Guiding You through Adoption

This guide may assist in answering questions you may have regarding Adoption.  We encourage you to ask other questions, as it is impossible to answer all of your questions in this guide. 

What is Adoption? 

The process of adoption creates a legal relationship between a child and parent.  The adoption terminates all rights, responsibilities, obligations and the relationship between a child and the natural parents.

Why does the state regulate Adoption? 

The primary purpose of state regulation of adoptions is to ensure and advance the welfare of the minor children involved.  State regulations protect children from unnecessary separation from their natural parents, facilitate the adoption of children in need of placement into suitable and loving homes with parents who are fit to care for them, and assure the finality of the adoption.

What options for adoption are available to me in North Carolina? 

In North Carolina, you have four options available.  They are:

  1. Independent Adoptions:  You, as parents, will locate a child in need of placement without the use of an adoption agency.
  2. Agency Assisted Adoptions:  A licensed adoption agency will assist you in locating an adoptive child.
  3. Facilitators:  The biological parent has a facilitator assist in locating prospective adoptive parents.  You may also illicit the assistance of a facilitator in finding a child available for adoption.  The difference in this and using an agency is that a facilitator is not licensed to place children and cannot charge for their services. 
  4. International Adoptions:  If you are interested in an international adoption, an agency affiliated with your country of interest will guide you through the process and assist you in locating a child to adopt. 

Can I advertise in order to locate a child?  

No.  Only a licensed child-placement agency, a facilitator, or an individual with a pre-placement completed and found suitable to be an adoptive parent may solicit a child for placement.  Only Social Services, a licensed agency, or a facilitator may advertise in any public medium.  Violating this is a crime.

How do I start the adoption process?

First, you must complete a pre-placement assessment within eighteen (18) months before a placement may occur.  Your pre-placement must be prepared by a licensed child-placement agency.

What can I expect during my pre-placement assessment? 

The pre-placement assessment is based on the prospective adoptive parents participating in at least one personal interview which will occur in your private residence.  The pre-placement assessment covers a variety of issues, such as: marital and family history, physical and mental health, history of employment and education, property and income, whether you have any history of domestic violence involvement, reasons for adopting, your preferences as an adoptive parent, and any other relevant factors.

What happens after I complete my pre-placement assessment?

You must obtain and file the necessary legal documents.  The biological parents will need to provide consents.  The biological mother will complete an affidavit providing the name, last known address and marital status of parents.  Once the necessary consents and affidavits are completed, you will need to file a petition asking the court for its approval of placing the child with you.  You will include your pre-placement assessment, the consents, and the biological mother’s affidavit with your petition.  Along with the petition and other documents, the agency or parents will include a detailed history and background of the child and an order or pleading concerning visitation and/or custody.  Also, if an individual whose consent is required but has not been obtained exists, a document identifying that person will also be filed along with the petition.

When can I get the biological parents’ consents? 

You may obtain the father’s consent prior to the birth of the child.  Obtaining the mother’s consent requires a waiting period.  You may not obtain a mother’s consent until after the birth of the child.

Can the biological parents change their minds after they give consent? 

Yes.  The consenting parent may revoke his/her consent by written notice to the person specified in the consent.  If this occurs, you must immediately return the child.  There are some parameters to consent, depending on the age of the child at the time of consent:

Unborn child or a child three (3) months old or less: consent may be revoked within 21 days following the date of execution (including weekends and holidays)

Child over three (3) months: consent may be revoked within seven (7) days following the date of execution (including weekends and holidays).  The revocation period will be extended to the next business day if the final day of revocation falls on a weekend, or NC or federal holiday.

The consent of a child over age 12 or of an adult adoptee may be revoked at any time before entry of the final order.

Other circumstances may allow for the revocation of consent

 If consent was obtained by fraud or duress may move to have the decree of adoption set aside and have the consent declared void within six months of the time the fraud or duress is or ought reasonably to have been discovered. 

 A parent or guardian whose consent was necessary but was not obtained may move to have the decree of adoption set aside within six months of the time the omission is or ought reasonably to have been discovered.

Where placement occurred before a pre-placement assessment was completed and provided to the birth parent who placed the child for adoption, the revocation period is extended to five business days after that person receives the pre-placement assessment, or the remainder of the revocation period, whichever is longer. If a second consent is obtained, it is irrevocable.

Should I hire an attorney to assist in the adoption process? 

Yes.  Legal adoption, as you can see, is a complex process governed by statutes which must be strictly followed.  Hiring an experienced professional will ensure that the process goes smoothly.  Finally, an attorney will make sure your rights and options throughout the adoption process are explained and protected.

When will my adoption be finalized?

After the petition is filed, a hearing or disposition of the petition will be set no later than ninety (90) days.  Your hearing or disposition will take place within six (6) months of filing your petition, unless the court extends the time.  If you must have a hearing, the court will make a ruling as to whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child.

What expenses are we permitted to pay during the adoption process?

As adoptive parents, you are permitted to pay for the "reasonable and actual fees and expenses" listed in the statute:  (1) Services of an agency in connection with an adoption; (2) Medical, hospital, nursing, pharmaceutical, traveling, or other similar expenses incurred by a mother or her child incident to the pregnancy and birth or any illness of the adoptee; (3) Counseling services for a parent or the adoptee;  (4) Ordinary living expenses of a mother during the pregnancy and for no more than six weeks after the birth;  (5) Expenses incurred in ascertaining the background information required about an adoptee and the adoptee's biological family; (6) Legal services, court costs, and traveling or other administrative expenses connected with an adoption; and (7) Preparation of the pre-placement assessment and the report to the court.

What expenses are not permitted to be paid by the adoptive parents?

You may not pay for: (1) placement of the child; (2) the biological parents’ consent for adoption; (3) relinquishment of a child to an agency; and (4) assisting a parent or guardian in locating a prospective adoptive parent, or transferring custody of a child to an adoptive parent.

Will the biological parents be permitted visitation? 

When the biological parents are permitted visitation, this is called an open adoption.  Open adoptions are not favored in North Carolina.  Arrangements allowing biological parents visitation are invalid.  The biological parents have no legal right to a child, including visitation, once an adoption is final.  If the biological parents attempt or succeed in pre-conditioning the placement on retaining visitation rights will not invalidate the adoptive placement.

From the Author: North Carolina Family Law Firm

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