Every state has its own set of adoption laws. It is important to know what your state’s adoption laws are, especially if you are considering adopting. It may also be important to know what other state laws are if you plan to adopt outside of the state you live in.
Before I get too far into Florida adoption laws, I want to advise you that this article is written from my own personal research and experience, please do not consider this legal advice. For specific Florida adoption laws and legal advice, please contact a local Florida adoption agency or attorney. For the sake of this article, however, I will provide you with a brief understanding of Florida adoption laws and what the process looks like.
Let’s start with the basics. What is an adoption? Adoption is the legal process by which a child’s birth parents’ rights are terminated and a child becomes part of a different family. This is a permanent action and should be taken very seriously. As adoptive parents, you assume full responsibility for the child as if they were born to you naturally.
Next, who can adopt? Adults who live and work in Florida and are able to provide for a child are eligible to adopt in Florida. Single adults, married couples, and same-sex couples are able to adopt in Florida. A stepparent is also able to adopt their spouse’s child, this is known as a stepparent adoption. A person cannot be denied from adopting solely because of a physical disability unless that disability has found them incapable of safely caring for a child. Potential adoptive parents must complete a Florida adoption home study, which includes background checks, an interview, a home inspection, and more. You must also meet the requirements established by your adoption agency/attorney as well as the necessary requirements for the type of adoption you wish to pursue. Below, you will find a brief explanation of what some of those requirements are.
According to The Florida Bar, there are four types of adoption in Florida, entity adoption (an agency or intermediary-facilitated adoption), stepparent adoption, close relative adoption, and adult adoption. Each adoption has its own set of requirements and procedures.
The biggest piece of understanding Florida adoption laws is probably understanding the home study process. For relative and stepparent adoptions, a home study is not required. However, for every other type of adoption, you must complete a home study. Let’s take a look at what a home study is and what Florida adoption laws say about home studies.
The home study is required in order to adopt. This is to ensure you are prepared to adopt and raise a child. I will tell you it is not to make you feel bad or unsure about your decision. No matter how many times someone tells you that it is not about those things, I am sure you will get nervous about the process. There is no getting around the fact that someone is coming into your home to “decide” if you are capable or not of raising a child. Just know you are not being “targeted” and it is for your own good and the benefit of your child. The home study process in Florida has two main parts to it: the paperwork and the physical visit to your home. A Florida home study needs to be updated annually until you are placed with a child. It also needs to be updated if you move or change jobs.
This will probably be the most time-consuming part of the home study process. Some people are more prepared than others and getting a head start on collecting these things is a great idea if you know you want to pursue adoption. The documents you will need include:
- Health statement from your health professional.
- Financial statement, which may include pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, etc.
- Minimum of five written references and at least two must be non-relative
- A written statement which includes your intent to adopt, your relationship, your decision for adopting, and more
- State and federal background checks for everyone in your household who is ages 13 and older
Your adoption professional will schedule a time to visit your home. I again will remind you, this is not for them to judge you or decide if you are a good housekeeper or not. This is to make sure your home has a good, safe environment for a child. This pre-placement visit has two parts, the home visit and the adoption interview with the family. The home visit will be looking for child safety requirements such as:
- Gated stairways
- Electrical outlet covers
- Secure locks on all doors and windows
- Locked medicines
- Locked cleaning supplies
- Locked toxic chemicals
- Locked weapons
- Childproof drawers and cabinets
- Window screens
- Tall furniture bolted to walls
- Family emergency plans for natural disasters, medical emergencies, etc.
- Smoke detectors
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Fire extinguishers
If your adoption professional points out any areas of concerns, you can “fix” those things before placement. Just because you have something needs to be “fixed” does not mean you will not be approved for an adoption. It is meant to help you prepare for the child you will be bringing in to your home.
The adoption interview will allow your adoption professional to get to know you better. Some agencies conduct these interviews together as a couple/family, while others will do them individually. Typically your adoption professional will want to discuss things such as your childhood, family unit, career, personal values, interests, hobbies, relationships, parenting techniques, and more.
Your adoption professional wants to know about your relationship with each other as a couple as well as your feelings toward adoption. Do you share the same feelings towards adoption? Do you have any experience with adoption?
