Adoption is the process of legally binding children to new parents. This most often occurs when biological parents are not able to financially or emotionally care for a child.
In Utah, a couple must be married to adopt, although it is possible for just one spouse to adopt as long as the other spouse consents. It is also possible for a single adult to adopt as long as he or she is living alone. If the adopting parent is a current step-parent, the child and step-parent must be living in the same home for at least six months. Also, in all situations, the adopting parent must be at least 10 years older than the child.
The process begins by filing a petition for adoption in the district court in the county in which the child resides. The petition must describe the parent seeking adoption and the child’s situation. It should also confirm the parent’s desires and ability to support the child.
Once the petition is filed, notice must be given to any interested party so he or she has an opportunity to respond. A homestudy evaluation must be conducted by a licensed clinical social worker to assure the parent’s home is suitable. If the parent is a current step-parent the homestudy is not necessary. A non-adopting mother or father must consent to the adoption as well as the child if he or she is at least 12 years old.
If all the requirements are met and necessary papers are filed, the court will generally hold a short hearing to ask a few questions of the adopting parent. The purpose of the hearing is to determine if all the requirements for adoption are met and whether adoption is in the child’s best interest. If all goes well, the court will finalize the adoption with a Decree of Adoption. The decree will legally bind the parent and child, will obligate the parent to support the child, and may change the child’s last name to that of his or her new parents.
A child can only legally have one mother and one father at a time. If one or both of those parents is not meeting their responsibilities to their child, or chooses to relinquish their rights due to their youth or other inability to care for their child, a termination of parental rights action may be appropriate so the child may be eligible for adoption. A parent cannot generally relinquish his or her parental rights without an adopting parent waiting to take his or her place.
If the child currently resides out of state and the adopting parent desires to have the child move to Utah, certain jurisdictional issues must be addressed before the adoption can proceed.
Also, if the Utah Department of Child and Family Services is involved, the adoption process will likely be conducted in Juvenile Court and have just a slightly different procedure than that described above.
The attorneys at Slemboski & Tobler have helped countless people through the adoption process to ensure it is a smooth and joyous event for you and your adopted child. We can help you understand your options, the cost, and what is necessary to complete an adoption. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are considering an adoption in Utah.