FAMILY LAW: ADOPTION IN JEFFERSON COUNTY
Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC is a full service Birmingham, Alabama law firm that has extensive experience in family law including legal services with respect to Alabama adoption proceedings, such as:
- Stepparent adoption
- Grandparent or other family adoption
- Private adoption
- Adoptions through the Alabama Department of Human Resources
- And more
Expanding your family is exciting and a little breathtaking. We can help. As many know, adoption is the legal procedure through which a child -- or an adult -- is recognized by Alabama law as being the child of the adopting adult(s). Once the adoption is finalized, the parent(s) and the child have all the rights and duties of the parent-child relationship, including the right of inheritance.
ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS TO ADOPT IN ALABAMA
Alabama law imposes specific eligibility requirements for adoption. They are:
- Adoptive parent must be over the age of 19
- If married, at least one spouse must be a US citizen and the marriage must be of at least three years in duration
- There must be adequate housing/personal space for the child
- The adoptive parent(s) must be healthy enough to raise a child
- Adoptive parent (and spouse) must pass a background check
ADOPTION BY RELATIVE
Adopting a child through the Alabama Department of Human Resources ("ADHR") is discussed below. That process takes many months and has several steps. However, there is a simplified process for adoption by relatives. In general, the process is shorter and the level of investigation is less than what is required for ADHR adoptions. The simplified process is available to:
- Grandparents and great grandparents
- Aunts and uncles and great aunts and great uncles
The simplified process is only available if the child has already been living with the relative for at least one year.
Although the legal process is simplified, adoption-by-relative might become complicated if the natural or birth parents do not consent to the adoption. In general, if the natural parents of a child are alive, they must consent to have their child adopted by someone else, even if that "someone else" is a blood relative. If either birth parent refuses to consent, then no adoption can be allowed absent some basis for terminating parental rights such as abuse, abandonment, failure to support, etc. Seeking to terminate parental rights can be complex and time-consuming. The dedicated attorneys here at Massey, Stotser & Nichols can help with the simplified process and also have the experience to navigate the court hearings necessary if consent must be contested.
STEPPARENT ADOPTION: CONSENT IS KEY
Similar to adoption-by-relative, Alabama has a simplified process for stepparent adoptions. Basically, paperwork is filed with the Court and a simplified investigation process is carried out by the ADHR. In general, the stepfather or stepmother must have resided with the child or children for at least a year. Of course, consent must be obtained from any living birth parent. As with adoption-by-relatives cases, the absence of consent can seriously complicate the adoption process.
Similar to adoption-by-relative, Alabama has a simplified process for stepparent adoptions. Basically, paperwork is filed with the Court and a simplified investigation process is carried out by the ADHR. In general, the stepfather or stepmother must have resided with the child or children for at least a year. Of course, consent must be obtained from any living birth parent. As with adoption-by-relatives cases, the absence of consent can seriouTo adopt a child available through the Alabama Department of Human Resources, there are six basic steps:
- Submitting an Application: An Application to Adopt can be found online or a paper version can be mailed; the Application asks basic information about you and your family and the child/children that you are wanting to adopt
- Group Preparation and Selection Meetings: These meetings are conducted by the Alabama Department of Human Resources ("ADHR") and are designed to educate and provide information; these meetings serve a "weeding out" function; topics include available children, adoption impacts on family and work, behavior management techniques, and similar; 10 meetings are required along with an in-home interview/evaluation by an ADHR social worker; the process is intended to help you decide if adoption is really right for you, what type of child will fit best in your family and whether you and your home are prepared to adopt
- Approval as an "Adoptive Resource": If the assessment and evaluation by the ADHR staff is positive, then you and your family are designated an "adoptive resource;" this is a fancy way of saying you are eligible to adopt if there is a good fit; adoptive parents begin to receive copies of the Waiting Children Newsletter
- Pre-Placement Visits: Along with the Newsletter, potential adoptive parents are given background information on waiting children and pre-placement visits can be scheduled
- Placement Agreement: If a good fit is found, a Placement Agreement is signed allowing the child or children to be placed in your home
- Finalization Hearing: After a successful placement lasting at least three months, the final legal step is the Finalization Hearing; after confirming various information, the Probate Court will declare that the child is legally your own child
Consent is almost never an issue with ADHR adoptions because parental rights have generally already been extinguished by the Courts.
FAMILY LAW AND ADOPTION IN ATTORNEYS IN BIRMINGHAM
If you are thinking about adopting a child in Southeastern Alabama, including in the city of Birmingham, contact Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC. We are a full service Birmingham, Alabama law firm that serves clients in the cities of Birmingham, Alabaster, Ashville, Bessemer, Clay, Fultondale, Gardendale, Homewood, Hoover, Leeds, Moody, Mountain Brook, Oneonta, Pelham, Pell City, Pinson, Springville, Trussville, and the surrounding areas. Our other practice areas are business law, automobile accident law, wrongful death, and personal injury law.