or knowledge of the applicant’s capacity for parenthood. References should be obtained from employers of applicants and from schools or day care providers who have had an opportunity to know the family.

The approved adoptive parent training must be provided to and successfully completed by all prospective adoptive parents except licensed foster parents and relative caregivers who have previously attended the approved training or have been determined to understand the challenges and parenting skills needed to parent the children available for adoption from foster care successfully.

Grounds for Withholding Approval Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.092; Admin. Code § 65C-16.005

No minor may be placed in a home in which there resides any person determined by the court to be a sexual predator or to have been convicted of child abuse, murder, or sexual battery.

In regulation: An application may be denied when any of the following issues are present:

  • The adoptive applicant is experiencing a serious or chronic medical condition that compromises or could compromise the applicant’s ability to provide the physical, emotional, social, and economic support necessary for the child to thrive.
  • The child abuse records check reveals verified findings of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
  • The criminal history checks reveal that the applicant(s) have been convicted of crimes specified in statute as a disqualifying condition.
  • The applicant is a current or former foster parent, and the review of the foster parent file reveals that there have been care and supervision concerns or a violation of licensing standards.

When Studies Must Be Completed Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.092

Before placing the minor in the intended adoptive home, a preliminary home study must be completed. A favorable preliminary home study is valid for 1 year after the date of its completion.

Postplacement Study Requirements Citation: Admin. Code § 65C-16.010

The department has a legal responsibility to provide services until the finalization of an adoption. This period shall be no less than 90 days from the date the child was placed in the physical custody of the adoptive parent. The first home visit must be made within 1 week after placement. There shall be a minimum of three supervisory visits in placements that are non-problematic. For placements that do not proceed smoothly, additional and more frequent contacts are necessary. The adoptive child must be contacted a minimum of once every calendar month until adoption finalization. The entire family must be seen together at least once during the postplacement supervision period.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.112

Unless ordered by the court, no report or recommendation is required when the placement is a stepparent adoption or when the minor is a relative of one of the adoptive parents.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements Citation: Ann. Stat. § 409.401; Admin. Code § 65C-16.005

Any out-of-home placement of a child outside the State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

The child shall not be sent into the receiving State until the appropriate public authorities in the receiving State notify the sending agency, in writing, that the proposed placement does not appear to be contrary to the interests of the child.

In regulation: Families from other States wishing to adopt Florida children may apply and be studied by an agency authorized or licensed to practice adoption in their State of residence. Out-of-State placements will be facilitated through established regional or national adoption exchanges or directly with out-of-State agencies and will comply with the requirements of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

Foster to Adopt Placements Citation: Admin. Code § 65C-16.002

The current custodian of the child may wish to adopt. If the custodian applies to adopt the child, the application must be evaluated to determine suitability through an adoptive home study. The home study must assess the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the depth of the relationship existing between the child and the custodian.

Adoption by the current custodian may not be in the best interests of the child in some situations. Examples of these situations include:

  • The current custodians want to adopt a child but not his or her siblings, and it is in the best interests of the sibling group to be placed together.
  • The current custodian has returned other adopted children to the department or has arranged for some other out-of-home informal long-term placement for a previously adopted child.

Infant Safe Haven Laws

Infant’s Age Citation: Ann. Stat. § 383.50

A newborn infant may be relinquished. The term ‘newborn infant’ means a child that a licensed physician reasonably believes to be approximately 7 days old or younger.

Who May Relinquish the Infant Citation: Ann. Stat. § 383.50

The infant may be relinquished by his or her parent.

Who May Receive the Infant Citation: Ann. Stat. § 383.50

The child may be left at a hospital, emergency medical services station, or fire station.

Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider Citation: Ann. Stat. § 383.50

Each emergency medical services station or fire station staffed with full-time firefighters, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics shall accept any newborn infant left with a firefighter, emergency medical technician, or paramedic. They shall consider these actions as implied consent to and shall:

  • Provide emergency medical services to the newborn infant to the extent he or she is trained to provide those services
  • Arrange for the immediate transportation of the newborn infant to the nearest hospital having emergency services

Each hospital shall admit and provide all necessary emergency services and care to any newborn infant left with the hospital in accordance with this section. The hospital or any of its licensed health-care professionals shall consider these actions as implied consent for treatment, and a hospital accepting physical custody of a newborn infant has implied consent to perform all necessary emergency services and care.

