I’m not going to lie, the adoption process in Florida can be simple or it can get very complicated. I will break down all you need to know about the process in this two part article. Part one, is going to discuss the process from the beginning to consent. Part two will discuss the different types of adoption all the way to the finalization process.
Let’s start out by explaining what the word adoption means. Adoption is the legal process of a child or adult becoming a part of a family that they were not born into. An adoption creates a legal parent-child relationship between the adoptee and the adoptive parents. This legal relationship comes with all the rights, responsibilities, and rewarding times that the legal biological parent-child relationship has.
In Florida, any person can be adopted. That means the new born baby, the sixteen year old teenager; even the thirty-seven year old adult can all be adopted.
Florida’s laws on who can adopt another person are very liberal. The requirements state that you must be an adult that is currently living in Florida. The adoptive person must be of good character and have the ability to nurture and provide for a child/adult. Florida has no requirement of marital status to be eligible to adopt; one can be single, a married couple, and just recently the Courts now allow homosexuals to adopt. Florida even allows a stepparent to adopt his or her spouse’s children.
For an adoption to take place, the Court presiding over the Florida adoption must receive proof that facts exist to terminate the biological relationship permanently. This means the Court has to hear a legal reason on why it should be terminating the biological parents’ rights to this minor child. This may be accomplished either through parental consent, or the Court must hear proof that the parent has abused, abandoned or neglected the child or otherwise failed to protect their parental rights under Florida law.
Now to the big topic of consent; it is possible that the Court can excuse the need for consent, but if that does not occur, certain people involved in the adoption must consent prior to the final hearing. First and foremost you must have consent from the biological mother. Second, you need consent from the biological father but only if he meets certain criteria, which are: (a) the minor child was born or conceived while the father was married to the mother, (b) the minor child is his through a prior adoption, (c) the Court has declared that he is the father of the minor child before the petition to terminate his parental rights was filed, (d) he filed an Affidavit of Paternity (a form that states you are accepting that you are the biological father of the specified minor child) before the petition to terminate his parental rights was filed, or (e) he was not married to the mother when the minor child was conceived, but he has acknowledged he is the biological father of the minor child, has done this in a writing, that was signed by witnesses, given this writing to the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health in the time period required, and has also complied with the requirements of Florida Statute 63.062 (2).
One might think those are the only two people that need to consent to the adoption, but in Florida that is not the case. Next, if the minor child to be adopted is 12 years of age or older, his/her consent to the adoption is required unless the Court determines it is in the best interest of the minor for the adoption to occur and dismisses the need for the minor child’s consent. Any person lawfully entitled to custody of the minor must consent if required by the court. Lastly, the Court having jurisdiction to determine custody of the minor, if the person having physical custody of the minor does not have authority to consent to the adoption.
The consent for the adoption must be a valid consent. The consent will be valid and binding if when the consent is executed it is executed pursuant to the specific requirements of Florida Law.
Consent rules differ depending on the age of the minor to be adopted. In the case of minors under the age of six (6) months special guidelines are set out by the state. If a minor under the age of six months is placed for adoption, the biological mother cannot sign her consent to adoption until forty-eight (48) hours after the birth of the minor child OR the date of her discharge from the facility where she gave birth, which ever time being earlier. The birth father may sign his consent for adoption at any time after the minor child’s birth. There is no waiting period for the biological father. In addition, the biological father can sign an irrevocable form called an Affidavit of Non-paternity, which can be signed at any time, before or after the child’s birth, which relinquishes him of any parental rights to the minor child. In other words his consent would no longer be needed for the minor to be adopted because he gave up any and all of his rights to the child.
Now, if a minor is six (6) months or older and placed for adoption, the biological mother and father may sign the consent at any time. Their consent has a three (3) business day revocation period. This means if they sign the consent for adoption, they can take it back within the three (3) business days that follow the day they consented. If they do not revoke their consents during this three (3) day period, the consent becomes permanent.
Some parents might change their minds after they have consented to the minor being adopted. Reversing consent is a lot easier said than done. As said earlier, if the minor is six (6) months or older the consent can be reversed in the three (3) business days after consent was given. If it is the fourth (4th) business day or beyond OR the minor is under six (6) months and consent was valid (meaning signed by the biological parents with witnesses and notary) the ONLY way to reverse the consent is to go to Court. The Court hearing the adoption can reverse the consent, but only if, it is found the consents were received by fraud or duress.
Please look for part two of “What You Need to Know about Florida Adoption” coming to a blog near you next month!
This is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied on to make any legal or other major decisions. If you have specific questions or inquiries regarding any of this information, you should consult with an attorney licensed in your state.