They will want to talk about your upbringing and childhood because that may influence how you parent. This is why I always tell people how important it is to find an adoption professional that you feel like you get along with or can click well with. Not that they are meant to be your friends, but they are there to get to know you as a person and you should be able to be as honest as possible with them. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, you may or may not be able to be yourself around them and that is not going to do you or your soon-to-be child any good. Make sure you meet with more than one adoption agency or professional, if possible, to find the person or agency that fits your family needs the most.
Florida Adoption Laws Specifics:
Now that we got the home study out of the way, what about the actual adoption process in Florida? A biological parent may voluntarily consent to the adoption and surrender all rights to the child. However, in the case of an involuntary termination of parental rights, a court must hear proof that a parent has abused, abandoned, or neglected the child in order to terminate their rights to the child, according to The Florida Bar. In general, any Florida adoption must show the proof that justifies the termination of the biological relationship.
According to The Florida Bar, “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.” This must be done before the filing of a petition to terminate rights or within 30 days of service of a Notice of Intended Adoption Plan.
Your adoption professional is required to serve the known father with the Notice of Intended Adoption Plan and advise him of “the steps he must take to avoid a default and waive any right to claim the child.” Also, if a child is younger than the age of 6 months old, the father may sign a consent for adoption any time after the child’s birth. He may also sign an irrevocable Affidavit of Non-Paternity at any time before or after the child’s birth, this relinquishes any right he may have to the child. The consent for adoption must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary (who cannot sign as a witness).
Either a period of 48 hours after the child’s birth must pass or she must have been discharged from the hospital, only then can the biological mother sign and consent for the adoption. If a child is over the age of 6 months old, the mother and father may sign a consent for adoption at any time and it is subject to a revocation period of three days. This consent also must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary (who can’t sign as a witness).
According to The Florida Bar, after the court issues a judgment terminating the birth parents’ biological rights, the time frame for completing the adoption is different. If you are pursuing an entity adoption, you cannot finalize your adoption until 30 days after the judgment terminating the parental rights or 90 days after placement of the child in your home, whichever occurs later. “In a stepparent, close relative, and adult adoption, the adoptive parents are eligible to immediately finalize their adoption.
“…Prospective adoptive parents must decide whether to pursue their adoption through an agency, or an attorney acting as an adoption entity, or an attorney acting as an intermediary between the prospective parents and the adoption agency.”
I again urge you to do your research on agencies and attorneys to find the one that fits well with your family. Make sure you understand all of their procedures and costs before committing to an agency or attorney. An attorney or intermediary performs the same services as an agency but uses the services of an agency or licensed private social worker to complete the home study.
A child may be placed for adoption in the state of Florida by an agency, attorney, or intermediary. There are both private and public agencies. All private agencies are licensed by the Department of Children and Families. In the state of Florida, if the child is over the age of 12, the child must consent to the adoption.
After the child is placed with you, the person who completed your home study will return to your home within one week for a post-placement visit. These visits will occur at least three times before you are able to finalize your adoption. These visits are conducted to check in on the child and make sure everyone is adjusting.
In order for the adoption to be finalized, the adoptive family will have to file a petition for adoption with the clerk of court. This is usually filed in the county that the termination of parental rights took place. According to The Florida Bar, this petition must be filed within 60 days of the termination of parental rights. Your acting adoption professional will prepare and file the necessary paperwork. The adoptive parents must then appear at a final hearing. A final report of the agency or social worker must be filed with the court. If all requirements of the statutes and the court are met, the judge will sign a final judgment of adoption. At this time, the adoptive parents assume all parental rights and responsibilities for the child. Usually, at this time, the adoptive parents will choose to have the child’s name changed. “The original birth certificate is sealed and not readily available again. … A new birth certificate is prepared that shows the adoptive parents to be the child’s natural parents and states the child’s new name.” Once you receive the new birth certificate, you may apply for a new social security number, passport and are able to open accounts on behalf of the child.
I know this is a lot of information regarding Florida adoption laws, however, I hope it at least gave you a quick overview of what to expect regarding Florida adoption laws. As I mentioned earlier, every state has its own set of rules, regulations, and laws regarding adoptions. It is essential that you understand your state’s requirements, rules, and laws if pursuing adoption. Again, this article should not be considered legal advice and I advise you to reach out to a local adoption agency or attorney to discuss Florida adoption laws further.