Upon admitting a newborn infant, the hospital shall immediately contact a local licensed child-placing agency or alternatively contact the statewide central abuse hotline for the name of a licensed child-placing agency for purposes of transferring physical custody of the newborn infant. The hospital shall notify the licensed child-placing agency that a newborn infant has been left with the hospital and approximately when the licensed child-placing agency can take physical custody of the child. In cases where there is actual or suspected child abuse or neglect, the hospital or any of its licensed health-care professionals shall report the actual or suspected child abuse or neglect in accordance with statute in lieu of contacting a licensed child-placing agency.

Immunity for the Provider Citation: Ann. Stat. § 383.50

A medical services provider, a fire department, or an employee or agent of a medical services provider or fire department is immune from criminal or civil liability for acting in good faith pursuant to this section. Nothing in this subsection limits liability for negligence.

The hospital or any of its licensed health-care professionals is immune from criminal or civil liability for acting in good faith in accordance with this section. Nothing in this subsection limits liability for negligence.

Protection for Relinquishing Parent Citation: Ann. Stat. § 383.50

A newborn infant left at a hospital, emergency medical services station, or fire station in accordance with this section shall not be deemed abandoned and is not subject to reporting and investigation requirements, unless there is actual or suspected child abuse or until the Department of Children and Family Services takes physical custody of the child.

A criminal investigation shall not be initiated solely because a newborn infant is left at a hospital under this section, unless there is actual or suspected child abuse or neglect.

Except where there is actual or suspected child abuse or neglect, any parent who leaves a newborn infant with a firefighter, emergency medical technician, or paramedic at a fire station or emergency medical services station, or brings a newborn infant to an emergency room of a hospital and expresses an intent to leave the newborn infant and not return, has the absolute right to remain anonymous and to leave at any time and may not be pursued or followed unless the parent seeks to reclaim the newborn infant.

Effect on Parental Rights Citation: Ann. Stat. § 383.50

There is a presumption that the parent who leaves the newborn infant in accordance with this section intended to leave the newborn infant and consented to termination of parental rights.

A parent of a newborn infant left at a hospital, emergency medical services station, or fire station may claim his or her newborn infant up until the time the court enters a judgment terminating his or her parental rights. A claim to the newborn infant must be made to the entity that has physical or legal custody of the newborn infant or to the circuit court before which proceedings involving the newborn infant are pending.

Regulation of Private Domestic Adoption Expenses

Birth Parent Expenses Allowed Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.097(2)

The following fees, costs, and expenses may be assessed by the adoption entity or paid by the adoption entity on behalf of the prospective adoptive parents:

  • Reasonable living expenses of the birth mother that the birth mother is unable to pay due to unemployment, underemployment, or disability, including rent, utilities, basic telephone service, food, toiletries, necessary clothing, transportation, insurance, and expenses found by the court to be necessary for the health and well-being of the birth mother and the unborn child
  • Reasonable and necessary medical expenses

Such expenses may be paid during the pregnancy and for a period of up to 6 weeks postpartum.

Birth Parent Expenses Not Allowed Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.097(3)-(5)

Approval of the court is required when the total amount of expenses permitted above exceeds:

  • $5,000 in legal or other fees
  • $800 in court costs
  • $5,000 in reasonable and necessary living and medical expenses

Any fees, costs, or expenses not included above or prohibited as listed below require court approval prior to payment and must be based on a finding of extraordinary circumstances.

The following fees, costs, and expenses are prohibited:

  • Any fee or expense that constitutes payment for locating a minor for adoption
  • Any payment that is not itemized and documented on the affidavit filed under § 63.132
  • Any fee on the affidavit that does not specify the service that was provided and for which the fee is being charged, such as a fee for facilitation, acquisition, or other similar service, or that does not identify the date the service was provided, the time required to provide the service, the person or entity providing the service, and the hourly fee charged

Allowable Payments for Arranging Adoption Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.097(2), (6)

The adoptive parent may be assessed for the following expenses:

  • Expenses necessary to comply with the requirements of this chapter, including, but not limited to, service of process, investigator fees, a diligent search as required by § 63.088, a preliminary home study, and a final home investigation
  • Court filing expenses, court costs, and other litigation expenses
  • Birth certificate and medical record expenses
  • Costs associated with advertising under § 63.212(1)(g)
  • The following professional fees:
    • A reasonable hourly fee or flat fee necessary to provide legal representation to the adoptive parents or adoption entity
    • A reasonable hourly fee or flat fee for contact with the parent related to the adoption, including clerical support, transportation, transmitting funds, arranging appointments, and securing accommodations
    • A reasonable hourly fee for counseling services provided to a parent or a prospective adoptive parent

