Adoption Lawyers in Jacksonville, Florida
Adoption proceedings in Florida are governed by Florida Statute Chapter 63. At the outset, it is important to recognize that adoption law is complex and is best handled by an experienced adoption attorney. At McGRATH GIBSON we are very experienced with adoption law and can help you navigate the complexities of an adoption.
Adopting creates a legal relationship whereby the child is deemed the child of the adoptive parents for every purpose, including inheritance. Once a child is adopted, the child is treated the same as a child born to parents either an individual or of lawful wedlock. Any person, minor or adult may be adopted. Handicapped persons may adopt unless the handicap renders the person incapable of serving as an effective parent. Adoption laws of the state of Florida allow lesbian and gay individuals to adopt.
The following people must consent to an adoption: the mother of the minor child, the father of the minor child, the person being adopted, the person lawfully entitled to the adoptee, and the court. In cases where the actual father of the child cannot be located, the court will look to the acting in the traditional definition of a father, or for an acknowledgment of paternity.
To preserve to notice and consent to an adoption, an unmarried biological father must file a notarized claim of paternity form with the Florida Putative Father Registry, confirming his willingness and intent to support the child. This is also consent to DNA testing, if requested by a party.
An adoption agency must serve notice of an intended adoption plan on any known and locatable unmarried biological father who is identified by the date the mother signs her consent for adoption or who is identified by a diligent search of the Florida Putative Father Registry. When a child is placed with adoptive parents more than six months after the child’s birth the consent of an unmarried biological father is necessary only if he has complied with the statutory requirements.
When a child placed with adoptive parents is younger than six months of age, the unmarried biological father must have demonstrated a full commitment to his parental responsibility by having performed of the acts prior to the time the mother executed her consent for adoption.
An adoption entity may serve upon an unmarried biological father identified by the mother or a diligent search of the Florida Putative Father Registry a notice of an intended adoption plan at any time before the placement of the child in the adoptive home, including before the child’s birth. An unmarried biological father is exempt from the time limitations for filing a claim of paternity with the registry if the mother identifies him to the adoption agency and the father is served with notice.
The notice and consent requirements noted above do not apply where the child was conceived in violation of the criminal law.
The execution of consent to adoption must be executed in the presence of the court or by affidavit and signed in the presence of two witnesses. A consent to adoption may not be executed by the birth mother sooner than 48 hours after the child’s birth or the day the mother has been notified in writing that she is fit to be released from the hospital, whichever is earlier. If the minor is not placed upon release from the hospital following birth, the consent to adoption may be executed at any time after the birth of the minor.
Prior to granting an adoption, the court must first determine whether the minor is legally available for adoption through separate proceedings terminating parental rights pending adoption. A court may terminate parental rights pending an adoption only after a full evidentiary hearing in which the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that each person whose consent to the adoption is required, had executed valid consent and has had notice of the proceedings. A judgment terminating parental rights pending adoption legally frees the child for subsequent adoption, adjudicates the child’s status, and may not be challenged by a person claiming parental status who did not establish parental rights, before the filing of the petition for termination.
A Petition for adoption may not be filed until 60 days after the date the judge signed the judgment terminating parental rights pending adoption. In adoption proceedings a case management conference will be ordered by the court within 60 days of the filing of the petition, when there are issues to be resolved.
A child being adopted has the right to have the court consider post adoption communication and contact with siblings that are not being adopted. The court also considers best interests of the child. Florida permits private intermediaries in adoption proceedings. The intermediary must obtain a written acknowledgement from persons required to consent to the adoption that they represent the adoptive parents and are acting only as an intermediary in regard to the natural parents.
This is a general overview of adoption proceedings in Florida and should not be considered as comprehensive reference. If you are in need of an adoption attorney in Jacksonville, call the lawyers of McGRATH GIBSON to schedule a consultation at (904) 358-3300. We will help you understand all of your options and navigate the complexities and laws surrounding adoption.
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