Relative adoptions are very common in the United States. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 30 percent of the adoptions that occur in the United States involve relatives. If you’re considering placing your child for adoption with relatives or if you’re a relative considering an adoption, you might wonder how the process works. There are some special rules that apply in North Carolina. Here’s what you should know about adopting a family member in North Carolina:
What is kinship adoption in North Carolina?
Relative adoption in North Carolina is also called kinship adoption. Through adoption, the relatives become the legal parents of the child. The adoption process happens through the North Carolina courts, but it’s usually a routine matter of completing the paperwork and formalizing the adoption.
What are some reasons for choosing relatives for adoption?
There are a lot of reasons to pursue a family adoption. Adoption within an extended family allows a child to remain in the extended family when a biological parent has long-term personal difficulties. A child may not have to move from their community, or they may have an easier transition moving because they’ll be with known relatives.
Even in cases where a relative already has a guardianship, there are benefits to formalizing the adoption. Adoption allows the child to have inheritance rights through the adopted parent. If you’re the adoptive parent, you may get health insurance for the child with you as the qualifying parent. You may also seek medical care and school records without having to prove guardianship.
What is the process for family adoption in North Carolina?
Adoption with family members in North Carolina is a lot like any other adoption in North Carolina. You file a petition for adoption in the appropriate court. If everyone agrees to the adoption, you file paperwork that states that everyone is in agreement. If someone objects to the adoption, you must attend court for hearings about whether the adoption is in the child’s best interests.
There are a few ways that a family adoption in North Carolina is easier than other types of adoptions. In some cases, you don’t have to have a pre-placement assessment. The court might presume that the placement is acceptable if the child is already living with you. For the most part, the adoption is the same in other respects.
Only some relatives qualify for a family adoption
Only very close family relationships qualify for special family adoption proceedings. They include:
- First cousins
- Great aunts/uncles
If you’re a relative but you don’t have a qualifying family relationship, you can still pursue a traditional adoption. If you’re married, both you and your spouse must adopt the child.
How do family adoptions usually come about?
You might begin your case with a guardianship. A guardianship gives a third party the right to act as a parent even though they’re not a parent. The third party is often a relative. Many adoptions are the natural extension of a long-term guardianship for a child.
Other adoptions within families occur from birth. You may decide to place your child for adoption with relatives, or you may decide to adopt a loved one’s biological child. If you choose to adopt from birth, there is paperwork that you can complete before the adoption that can give you rights immediately when the child is born.
Finally, some adoptions begin with child abuse and neglect proceedings. If the court terminates a biological parent’s rights to a child, North Carolina family services representatives will first look to place the child with relatives. Biological parents may give input as to the selection of a suitable adoptive relative, but it’s up to family services representatives and the courts to determine the best placement for the child.
If the child is the subject of an abuse or neglect proceeding, the State of North Carolina must look for relatives
When a child is removed from their parent’s care because of suspected abuse or neglect, the Fostering Connection to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 requires authorities to look for a relative placement before placing a child in general foster care. Family services workers must use due diligence to find relatives that might be suitable for caring for the child. They have 30 days to find and notify relatives.
There’s an important exception for cases where there is suspected domestic violence in a relative’s home. Even when there’s a relative willing to care for the child, family services officials must still make sure that the proposed placement is suitable for a child. A history of domestic violence is generally a disqualifier for a prospective family placement.
Do both parents have to consent to the adoption?
Generally, both biological parents have to consent to the adoption. If a parent has abandoned a child for two years or more and failed to provide financial support during that time, the court might presume that the parent consents to the adoption. If the parent doesn’t consent, you may still ask the court to terminate that parent’s rights. Terminating a parent’s rights requires a high amount of proof that the parent has abused or neglected the child.
In some cases, a parent’s whereabouts may be unknown. The court may order you to take reasonable steps to notify the parent. Your North Carolina relative adoption attorney can help you determine what notices you need to send in order to complete your petition for adoption.
What rights do the biological parents have after the adoption is complete?
After the adoption is complete, the adoptive parents have full legal rights to the child. They may make all decisions for the child in the same way that all parents make decisions for their child. After adoption, the biological parents no longer have rights of any kind for the child. It’s up to the adoptive parents whether to allow the biological parents to have direct or indirect contact with the child after the adoption is complete.
Are there things that I can do in order to make the process go more smoothly?
It’s important to discuss expectations with everyone involved. Both the biological and adoptive parents need to know what an adoption means. They should be clear that the adoption grants full legal rights to the adoptive parents. Everyone involved should be on the same page about what the expectations are before and after the adoption. If the child is 12 years old or older, they must also consent to the adoption.
How can an attorney help?
If you’re considering adoption in North Carolina, Bobby Mills can help. He can help you determine if you qualify for special family adoption proceedings, and can help you complete and file the necessary paperwork.
Your adoption attorney can attend court hearings with you and speaks on your behalf. They can also take the steps to make your case proceed as smoothly as possible. Your attorney also helps you avoid errors that may be problematic to finalizing your adoption. Call our office today to talk about your case and explore your options.