Allowable Payments for Relinquishing Child Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.212(1)(c)-(d), (f)-(h); 63.085(1)

It is unlawful for any person:

  • To sell or surrender, or to arrange for the sale or surrender of, a minor to another person for money or anything of value or to receive such minor child for such payment or thing of value
  • To assign or transfer his or her parental rights for the purpose of, incidental to, or otherwise connected with, selling or offering to sell such rights and duties
  • Except an adoption entity, to charge or accept any fee or compensation of any nature from anyone for making a referral in connection with an adoption
  • Except an adoption entity, to advertise or offer to the public, in any way or by any medium whatever, that a minor is available for adoption or that a minor is sought for adoption
  • To contract for the purchase, sale, or transfer of custody or parental rights in connection with any child, in connection with any fetus yet unborn, or in connection with any fetus identified in any way but not yet conceived, in return for any valuable consideration

The payment of living or medical expenses by the prospective adoptive parents before the birth of the child does not, in any way, obligate the parent to sign the consent for adoption.

Allowable Fees Charged by Department/Agency Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.097(1)-(2)

When an adoption entity uses the services of a licensed child-placing agency, a professional, any other person or agency, or, if necessary, the Department of Children and Family Services, the person seeking to adopt the child must pay the licensed child-placing agency, professional, other person or agency, or the department an amount equal to the cost of all services performed, including, but not limited to, the cost of conducting the preliminary home study, counseling, and the final home investigation.

Accounting of Expenses Required by Court Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.132(1)(a)-(c)

Before the hearing on the adoption petition, the prospective adoptive parent and any adoption entity must file a signed affidavit. The affidavit must itemize all disbursements and receipts of anything of value, including professional and legal fees, made or agreed to be made by or on behalf of the prospective adoptive parent and any adoption entity in connection with the adoption. The affidavit must also include, for each legal or counseling fee itemized, the service provided, the date the service was provided, the time required to provide the service if the service was charged by the hour, the person or entity that provided the service, and the hourly fee charged.

The affidavit must show any expenses or receipts incurred in connection with:

  • The birth of the minor
  • The placement of the minor with the petitioner
  • The medical or hospital care received by the mother or minor during the mother’s prenatal care and confinement
  • The itemized living expenses of the birth mother
  • The services relating to the adoption or placement of the minor for adoption that were received by or on behalf of the petitioner, the adoption entity, either parent, the minor, or any other person

The affidavit must state whether any of these expenses were paid for by collateral sources, including, but not limited to, health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, or public assistance.

The Rights of Unmarried Fathers

Legal Definition of Father Ann. Stat. §§ 39.01; 63.062; 409.256

The term ‘parent’ means a woman who gives birth to a child and a man whose consent to the adoption of the child is required under § 63.062(1).

Written consent must be executed by the father of the minor, if:

  • The minor was conceived or born while the father was married to the mother.
  • The minor is his child by adoption.
  • The minor has been established by court proceeding to be his child.
  • He has filed an affidavit of paternity pursuant to § 382.013(2)(c).
  • In the case of an unmarried biological father, he has acknowledged in writing, signed in the presence of a competent witness, that he is the father of the minor, has filed such acknowledgment with the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health within the required timeframes, and has complied with all requirements.

The term ‘putative father’ means an individual who is or may be the biological father of a child whose paternity has not been established and whose mother was unmarried when the child was conceived and born.

Paternity Registry Ann. Stat. § 63.054

The Department of Health shall establish and maintain a Florida Putative Father Registry through its Office of Vital Statistics.

In order to preserve the right to notice and consent to an adoption under this chapter, an unmarried biological father must, as the ‘registrant,’ file a notarized claim of paternity form with the Florida Putative Father Registry. He shall include therein confirmation of his willingness and intent to support the child for whom paternity is claimed in accordance with State law.

The claim of paternity may be filed at any time prior to the child’s birth, but a claim of paternity may not be filed after the date a petition is filed for termination of parental rights. In each proceeding for termination of parental rights, the petitioner shall submit to the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health a copy of the petition for termination of parental rights. The Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health shall not record a claim of paternity after the date that a petition for termination of parental rights is filed.

