Phoenix Adoption Lawyer
ARIZONA ADOPTION PROCESS LAW FIRM; HELPING TO BUILD FAMILIES
Adoption brings together children and families, and is often considered one of the happiest and most rewarding fields in the practice of law. It creates a parent-child relationship between the adoptive parent [or parents] and a non-biological child. Whether through step-parent adoptions, kinship/relative adoptions, agency adoptions, open adoptions and closed adoptions, it bestows upon the family the formal relationship of parent and child, as though the child had been born to the adoptive parent, along with all of the attendant legal rights, privileges, duties, obligations and other legal consequences, including the rights of inheritance.
The face of adoption is multifaceted, ranging from step-parent adoptions to kinship adoptions [grandparent, aunt, uncle] to foster parent adoptions to private adoptions to agency adoptions to single-parent adoptions to adult adoptions.
Adoption Day can be one of the most important days for a family who is excited about expanding their family and solidifying their relationship. However, adoption is still a legal process, and can be emotionally charged. Many families who make the decision to adopt a child have been through years of tension. Heller Law Office, PLC, is honored to provide personal attention and compassionate legal services to each adoptive family.
In Arizona, a child, or a foreign-born person who is 21 years of age or less and who is not an illegal alien, who is present within this state at the time the petition for adoption is filed, may be adopted. A child over age 12 must give consent in open court to the adoption. A child must be legally free to be adopted before the filing of a petition, meaning that either the child’s biological parents have consented to the adoption, or their consent is unnecessary pursuant to law, or parental rights have been terminated by the court or the biological parents are deceased. If a child has a guardian or is in the legal custody of the state the guardian’s or state’s consent to the adoption is necessary.
The Juvenile Division of the Superior Court presides over these adoptions at one of two regional facilities, depending upon zip code.
An adult may adopt another adult between the ages of 18 and 21 years of age and who consents to the adoption or who stands in a certain relationship of the adopting person [i.e. stepchild, niece, nephew, cousin or grandchild]. Additionally, an adult who was placed in foster care while a juvenile may be adopted by the foster parent if the foster parent has maintained a continuous familial relationship with that person for five or more years. The Probate Division of the Superior Court presides over these adoptions.
An adult resident of this state, whether married, unmarried or legally separated is eligible to qualify to adopt children. A husband and wife may jointly adopt children. Under the current statute, an unmarried couple may not jointly adopt.
One of the most common types of adoption is the situation where a step-parent is adopting a spouse’s child or children from a previous relationship. Often the step-parent has been fulfilling the role of an active parent. Adoption can provide security to the child and family by making this loving relationship legal and permanent. The step-parent adoption proceeding may change the child’s name and place the step-parent on the child’s birth certificate, thus giving the step-parent legal recognition as the child’s parent, without which the step-parent could have difficulty asserting rights should something happen to the custodial birth parent.
SPECIAL NEEDS ADOPTION
Children taken into custody by Child Protective Services who cannot be returned to their parents within a prescribed time period are placed for adoption with grandparents or other relatives, foster parents or adoptive parents. These adoptions are considered special needs adoptions if the children qualify for adoption subsidy.
Grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, and adult siblings of the child are not required to be certified to adopt. Some Arizona counties require the family to participate in a social study to obtain a recommendation regarding the proposed adoption. Like any other adoption, the child’s parents, if alive, must either consent to the adoption, or their consent must be unnecessary pursuant to law or their parental rights have to be terminated by the court.
Birth mothers are usually the ones responsible for the adoption plan for their child. Their consent to the adoption is required unless their parental rights have been terminated or they are deceased. Arizona law provides that a parent under the age of 18 is competent to consent to the adoption of her child.
A father’s consent to an adoption must be obtained if he is married to the mother or has established paternity of the child. If a birth mother is married at any time during the 10 months preceding the birth of the child, her husband’s consent to the adoption is required, even if he is not the biological father of the child.
A birth mother must sign an affidavit identifying all potential fathers of her child. Those fathers must be served with a potential father notice informing them of the mother’s adoption plan. If the father objects to the mother’s adoption plan he has 30 days from the date he is served with the notice to file a paternity action in the appropriate court and serve the mother with a copy of that action. If he does not file his paternity action and serve the mother within the 30 days, his consent to the adoption is unnecessary. If a potential father cannot be personally served with the notice, he may be served with the notice by publication in a newspaper.
If the mother does not know the identity of the father, or if she inadvertently or intentionally does not name him in her affidavit, a father can protect his right to notice of the adoption by registering a Notice of Claim of Paternity with the Putative Father Registry within 30 days of the child’s birth. His failure to register within 30 days of the child’s birth allows the adoption to proceed without his consent unless he can show that it was impossible for him to file within 30 days of the child’s birth and that he registered within 30 days after it became possible for him to file. If a Birth Father is a military service member, he may be subject to the Service Members Civil Relief Act.
Unless certain exceptions apply [i.e. kinship], before any prospective adoptive parent may petition to adopt a child, the person shall be certified by the court as acceptable to adopt children.
A step-parent who wishes to adopt his or her spouse’s child does not need to be certified by the court as acceptable to adopt, although if the child’s other biological parent is living he or she must either consent, or consent must be unnecessary according to statute or parental rights must be terminated by the court.
Many adoption situations require the family to participate in a home/social study, to obtain a recommendation regarding the proposed adoption. This report must be submitted to the court 10 days before the hearing on the petition to adopt. This can be waived or abbreviated in certain situations.
In order to commence the adoption proceedings, the potential adoptive parent or parents may file a petition to adopt with the court specifying full name, age, place of residence, if married the date and place of such marriage, any relationship to the child, when and how custody of the child was attained, the date and birthplace of the child, all legal names used by the child, whether a change of name is desired, a full description and statement of value of all property owned or possessed by the child and that it is the desire of the prospective adoptive parent to adopt. The petition shall also state that a certificate of acceptability to adopt has been issued or is not required. Any fees or anything of value given or paid to any person or organization in connection with the child must be disclosed.
After a petition to adopt has been filed, the clerk of the superior court shall set a time and place for a hearing by the court. If, after the hearing and consideration of all the evidence, the court is satisfied that the requirements of the statute have been met and that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, the court shall order the adoption.
The written order of the court shall include the findings of fact on which it based its order.
The adoptive parents receive a certified copy of the Order of Adoption. After the adoption is completed the court sends information on the adoptive parents and the child to the vital records office in the state where the child was born. A new birth certificate is created with the child’s new name and the adoptive parents on the birth certificate as the child’s parents. After the new birth certificate is received the adoptive parents may take that certificate and their certified copy of the Order of Adoption to the Social Security office to request a new Social Security number for the adopted child.
ADOPTION TAX CREDIT
Adoptive parents may wish to check with their tax advisor regarding whether the federal adoption tax credit may apply in their situation.
THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT
The Indian Child Welfare Act, commonly referred to as ICWA, is a federal law enacted to preserve Native American Indian families and tribes. ICWA governs the adoption of Indian children and supersedes state law.
ICWA established notice and consent provisions as well as certain adoptive placement preferences, designed to prevent the break-up of the Indian family.