Lehi Adoption Lawyer
Personable and Experienced Legal Guidance to Unite Your Family
Adoption is one of the most exciting events for a family. At SeegLawUtah, we are dedicated to supporting families and guiding them through their legal obstacles, especially when it comes to bringing your family together. Many moving parts need to come together in order for an adoption to be successful, and the process can involve termination of parental rights, obtaining required consents, home studies, DCFS reports, criminal background checks, and more. When all the pieces merge in the correct way, an adoption trial can feel more like a celebration than a court hearing.
Contact our firm for a consultation to get started. Serving families in Highland, Utah County, and Salt Lake County.
Who Can Adopt?
In Utah, any adult may adopt someone who must be at least 10 years younger than them. If the prospective parent is married, they must obtain the consent of their spouse to adopt. If the child is at least 12 years old and mentally sound, they may also consent to the adoption.
To commence the adoption formally, the prospective parent should file a petition for adoption with the district court. Depending on your situation, you may also need to provide 30 days’ notice to the following individuals:
- any legal guardian or caregiver of the child;
- anyone who has filed a paternity action for the child;
- your spouse (if applicable);
- a parent on the child’s birth certificate; and
- a person who lives with the child and acts as their parent.
If adopting a stepchild, the prospective parent will need to obtain the consent of the child’s biological parent, who will also need to consent to the termination of their parental rights (more on this below).
Note that the court must consider whether adoption will be in the best interests of the child before proceeding. They may order the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) to investigate and make a report for this decision.
The Home Residency Requirement
One of the most important steps of the adoption process is the home residency. The adoption process will not be completed until the child has lived in the adoptive parent’s home for at least 6 months, or for 1 year if they are a stepparent. A designated third party will be present at certain times to study the child’s interaction with their new home environment to ensure it is appropriate for them. If all goes well in the home study, the adoption may proceed.
The process for stepparent adoption differs slightly from the above. To be eligible to adopt a stepchild, the prospective parent must:
- be married to the child’s custodial parent;
- be at least 10 years older than the adoptee (or their spouse/the child’s custodial parent must be);
- not have a felony that would disqualify them from adopting (e.g., a felony for child abuse) unless they meet specific criteria.
In order to officially adopt a stepchild, the child’s noncustodial parent must have their parental rights terminated (a child generally may only have two legal parents). This is a step that often complicates the process, especially if the parent does not consent.
The child’s noncustodial parent must be served a Notice of Petition to Adopt and Notice of Rights, after which they have 30 days to file a motion to intervene with the adoption. If they do not file the motion or the motion is denied, the adoption can proceed. However, if the motion is granted, the parent may present evidence at a scheduled hearing about why the adoption is not in the child’s best interests and why their parental rights should not be terminated.
In some cases, though, the noncustodial, parent may consent to the adoption and termination of their parental rights, in which case the adoption can proceed quite straightforwardly from petition to hearing.
Adoption is not a simple process, and it takes months to complete. Every case is unique and dependent upon the child’s and the family’s circumstances, so it is best to consult an experienced lawyer about your legal options. SeegLawUtah can take a look at the facts of your situation and help you plan an effective procedure for adoption that best addresses your and the child’s needs.
Let’s unite your family in Utah today. Contact SeegLawUtah for a consultation to get started.