By filing a claim of paternity form with the Office of Vital Statistics, the registrant expressly consents to submit to DNA testing upon the request of any party, the registrant, or the adoption entity with respect to the child referenced in the claim of paternity.

Alternate Means to Establish Paternity Ann. Stat. § 742.10

Procedures for the determination of paternity for children born out of wedlock include:

  • The establishment of paternity at an adjudicatory hearing
  • An affidavit acknowledging paternity or a stipulation of paternity that is executed by both parties and filed with the clerk of the court
  • An affidavit or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity that is executed by both parties
  • Paternity that is adjudicated by the Department of Revenue as provided in § 409.256

Such adjudication, affidavit, or acknowledgment constitutes the establishment of paternity. If no adjudicatory proceeding was held, a notarized voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, or a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity that is witnessed by two individuals and signed under penalty of perjury, shall create a rebuttable presumption of paternity.

Judicial or administrative proceedings are not required or permitted to ratify an unchallenged acknowledgment of paternity.

Required Information Ann. Stat. § 63.054

The claim of paternity form shall be signed by the unmarried biological father and must include:

  • His name, address, date of birth, and physical description
  • The name, address, date of birth, and physical description of the mother
  • The date, place, and location of conception of the child, if known
  • The name, date, and place of birth of the child or estimated date of birth of the expected minor child, if known

The claim of paternity form shall be signed under oath by the registrant.

Revocation of Claim to Paternity Ann. Stat. §§ 63.054; 742.10

The registrant may, at any time prior to the birth of the child for whom paternity is claimed, execute a notarized written revocation of the claim of paternity previously filed with the Florida Putative Father Registry. Upon receipt of such revocation, the claim of paternity shall be deemed null and void.

If a court determines that a registrant is not the father of the minor or has no parental rights, the court shall order the Department of Health to remove the registrant’s name from the registry.

A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is subject to the right of any signatory to rescind the acknowledgment within 60 days after the date the acknowledgment was signed or the date of an administrative or judicial proceeding relating to the child, including a proceeding to establish a support order in which the signatory is a party, whichever is earlier.

After the 60-day period, a signed voluntary acknowledgment of paternity shall constitute an establishment of paternity and may be challenged in court only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact, with the burden of proof upon the challenger, and under which the legal responsibilities, including child support obligations of any signatory arising from the acknowledgment may not be suspended during the challenge except upon a finding of good cause by the court.

Access to Information Ann. Stat. § 63.0541

All information contained in the Florida Putative Father Registry and maintained by the Office of Vital Statistics within the Department of Health is confidential and exempt from public disclosure, except as otherwise provided in this section. Information made confidential and exempt by this section shall be disclosed to:

  • An adoption entity, upon the filing of a request for a diligent search of the Florida Putative Father Registry in connection with the planned adoption of a child
  • The registrant unmarried biological father, upon receipt of notarized request for a copy of his registry entry only
  • The birth mother upon receipt of a notarized request for a copy of any registry entry in which she is identified as the birth mother
  • The court, upon issuance of a court order concerning a petitioner acting pro se in an action under this chapter

Except as set forth above, the database comprising the Florida Putative Father Registry shall remain confidential and exempt and separate from all other databases in this State, including any local or Federal database. Such database may not be accessed by any other State or Federal agency or entity.

Use of Advertising and Facilitators in Adoptive Placements

Use of Advertisement Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.212(1)(g)

It is unlawful for any person, except an adoption entity, to advertise or offer to the public, in any way, by any medium whatever, that a minor is available for adoption or that a minor is sought for adoption; it is unlawful for any person to publish or broadcast any such advertisement without including the Florida license number of the agency or attorney placing the advertisement.

Use of Intermediaries/Facilitators Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 63.032; 63.039; 63.085; 63.212(c), (f)

An intermediary is an attorney acting as an adoption entity who places a child for adoption. An adoption entity has an affirmative duty to:

  • Make full disclosure of all State law requirements for adoption
  • Obtain necessary consents
  • File necessary petitions and affidavits
  • Serve notices of hearings
  • Report to the court all expenses paid

The adoption entity must provide the prospective adoptive parents with information concerning the background of the child to the extent such information is disclosed to the adoption entity by the parents, legal custodian, or the department.

