Adoption is the legal creation of the relationship of parent and child between two individuals. Adoption terminates all rights and responsibilities previously existing between a natural parent and child. Generally, an adopted child has the same legal status as a marital child including intestate succession rights (i.e., an adopted child is included in such terms as “issue,” “descendants,” etc.)

Qualified Adoption Attorneys in Mecklenburg County

A qualified family law attorney is essential to handling an adoption.  Like any other family law matter that concerns children, an adoption can be emotional.  At Weaver, Bennett & Bland, our lawyers are your advocates to make sure you understand the legal adoption process and to represent your family’s needs.  Whether you are the prospective adoptive parent or the biological parent, contact us to discuss our family law services in the Charlotte area.

Who can adopt a child?

Any person over the age of 18 may adopt a child. If the prospective adoptive parent (“petitioner”) is unmarried, no other person may join in the petition. If the petitioner is married, the petitioner’s spouse must join in the petition unless the statute specifically provides otherwise.

A prospective adoptive parent can file a petition for adoption only if the child has been placed with the petitioner pursuant to statutory requirements, unless the court for cause waives the requirements. Except in certain cases, the prospective adoptive parent must file the petition within 30 days after the minor is placed in the home.

Are there exceptions to consent required of the biological parents?

The consent of the biological parents is generally required prior to adoption, with the following exceptions:

A)  The consent of a putative (“presumed”) father to the adoption of a non-marital child is not necessary unless, before the petition for adoption is filed, the putative father has:

  • Legitimated the minor;
  • Acknowledged paternity and is obligated to support the child under written agreement or by court order;
  • Provided reasonable and consistent support of the mother or minor and has either attempted to or has visited or communicated with the mother, the minor, or both;
  • Married the mother; or
  • Received the minor into his home and held out the minor as his child.

B)  Parental consent is not necessary if:

  • Parental rights have been terminated;
  • A guardian has been appointed for the child;
  • A putative father has executed a statement denying paternity;
  • The parent has not responded to notice of the adoption proceeding within 30 days after service;
  • A guardian or placement agency determines that consent is being unreasonably withheld; or
  • The child is over 12 years of age and there is a finding that it is not in the best interests of the minor to require consent.

A father’s consent may be obtained before the birth of the child, but a mother’s consent may not be obtained until after the birth of the child. There is no waiting period but it is recommended that she wait at least 24 hours to ensure that the mother is free from the influence of medications that might affect her capacity to give a valid consent. A foreign order of adoption may be accepted in lieu of the consent of the biological parents or guardian.

What if the biological parent changes his/her mind?

Consent to the adoption may be revoked within seven days after execution of the consent. The individual who gave the consent may revoke by giving written notice to the person specified in the consent. The prospective adoptive parents must, immediately upon request, return the child to the person who gave consent. A consent to the adoption of an unborn child or a child who is three months old or less at the time the consent is given may be revoked within 21 days following the day on which it is executed, inclusive of weekends and holidays. A consent to the adoption of any child over age three months may be revoked within seven days following the day on which it is executed, inclusive of weekends and holidays. If the final day of the revocation period falls on a weekend or North Carolina or federal holiday, then the revocation period extends to the next business day. 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.

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.

Generally speaking, a petition must be filed within 30 days of the placement of a child for adoption. A dispositional hearing will usually be set within 90 days from the filing of the petition and a final order will typically be filed within 6 months of the filing of the petition.

Are open adoptions valid in North Carolina?

Adoption arrangements which include plans for continuing contact between natural and adoptive parents or which allow natural parents to have continuing contact with adopted children are called open adoptions. Such arrangements are invalid In North Carolina. The consent of the biological parents must be unconditional. Such arrangements also will not invalidate an adoptive placement. Generally, the biological parents become legal strangers to the child once the adoption is final. They have no legal right to any further contact.

What if a relative adopts?

In stepparent or relative adoptions, grandparents may establish visitation rights if a “substantial relationship” exists between the grandparents and the child. The grandparents have standing to seek visitation in a family adoption even though there is no ongoing custody dispute but the grandparents must prove that visitation would be in the child’s best interests.

How much does adoption cost?

Costs for adoption vary widely depending on the type of adoption pursued. A voluntary adoption of a child through a non-profit agency will generally cost between $25,000.00 and $40,000.00. Private adoptions generally run from $35,000.00 to $50,000.00.  In the past, North Carolina had a very restrictive policy regarding payments in connection with adoptions. No payments of any kind were permitted. More recently, adoptive parents were permitted to pay for “the reasonable and actual medical expenses incurred by the biological mother incident to the birth of the child.” Such payments had to be disclosed in the petition for adoption, and the adoptive parents must represent that “there were no gifts or payments of, or promises to give or pay, any other fee, compensation, consideration, or thing of value….”

Adoptive parents may pay for the “reasonable and actual fees and expenses” including services of an agency in connection with an adoption; 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; counseling services for a parent or the adoptee; ordinary living expenses of a mother during the pregnancy and for no more than six weeks after the birth; expenses incurred in ascertaining the background information required about an adoptee and the adoptee’s biological family; legal services, court costs, and traveling or other administrative expenses connected with an adoption; and preparation of the pre-placement assessment and the report to the court.

Payments may not be made for: placement of a child; consent for adoption; relinquishment of a child to an agency; or assisting a parent or guardian in locating a prospective adoptive parent, or transferring custody of a child to an adoptive parent. An affidavit of accounting identifying all expenditures made in connection with the adoption must be made at least ten days before the entry of the final order.