This is a judicial proceeding during which you are given permanent, legal custody of the child. Finalization hearings generally take place within 6 to 12 months after the child is placed in your home. They typically last only 30 to 60 minutes. The hearing will be attended by you, the child you intend to adopt, your attorney, and the agency social worker who placed the child.

In a few cases, the child’s birth parents may also appear, but only if their parental rights have not yet been terminated or they are participating in an open or cooperative adoption.

What the hearing involves

To verify that the adoption should occur, the court will attempt to establish that the child has been placed in a safe, loving home. Expect to list all the identifying information included in your adoption petition and answer questions such as:

  • Why do you want to adopt?
  • How will you care for your new child?
  • How will your family adjust to a new child?
  • Is there anything the court should know before finalizing this adoption?

As soon as the judge signs the adoption order, you gain permanent, legal custody of your child. Finalization is the last formal step in the adoption process and the official beginning of your new family.

Things To Do

Get and keep a copy of the child’s original birth certificate. Once the adoption is finalized, that document is sealed and neither you nor the adoptee can access it. Without it, some adoptees have had trouble getting passports and applying for affirmative action status. With it, adoptees may have an easier time searching for their biological roots, if and when they decide to do so.

Prepare to get a new social security number and birth certificate for your child—one that recognizes the child’s new last name. The social security number will be necessary for you to claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes. Their social security number will not change unless you request a change.