It is unlawful for any person, except an adoption entity, to charge or accept any fee or compensation of any nature from anyone for making a referral in connection with an adoption.

It is unlawful for any person to sell or surrender or to arrange for the sale or surrender of a minor to another person for money or anything of value or to receive such minor child for such payment or thing of value.

Who May Adopt, Be Adopted, or Place a Child for Adoption?

Who May Adopt Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.042

The following persons may adopt:

  • A husband and wife jointly
  • An unmarried adult
  • A married person without his or her spouse joining as a petitioner, if the person to be adopted is not his or her spouse, and if:
    • The spouse is a parent of the person to be adopted and consents to the adoption.
    • The failure of the 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 interests of the child.

No person is eligible to adopt if that person is a homosexual.* *On September 22, 2010, this provision was declared unconstitutional in a decision filed by the Florida Court of Appeals.

Who May Be Adopted Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.042

Any person, a minor or an adult, may be adopted.

Who May Place a Child for Adoption Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 63.022; 63:032; 63.202

A child may be placed by any of the following:

  • A parent or legal guardian
  • A child-placing agency that is licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services

All placements of minors must be reported to the department, except for relative, adult, or stepparent adoptions.

Post-Adoption Laws

Access to Adoption Records

Who May Access Information Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 63.162; 63.165

Information may be available to:

  • The adopted person who is age 18 or older
  • The birth parents
  • The adoptive parents
  • Birth siblings
  • Maternal and paternal birth grandparents

Access to Nonidentifying Information Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.162

All nonidentifying information, including the family medical history and social history of the adopted person and the birth parents, when available, must be furnished to the adoptive parents before the adoption becomes final and to the adopted person, upon the adopted person’s request, after he or she reaches majority. Upon the request of the adoptive parents, all nonidentifying information obtained before or after the adoption has become final must be furnished to the adoptive parents.

Mutual Access to Identifying Information Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 63.162; 63.165

Identifying information about a birth parent, an adoptive parent, or an adopted person may not be disclosed unless the respective party has authorized in writing the release of such information. If the adopted person is younger than age 18, written consent must be obtained from an adoptive parent.

The court may, upon petition of an adult adopted person or birth parent, for good cause shown, appoint an intermediary or a licensed child-placing agency to contact a birth parent or adult adopted person, as applicable, who has not registered with the adoption registry pursuant to § 63.165, and advise both of the availability of the intermediary or agency and that the birth parent or adult adopted person, as applicable, wishes to establish contact.

The department shall maintain a registry with the last known names and addresses of an adopted person, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents and any other identifying information that the parties wish to include in the registry.The registry shall be available for those persons choosing to enter information therein, but no one shall be required to do so. A person who enters information in the registry must indicate clearly the persons to whom he or she is consenting to release the information, and shall be limited to the adopted person, the birth parents, the adoptive parents, birth siblings, and maternal and paternal birth grandparents. Consent to the release of this information may be made in the case of a minor adopted person by his or her adoptive parents or by the court after a showing of good cause. At any time, any person may withdraw, limit, or otherwise restrict consent to release information by notifying the department in writing.

Access to Original Birth Certificate Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.162

The original birth certificate is available only upon order of the court.

Where the Information Can Be Located

Florida Adoption Reunion Registry (F.A.R.R.), Florida Department of Children and Families

Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Persons

Birth Parents in Relation to Adopted Person Citation: Ann. Stat. § 63.172

A judgment of adoption relieves the birth parents of the adopted person, except a birth parent who is the petitioner or married to the petitioner, of all parental rights and responsibilities. It terminates all legal relationships between the adopted person and the adopted person’s relatives, except that rights of inheritance shall be as provided in the Florida Probate Code.

If one or both parents of a child die without the relationship of parent and child having been previously terminated and a spouse of the living parent or a close relative of the child adopts the child, the child’s right of inheritance from or through the deceased parent is unaffected by the adoption. A close relative of a child is the child’s brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, or uncle.

