Understanding Florida Adoption
Adoption can be an emotional and highly charged process, and in many instances just one mistake on a document can delay or invalidate your chances of bringing home your child. Adoption falls under the category of family law, and no matter how simple a prospective adoption may seem, you should never try to complete this process without a lawyer. Every state in the U.S. has specific adoption laws, but in many instances, a state social service agency will have to interview you and your spouse or partner (if applicable), as well as make several in-home visits to determine your suitability for becoming an adoptive parent.
After an agency has given you the green light to become an adoptive parent, you can sign with a licensed adoption agency, or also pursue a private adoption through a non-profit charity or child-welfare government organization. As with many legal issues related to children, the adoption court will always use the “best interests of a child” standard when determining whether or not to approve your petition.
What Is the Difference Between an Open and Closed Adoption?
In many cases, you are given the option of pursuing an open or a closed adoption, and there are differences between the two options that could affect the future well-being of your child:
- Open Adoption – in this type of adoption, you will meet and maintain a relationship with the birth parents of the child that you adopt. This allows the birth parents to have full information about who you are, and in some instances, birth parents are even given the choice of choosing who they believe is the best person to adopt their child. Open adoptions are advantageous if you want your adoptive child to know from the beginning that they are adopted and for them to maintain a relationship with their birth parents.
- Closed Adoption – in this type of adoption, you will never meet or know who your adoptive child’s birth parents are, and in many instances, you may decide not to discuss the adoption with your child until he or she is old enough to understand the process. Closed adoptions may be beneficial if you believe that maintaining a relationship with your new child’s birth parents will cause problems for your family.
Who Is Eligible To Adopt?
The state of Florida does not list any specific standards for an individual or a couple to become adoptive parents, though people who have been convicted of certain felonies – such as a sex crime – are barred from adopting. In 1977, a Florida law passed that banned gays and lesbians from adopting, but in 2010 a state appeals court ruled that this law was unconstitutional, opening adoption to anyone who identifies as LGBT.
In some states, the law requires married couples to adopt a child together, unless they are legally separated, or one spouse has been declared incompetent or has filed a reason with the court for not consenting to the adoption.
Other states also stipulate that an adoptive parent must be either 18 or 21 years old to adopt, and that the adoptive parent be older than the child by a specific number of years.
But in general, stepparents, single men and women, couples with biological children, and couples without children are all eligible to adopt.
Adoption Process In Florida
There are certain steps in the adoption process in Florida:
- The birth parents must sever all legal ties to the child
- You must undergo the interview and home visit process
- You must sign with a state adoption agency, government non-profit or independent adoption agency
- After you find a child, you must petition to adopt that child
- After the court approves your adoption, you will become the legal parents of your new child, with the same rights and responsibilities as birth parents.
The Benefits of An Experienced Family Lawyer
If you are thinking about adopting a child, you should consult with an experienced family lawyer who has the resources and the contacts to help your chances of approval. Please call Eric C. Cheshire at 561-655-8844 to discuss your adoption situation, and to see how we can help you in this process.