Adoption is a wonderful opportunity to provide a child with a forever home, and for those who petition for adoption, to become the legal parents of a child. Florida law sets out legal procedures for individuals and couples to adopt children, but understanding those laws and how they might impact your adoption can be overwhelming. Here are some of the questions our clients commonly ask when deciding whether to pursue an adoption in Florida.
Who Can Adopt a Child in Florida?
Single adults or married couples may jointly adopt a child in Florida. A married person may adopt individually, without their spouse, with the court’s approval. Previously, Florida law prohibited LGBT couples from adopting, but that law was ruled unconstitutional.
Relative adoptions, such as adoptions by stepparents, grandparents etc., are not required to obtain an adoption home study. Otherwise, potential adoptive parents must obtain a Florida adoption home study, which includes background checks, interviews, home inspections and more. A history of verified findings of abuse or neglect could lead a court to deny the adoption petition. The adoption home study must be conducted by a Licensed Care Social Worker.
Who Can Be Adopted in Florida?
Florida law allows anyone to be adopted through the filing of a Florida adoption petition. Children aged 12 or older must give their consent to the adoption unless the court decides that waiving the child’s consent is in their best interest.
Can I Reimburse the Child’s Biological Parents for Expenses Incurred in the Adoption?
To facilitate the adoption, many adopting parents and adoption agencies seek to reach compensation agreements with birth parents. Florida law imposes restrictions such agreements by specifying which expenses may be reimbursed to birth parents, and the amount of those expenses. To that end, adopting parents are required to file an affidavit outlining expenses incurred in the adoption.
Do the Child’s Birth Parents have to Sign a Written Consent to the Adoption?
Not necessarily, but the birth parents’ legal rights to the child must be extinguished in order to adopt the child. Most commonly, this is done through a written consent to adoption. The written consent must include certain warnings and notices to give the biological parent(s) knowledge of their legal rights in the case, or it will not be a valid consent. If the biological parent(s) sign the consent, and assuming other requirements are met, the adoption can be granted as an uncontested adoption.
If the biological parent(s) refuse to sign a consent, or their written consent cannot be obtained, an adoption may still be viable. In the majority of such cases, this is due to abandonment. To that end, Florida law states:
“In making a determination of abandonment at a hearing for termination of parental rights under this chapter, the court shall consider, among other relevant factors not inconsistent with this section:
- Whether the actions alleged to constitute abandonment demonstrate a willful disregard for the safety or welfare of the child or the unborn child;
- Whether the person alleged to have abandoned the child, while being able, failed to provide financial support;
- Whether the person alleged to have abandoned the child, while being able, failed to pay for medical treatment; and
- Whether the amount of support provided or medical expenses paid was appropriate, taking into consideration the needs of the child and relative means and resources available to the person alleged to have abandoned the child.”
How much will it cost to adopt a child in Florida?
Adoption costs can vary widely, depending on how the child is located, whether the adoption will be contested, whether an adoption home study will be required, and other factors.
Adopting a child who is in foster care can be relatively inexpensive as there are no adoption agency fees, and subsidies may be available to cover legal fees and expenses. However, since the goal of foster care is not to facilitate an adoption and the child may return to the parents, or other family before an adoption can be obtained. Alternatively, you may seek the assistance of a private adoption agency. Fees for private adoption agencies vary, but can exceed $30,000 in some cases.
If an adoption home study is needed, that fee is usually between $1,500 and $2,500.
Legal fees vary depending on whether the adoption is uncontested or contested by the biological parents.
Notably, there is one significant financial benefit of adopting a child, in certain cases. You may be eligible for tax credits of up to $13,810 per child. You should consult with an accountant to determine whether or not you will qualify for the tax credit.
How do I Get Started?
If you have questions about how to adopt a child, you should consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Florida adoption attorney. We have helped hundreds of individuals through adoption and termination of parental rights proceedings and we would be happy to meet with you and discuss your case. You can contact us at (850) 613-6923 or by clicking HERE. We have offices in Okaloosa and Walton County to serve residents throughout Northwest Florida.