Adoptive Parents in Relation to Adopted Person Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 732.108; 732.302; 736.608; 736.1102

For the purpose of intestate succession by or from an adopted person, the adopted person is a descendant of the adopting parent and is one of the natural kindred of all members of the adopting parent’s family. He or she is not a descendant of his or her birth parents, nor is he or she one of the kindred of any member of the birth parent’s family or any prior adoptive parent’s family, except that:

  • Adoption of a child by the spouse of a birth parent has no effect on the relationship between the child and the birth parent or the birth parent’s family.
  • Adoption of a child by a birth parent’s spouse who married the birth parent after the death of the other birth parent has no effect on the relationship between the child and the family of the deceased birth parent.
  • Adoption of a child by a close relative has no effect on the relationship between the child and the families of the deceased birth parents.

Adopted Persons Who Are Not Included in a Will Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 732.302; 732.608

When a testator omits to provide by will for any of his or her children adopted after making the will and the child has not received a part of the testator’s property equivalent to a child’s part by way of advancement, the child shall receive a share of the estate equal in value to that which the child would have received if the testator had died intestate, unless:

  • It appears from the will that the omission was intentional.
  • The testator had one or more children when the will was executed and bequeathed substantially all the estate to the other parent of the pretermitted child and that other parent survived the testator and is entitled to inherit under the will.

Adopted persons are included in class gift terminology and terms of relationship in accordance with rules for determining relationships for purposes of intestate succession.

Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families

What may be included in postadoption contact agreements? Ann. Stat. § 63.0427

The court may be asked to consider the appropriateness of postadoption communication or contact, including, but not limited to, visits, written correspondence, or telephone calls.

Who may be a party to a postadoption contact agreement? Ann. Stat. § 63.0427

The child shall have the right to have contact with his or her siblings or, upon agreement of the adoptive parents, the child shall have the right to have contact with the parents who have had their parental rights terminated or other specified biological relatives.

What is the role of the court in postadoption contact agreements? Ann. Stat. § 63.0427

The court shall consider the following in determining the appropriateness of postadoption communication:

  • Any orders of the court pursuant to § 39.811(7)
  • Recommendations of the department, the foster parents if other than the adoptive parents, and the guardian ad litem
  • Statements of the prospective adoptive parents
  • Any other information deemed relevant and material by the court

If the court determines that the child’s best interests will be served by postadoption communication or contact, the court shall so order, stating the nature and frequency of the communication or contact. This order shall be made a part of the final adoption order, but in no event shall the continuing validity of the adoption be contingent upon such postadoption communication or contact, nor shall the ability of the adoptive parents and child to change residence within or outside the State of Florida be impaired by such communication or contact.

Are agreements legally enforceable?

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

How may an agreement be terminated or modified? Ann. Stat. § 63.0427

The adoptive parent may, at any time, petition for review of a communication or contact order if the adoptive parent believes that the best interests of the adopted child are being compromised. The court shall have authority to order the communication or contact to be terminated or modified, as the court deems to be in the best interests of the adopted child. As part of the review process, the court may order the parties to engage in mediation. The department shall not be required to be a party to such review.

Laws Related to Intercountry Adoption

Effect and Recognition of a Foreign Adoption Decree

Ann. Stat. § 63.192

A judgment of court establishing the relationship of parent and child by adoption issued pursuant to due process of law by a court of any other jurisdiction within or without the United States shall be recognized in this State, and the rights and obligations of the parties on matters within the jurisdiction of this State shall be determined as though the judgment were issued by a court of this State.

Readoption After an Intercountry Adoption

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Application for a U.S. Birth Certificate

Ann. Stat. § 382.017

The Department of Health will prepare a certificate of foreign birth for a foreign-born adoptee who is not a U.S. citizen and whose judgment of adoption was entered by a Florida court. The certificate will be established upon receipt of:

  • The report or certified copy of the adoption decree
  • Proof of the date and place of the adoptee’s birth
  • A request that the certificate be prepared from the court, the adopting parents, or the adoptee if he or she is of legal age

The certificate shall be labeled ‘Certificate of Foreign Birth’ and will show the true country and date of birth of the adoptee and will state that it is not evidence of U.S. citizenship for the child.

After registering the certificate of foreign birth in the new name of the adoptee, the department will seal the adoption report or decree. The seal will not be broken except pursuant to a court order.

If the adoptee was born in a foreign country but was a U.S. citizen at the time of birth, the department shall notify the adoptive parents, or the adoptee if of legal age, of the procedure for obtaining a revised birth certificate through the U.S. Department of State.

Source

Child Welfare Information Gateway. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. [1]

References

  1. Ala. Code §§ 38-13-3(2) & (5); 38-13-2(30)