While many other areas of family law see the attorney aiding in the breakup of a family, adoption allows the attorney to create or expand families. The Cary family lawyers of Alexander & Doyle, PA most often assist in step-parent or grandparent adoptions, but find delight in creating brand new families as well. For our attorneys, adoption is by far the most gratifying area of practice.
Adoption in North Carolina: What You Need To Know
Adoption is a method of creating a parent/child relationship by law between individuals who are not related by blood. Any person over the age of 18 may adopt any other person (except for their spouse). In North Carolina, adoption is strictly regulated by the General Statutes to advance the welfare of the child. The main objective of the statutes is not to find children for adoptive parents, but to find loving and caring parents for children.
It is important to note that, except regarding a stepparent adoption which is described below, once an adoption is final, it completely severs the relationship between the child and his or her biological parents. In the eyes of the law, the adoptive family takes the place of the biological family, and the adopted child has the same legal status as a biological child of the parents for all purposes.
Example: An adopted child can inherit property from its adoptive parents through intestate succession. Since the biological parents are relieved of their parental duties, a child cannot inherit property through intestate succession from his or her biological parents after adoption, and vice versa.
The only scenario in which the relationship between the child and his or her biological parents is not severed is when a stepparent adopts a stepchild. In this case, the spouse of the stepparent, who is the mother or father of the child, does not have his/her parental relationship with the child terminated as described in the above paragraph.
There are two main types of adoption placements: direct and agency placements. A direct placement occurs when the biological parents finds adoptive parent(s) for the child without going through a licensed intermediary (an adoption agency).
Agency placements occur when the biological parents find adoptive parents for the child by going through a licensed adoption agency or official state bureau for adoption. In an agency placement, the child is legally “surrendered” to the agency, which then assumes the parental role for the child while trying to find suitable adoptive parents for the child. In addition, an agency placement can occur through judicial decree, where the parental rights of the biological parents are terminated, and the child is placed in the custody of the agency by the court.
Petition for Adoption
The legal process of adoption in North Carolina is initiated by the filing of a petition for adoption, which must include the following documents:
- A pre-placement assessment, which examines the suitability of the home for the child
- A consent to adoption from both biological parents
- An affidavit from the biological mother indicating the names, known addresses, and marital status of the biological parents
- A certified copy of the background information on the child’s health, social, educational, and genetic history, provided by his or her biological parents or by the adoption agency placing the child for adoption
- Any court order or pleading regarding the child’s custody or visitation (if any)
- An affidavit accounting for any payment made in connection with the adoption
- A document identifying any individual whose consent to the adoption is required and had not been obtained at the time the petition for adoption was filed
Once the petition is filed, notice of it must be served on all parties whose consent is required by law but has not been obtained. Notice must also be served on the adoption agency that placed the child for adoption, and the agency that prepared the pre-placement assessment.
The court will require one of these agencies to file a report that will assist the court in determining whether the adoptive placement is in the best interest of the child. This report must be filed within 60 days of the filing of the petition, and within 90 days of the filing of the petition a hearing date will be set for the petition.
Absent an extension of time granted by the court, the hearing must occur within 6 months of the filing of the petition. At the hearing, the court will make the final determination as to whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child. If the court should find that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, then the petition for adoption will be granted. If the petition for adoption is not opposed, then a hearing is not required, and the petition will be granted if the court finds the adoptive parents to be fit parents for the child.
Ready to Adopt? Our Experienced Adoption Attorneys Can Help
Cary adoption lawyers Andrea Nyren Doyle and Ann-Margaret Alexander have each served families and individuals for over 20 years to file a petition for adoption and assist with the overall NC adoption process.
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