If you’re considering adding to your family through a private or independent adoption, you likely have a lot of questions about the process. A private adoption can be an efficient way to handle your adoption, but there’s a lot to understand in regards to what forms you need to complete and how the process works. Here are some frequently asked questions about independent or private adoptions in North Carolina:
What makes an adoption private or independent?
An adoption is private or independent when you don’t work with an adoption agency. Instead of working with an adoption agency to find a birth mother and complete the paperwork, you identify a child waiting for adoption on your own. You complete the official paperwork, usually with help from an adoption attorney, and without assistance from an adoption agency. You work directly with the birth mother in order to complete the adoption process.
Who can adopt a child?
Any legally competent adult can adopt a child in North Carolina. You’ll need to complete a home study so that the court can evaluate you and your home and make sure that you’re a good fit to adopt the child or children. If you’re single, you may adopt a child by yourself. If you’re married, you and your spouse must adopt together.
Can we pay the birth mother for the adoption?
You can pay for the birth mother’s room and board during her pregnancy and for six weeks after the child is born. In addition to paying her room and board during her pregnancy, you can compensate the birth mother for her legal fees. You can also arrange for her to receive psychological counseling. You can’t give her any kind of additional pay or compensation.
How do we start the paperwork for an adoption?
An adoption formally begins when you file a petition for adoption in the appropriate county court. As the adoptive parents, you’re the petitioner. You give the basic biographical information of the people involved, and you state that you are looking to adopt the child. You must provide copies of the paperwork to the biological mother as well as to any potential biological fathers.
If everyone is in agreement about the adoption, you complete forms that state that everyone gives their consent. If a child is 12 years old or older, they must consent to the adoption too. When everyone is in agreement, the adoption process is quite simple. The judge might even just review the paperwork and stamp it approved. If the judge has questions or if either of the biological parents isn’t in agreement with the adoption, the court schedules hearings in order to look at the evidence and determine the next steps.
What if we want to adopt the child from birth?
When you’re adopting a child from birth, there are things that you can do before the birth in order to make the process easier. When the biological mother is about three months along, you can file paperwork asking the court for a temporary order that goes into effect as soon as the child is born. The document is called a pre-birth order. If you have a pre-birth order, you can take the child from the hospital as soon as the child is born. You may also make decisions regarding the child’s medical needs before the adoption is finalized.
Can the birth mother change their mind?
The birth mother can change their mind until the adoption is finalized. If you decide to pursue an independent or private adoption, it’s important to communicate with the birth mother and birth father in order to be clear about everyone’s intentions. It’s also a good idea to arrange for counseling for the birth mother in order to make sure that there aren’t hurt feelings or legal challenges before or after the adoption process.
Do we have to notify the child’s father?
Yes, you must notify the child’s biological father about the pending adoption. The biological father may choose to request notices of future adoption hearings and proceedings, or they may choose to allow the adoption to proceed without asking for notices of future court dates. If the biological father consents, they can fill out a simple form that states they’re okay with the adoption going forward. If the biological father doesn’t consent, you must prove that the biological father is unfit to parent the child.
I’m nervous about court. Is there going to be a trial?
When the birth parents and the adoptive parents agree to the adoption, there’s usually no court hearing. If there are mistakes in the paperwork or the judge has questions about your home study, the court might schedule the hearing. If one of the biological parents objects to the adoption, you might have a contested hearing.
What legal rights do we have after adoption?
After a private or independent adoption, you have full legal rights to the child. It’s the same bundle of rights that any birth parents have to their child. You may make decisions about the child’s upbringing, and you have full rights to access medical and educational records. If you later divorce your spouse, you both have equal rights to the child. The biological parents no longer have any rights.
Do we have to allow the biological parents contact after the adoption?
You do not have to allow the biological parent or parents to have any contact with your child after the adoption process is complete. When the judge stamps the final approval on the adoption, the court terminates the legal rights of the birth parents. You may allow the birth parents to have contact with the child either directly or indirectly through cards and letters. However, it’s all up to you. You can change the amount of contact that you have with the birth parents at any time.
Can we have an attorney represent us?
Yes, you can and should have an attorney represent you during the adoption process. They can contact the birth mother on your behalf and prepare paperwork for you. If your case goes to court, they can walk into court and speak on your behalf.
Creating a legal relationship with your adopted child is one of the most important things that you will ever do. With over 30 years of experience, Bobby Mills can help you make sure that your paperwork is completed properly and filed in compliance with the law. We can help you understand any unique issues that you need to be aware of in order to reach the result that you’re looking for. Having an attorney on your side can help you navigate the adoption process as smoothly as possible as you add to your family.