How do I begin the process of adoption?
First, it is highly recommended that an adoptive family undergo a Home Study. Under Florida law, prospective adoptive parents must receive a preliminary favorable Home Study with the exception of an adoption by stepparent or relative. A Home Study is a report that determines the suitability of the prospective adoptive parents. The Home Study includes both criminal and child abuse clearances. A Home Study can be performed by a licensed agency or professional. Referrals can be made for a Home Study Provider.
How long will it take to adopt a child?
It completely depends on certain factors that may or may not be under your control. The more stringent requirements that adoptive parents have in being matched with a birth mother, the longer the process could be. No one can provide you with any definitive answer on how long it will take. It is important to work closely with your attorney to monitor your profile exposure.
Can I adopt my stepchild?
Yes. As a matter of fact, there is no home study requirement for relative or step parent adoptions. Relative adoptions extend as far as third line of consanguinity.
How do I get matched with a birth mother?
You will create a profile, which will show your family. Your profile will include information that can help a birth parent learn about you. The profile is not your life story and therefore will not disclose confidential or personal information. The profile will consist of pictures, general information about your family and maybe poems or art that represents you. We will help you with your profile or recommend a profile specialist. You do not have to do this alone!
What information will we receive about the birth mother?
The birth mother will complete a social and medical history that will be provided to you. You will also receive medical records relating to the pregnancy. It is usual and customary to request HIV and drug testing as soon as prenatal care begins. Sometimes, adoptive parents are offered the opportunity to attend medical appointments and/or sonograms. When the birth father is accessible, an attempt will also be made to receive a social and medical history of him. Criminal records are also offered to adoptive parents.
Will you work with out of state families?
Absolutely. Many adoptive families choose Florida as their forum to adopt. All out of state adoptions require approval from the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children. We will conduct all legal requirements to satisfy ICPC.
What are my financial responsibilities to the birth mother?
Pursuant to Florida law, birth mothers are entitled to reasonable living expenses if the birth mother is unable to pay due to unemployment, underemployment or disability. Such expenses may include rent, utilities, basic telephone service, food, toiletries, necessary clothing, transportation and expenses found by the Court to be necessary for the health and well being of the birth mother and unborn child.
Will I receive a refund of that money if the birth mother changes her mind?
All birth mothers are required to sign a financial agreement requiring that they reimburse the adoptive family should they choose to change their adoption plans. While few birth mothers have the resources for this, you may pursue a judgment against them, which is valid for 20 years. You may also consult with your tax advisor, as those expenses can be considered a deduction.
Do birth fathers have rights?
Yes. In Florida, if able and aware of the pregnancy, a birth father that desires to establish and/or protect his rights is expected to pay a fair and reasonable amount of the expenses incurred in connection with the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s birth, in accordance with his financial ability, when not prevented from doing so by the birth mother.
We will initially attempt to locate and contact birth fathers if we have information sufficient to make them locatable. A birth father may choose to voluntarily cooperate with the adoption plan made by the birth mother and sign a consent or affidavit of non-paternity.
For unmarried biological fathers who are locatable and choose to not cooperate, Florida law requires that the adoption entity or agency serve them with a notice of the birth mother’s intended adoption plan. The notice gives the potential biological father 30 days in which he must show his intent to contest the adoption by taking certain actions. If the unmarried biological father fails to timely complete ALL required actions, we seek a court ruling that he no longer has rights to the child. If the unmarried biological father timely completes the required actions, he preserves his right to notice and his consent to the adoption is required. If a birth mother is married, her husband is known as the legal father and his consent to the adoption is required.
When can a birth mother sign a consent to an adoption?
Pursuant to Florida law, a birth mother cannot terminate her parental rights until 48 hours after a baby is born or until medical discharge. Any document signed by the birth mother before this time does not bind her to the adoption.
Can a birth mother change her mind after signing a consent to the adoption?
No. The state of Florida has no revocation period for a child younger than six months. A birth mother who executes a consent for adoption involving a child six months or younger, does not have a grace period in which to change her mind. The consent for adoption is permanent and irrevocable from the moment it is signed. A consent can only be overturned if the birth mother can prove fraud or duress in a court of law. When the birth mother is placing a child older than six months, the birth mother has three business days to revoke her consent for any reason. Once this period passes, if the child has been placed with the adoptive parents, the consent can only be overturned based upon proving fraud or duress in a court of law.
When will my adoption be finalized?
Florida law allows finalization once a 90-day post-placement supervision period has expired. The Petition for Adoption cannot be set for final hearing until 30 days after entry of the Final Judgment Terminating Parental Rights.