The primary goal of any adoption is to promote the well-being of the child being received into the new family. Not surprisingly, North Carolina law reflects this goal of promoting the well-being of the child. The results of an adoption is two-fold in virtually all Monroe Union County adoption proceedings. First, the adoption creates a new and permanent legal relationship between the child and the adopting parents. Second, the adoption severs all legal ties between the child and his or her biological parents. Consequently, an adoptive family benefits from the same legal status as if the child were naturally born into the family of the adopting parents.Adoption Process Explained
Because it involves minor children, the adoption process can be complicated, stressful, and demanding even though the results of an adoption are cherished by the family and child alike. There are several steps that need to happen, from the initial adoption petition to the day the child is taken into his or her new home. All of these steps must closely follow Chapter 48 of the North Carolina Adoption Statutes. The adoption process is as follows:
- Required documentation: The adoption process starts with your need to gather several documents as well as take assessments. This includes taking a pre-placement assessment as an adopting parent. You must also obtain a consent to adoption from the child’s biological parents. In addition to written consent, North Carolina law requires an affidavit from the biological mother of the child that contains the names, addresses, and marital statuses of the child’s biological parents. You must then get a certified copy of background information on the child. This document includes, among other things, the child’s history regarding his or her education, health, genetics, and behavior. It is common for an adoption agency or the biological parents to provide this information to adopting parents. Of note, all court orders or proceedings that pertain to the child who will be adopted that are still pending must be resolved. The adopting parents must also prepare and file a financial affidavit that demonstrates all adoption costs have been paid. Finally, any individual whose required consent was not obtained must be disclosed.
- Filing an adoption petition: Once all of the above documents have been obtained and completed, a petition for adoption may be filed with a North Carolina court. When the petition is filed, a notice must be served to anyone whose required consent was unable to be obtained prior to submitting the petition with the court.
- Adoption hearing: North Carolina law mandates that an adoption hearing be set within 90 days of an adoption petition being filed with the court. The hearing itself must happen within six months from the date the petition was filed. That being said, if an adoption petition is unopposed and the people seeking the petition are considered fit adoptive parents, then the adoption may be granted without the need for a formal hearing. Should an adoption hearing be required, however, the Court must be convinced that the petitioners are fit adoptive parents and the adoption will promote the general welfare of the child by a preponderance of the evidence provided in support of the adoption.
Since the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in its 2015 decision, stepparent adoptions have provided an option for same-sex couples in North Carolina who are seeking to build a family. Previously, North Carolina law mandated that a couple had to be married before they were legally allowed to proceed with a stepparent adoption.
There are two common situations in which a North Carolina same-sex couple may seek to adopt - if one partner wishes to adopt the other partner’s biological or legally adopted child, or if the couple wishes to adopt a child to whom neither partner is biologically related. In the first scenario, a solo adoption would take place if the couple is unmarried, while a stepparent adoption would occur if the couple is married. Under the second scenario, joint adoption may be accomplished through direct placement, agency placement, or stepparent adoption.
- Direct placement adoption: Under this adoption method, the guardian or parent of the child personally selects a potential adoptive parent. Then he or she gives consent for the adoption of the child and acknowledges that this will terminate parental rights. The legal effect of direct placement adoption is a complete substitution of the child’s families.
- Agency placement adoption: Under this adoption method, the county department of social services or an adoption agency has custody of the child. This would be because the parent of the child relinquished parental rights voluntarily, or a court order terminated these rights. Under this scenario, the agency is responsible for placing the child up for adoption.
- Stepparent adoption: Under this adoption method, a spouse adopts his or her partner’s child. If the child’s other parent (the non-stepparent) is still alive and refuses to consent to his or her parental rights being terminated, the petitioning parent/spouse must also file for a termination of the other parent’s rights in addition to petitioning for adoption. There are grounds for seeking termination of a biological parent’s rights including failure to support, physical abuse, mental abuse, abandonment, and failure to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child.
All three of the above adoption methods involve terminating the other biological parent’s parental rights.
North Carolina courts are not clear on the process for joint adoption by married same-sex couples through agency or direct placement. Some private agencies do not allow same-sex couples to adopt while they will allow a solo petition for adoption by a person who is LGBT.Adoption Help in North Carolina
The North Carolina family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have the experience to handle every detail of your family’s adoption process. Contact our Monroe Union County office today for more information and legal guidance on adoption proceedings including adopting an infant, relative or step child as well as finding a better home for a minor child.