The family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are experienced and fully equipped to handle every detail of your adoption process. Contact our office today for information and guidance on adoption proceedings such as:

  • Adopting an Infant
  • Adopting a Relative
  • Adopting a Stepchild(ren)
  • Finding a better home for a child

The primary goal of any adoption is to promote the well-being of the child, and North Carolina adoption law reflects this objective. In most adoption proceedings, the result of an adoption is two-fold. First, adoption creates a new, permanent legal relationship between the adopting parent and the adoptee-child. Second, adoption permanently severs all legal relationships between the adoptee-child and his or her biological parents. An adopting family fully enjoys the same legal status as if the child were naturally born to the adopting parents.

The Adoption Process:

It is important to note that, while the results of an adoption are cherished, the process can be demanding, complicated, and stressful. Our attorneys will guide you the entire way, from your initial petition to bringing home your new child. Through this process, strict adherence to Chapter 48 of the North Carolina Adoption Statutes is critical. The basic process is as follows:

  1. The Materials. The process begins with the gathering of a number of documents and taking assessments. You are required to:

    1. Take a Pre-placement Assessment;

    2. Obtain the Consent to Adoption from the biological parents;

    3. Obtain an Affidavit from the biological mother containing the names, addresses, and marital statuses of the biological parents;

    4. Obtain a Certified Copy of Background Information, which should contain such information as the child’s education, health history, genetic history, behavioral history, and so forth. This information is generally provided by the adoption agency or the biological parents;

    5. Resolve all Court Orders or Pleadings still pending that pertain to the adoptee-child;

    6. File a Financial Affidavit demonstrating that all adoption costs have been paid; and

    7. Disclose any individual whose required consent you were unable to obtain. Chapter 48 of the Adoption Statutes details the individuals who must consent.

  2. File a Petition for Adoption. Once you have all of your materials ready, you can file your Petition for Adoption with the Court. At this time, you must also serve notice to anyone whose required consent you failed to obtain.

  3. Adoption Hearing. The Statutes require the Court to set a hearing date to evaluate your petition within 90 days of filing. The actual hearing on your petition must occur within six months of filing. However, if the petition is unopposed, and you are considered a fit adoptive parent, your petition will most likely be granted without a formal hearing. However, if a hearing is required, the Court must believe that the preponderance of the evidence supports a finding that you are a fit parent and the adoption will promote the general welfare of the child.

  4. Build your new family.

Other Resources

Frequently Asked Questions: For more information on adoptions, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Same-Sex Parents or “Second Parent” Adoptions:

Same-sex adoptions remain an evolving area in the law. Since the United States Supreme Court ruling in 2015 legalizing gay marriage, stepparent adoptions have been an option for same-sex couples seeking to build a family in North Carolina. Previous law had required a couple to be married before they could proceed with a stepparent adoption.

There are two common scenarios in which a same-sex couple might seek to adopt:

  1. If one partner wants to adopt their partner’s biological or legally adopted child, this will be a solo adoption petition. Stepparent adoption, discussed below, is an option to accomplish this in North Carolina if you are married.

  2. If a couple wants to adopt a child to whom neither partner is biologically related, this is considered a joint adoption. Joint adoption can be accomplished through direct placement, agency placement or stepparent adoption.

    • Direct placement adoption: The parent or guardian personally selects a prospective adoptive parent and gives consent for the adoption, acknowledging that it will terminate their parental rights to the child. The legal effect of this type of adoption is a complete substitution of families.

    • Agency placement adoption: An adoption agency or the county department of social services has custody of the child because the parent relinquished their parental rights or a court order terminated them. The agency is responsible for placing the child for adoption.

    • Stepparent adoption: A spouse adopts their partner’s child. If the child’s other parent is still alive and does not consent to their parental rights being terminated by the adoption, the petitioning spouse must also file for termination of the other parent’s rights. Grounds that justify termination of the biological parent’s rights include mental or physical abuse, failure to support, failure to maintain a meaningful relationship with the child, and abandonment.

Note that all three of the adoption options involve terminating the other biological parent’s rights.

Until 2010, something called second-parent adoption was an option in North Carolina for adoptive parents that did not way to terminate the rights of the child’s other parent. However, the state Supreme Court in Boseman v. Jarrell invalidated second-parent adoptions for anyone regardless of orientation.

The process for joint adoption by married same-sex couples through agency or direct placement is slightly unclear in North Carolina courts. Some private agencies will not allow same-sex couples to adopt, but will allow an LGBT person to solo petition for adoption.

North Carolina Social Services: To view the North Carolina Social Services information on adoptions, visit

North Carolina Adoption Statutes: The N.C. General Assembly provides the actual text of the adoption statutes at