Trusted Florida Adoption Lawyer
Our Florida adoption attorneys can help you if you are seeking to enlarge your family or if you are seeking to ensure that your birth child has a safe and happy home. Adoption can be a complicated, lengthy and frustrating process, particularly for first-time adoptive parents. But Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant is particularly well-suited to help you navigate the maze of Florida adoption laws.
Because adoption is a large and important part of our family law practice, Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant is an adoption agency as well as a law firm. Our adoption attorneys are fully versed in Florida adoption law. Because we understand and can execute all the legal filings required of an adoption – instead of handing off work to an agency and waiting for them to act – we can shorten the time your adoption takes.
At Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant, our Palm Coast adoption lawyers have been practicing law in Volusia and Flagler County for more than 40 years. Our family law attorneys have the skill and experience to smoothly guide you through the adoption process. Our goal is to protect the interests of you and your family. Contact us at (386) 445-8900 or online to discuss you family’s needs in Palm Coast or Ormond Beach, Florida, today.
A Quick Look at Florida Adoption Laws
Adoption law is necessarily complex, given that adoption is about a child’s life as well as parental rights. Many of the legal issues focus on the due process required to ensure the child’s and parents’ status so that when an adoption moves forward all parties can be confident in the legal security of the adoption. That security – the knowledge that your family is whole as you desired and intended – is our pledge to you.
Adoptions are finalized by the courts, but Florida law allows any adult to adopt a child or another adult. Florida’s prohibition on adoption by LGBTQ individuals was repealed in 2015 after being ruled unconstitutional. Single adults or married couples may jointly adopt a child, and a married person may adopt individually without their spouse (a stepchild adoption). Florida statutes also protect the rights of physically disabled persons to adopt.
Florida courts focus on the best interests of the child in adoption cases. To that end, potential adoptive parents in Florida undergo an adoption home study, which includes background checks, interviews, home inspections and more. Children who are 12 years old or older must consent to the adoption unless the court decides that waiving the child’s consent is in his or her best interest.
A Florida adoption home study is fairly extensive, requiring:
- Health and financial statements
- A minimum of five letters of recommendation as an adoptive parent(s)
- Written autobiographical statement(s) about your intent to adopt
- Home safety check
- Family interview.
A professional from the Florida Department of Children and Families (Florida DCF) will conduct interviews and visits in your home. Once a child is placed with you, the Florida home study professional will return within one week for post-placement visits to see how everyone is adjusting. These visits occur at least three times before the adoption is finalized. The home study for an impending adoption must be updated annually until a child is placed in the home, or whenever you experience a major life change, like a move or a new job.
As your adoption attorneys, Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant will review the requirements with you so that you know what is expected from you. While we cannot tell you how to respond to inquiries, we will ensure that the documents you must submit are complete and provide the information Florida DCF needs to receive.
Types of Adoption in Florida
Depending on the type of adoption you pursue, there may be additional specific requirements to be met. Among the most common types of adoption are:
- Domestic infant adoption, the voluntary placement of a baby for adoption by his or her birth mother.
- Foster care adoption of a child whose parents have given up parental rights.
- Stepparent adoption to become a legal parent of a spouse’s child.
- Grandparent / other relative adoptions, which often occur if the parents are proven to be incapable of safely rearing a child.
- Surrogacy, including traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy (the child has a genetic relationship with at least one of the intended parents).
- Interstate adoption completed according to each individual state’s laws and the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC).
- International adoption of a child from another country completed according to international law and laws of the other country.
- Adoption of an adult, which is often to formalize longstanding relationships, such as in LBGTQ families or ties to adult foster children, and/or to ensure legal protections, such as for inheritance rights or access to medical records and ICU hospital visitation.
Because Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant can legally act as an adoption agency as well as a law firm, we are better equipped than some law firms to establish the legal status of a child and parent faster. In surrogacy cases, for example, we understand the balance of the birth mother’s rights alongside the adoptive parents’ rights. Because of some antiquated laws that remain on the books in Florida, surrogacy in our state requires a knowledgeable attorney to avoid potential mistakes that can make the process more complex than necessary.
Similarly, we understand and can swiftly deal with jurisdictional rights and immigration issues that arise in international adoptions.
Through our experience, we know the steps necessary for multiple forms of adoption, and we know how these varied processes unfold. We know how and when to procedurally time certain filings for court orders to expedite your adoption plans.
Contested vs. Uncontested Adoptions in Florida
An adoption should be a happy, hopeful undertaking. But in some cases, an adoption may require petitioning the court for termination of parental rights held by a biological father or mother, or both. Court-ordered termination of parental rights is usually warranted in situations of abuse, neglect or abandonment. However, either biological parent may contest an adoption.
Parental rights may be terminated under 14 conditions defined in Florida law. Among them are:
- The parent or parents have voluntarily executed a written surrender of the child. This is part of an uncontested adoption. The required legal form surrenders custody of the child to the state for subsequent adoption. Most uncontested adoptions involve family adoptions, such as grandparent and stepparent adoptions, or private adoptions where the birth parents are voluntarily giving up their child.
- The parent has abandoned the child as defined by Florida law or cannot be identified or located by diligent search within 60 days.
- The parent has engaged in conduct toward the child or toward other children that demonstrates that the parent’s continuing involvement in the parent-child relationship threatens the life, safety, well-being or physical, mental or emotional health of the child.
- The parent is incarcerated and
- The prison term will constitute the majority of the child’s minor-age years.
- The court determines that the incarcerated parent is a violent career criminal as defined by Florida law.
- The court determines by clear and convincing evidence that continuing the parental relationship with the incarcerated parent would be harmful to the child.
- The parent has a history of extensive, abusive and chronic use of alcohol or a controlled substance that renders them incapable of caring for the child and has refused or failed to complete treatment during the three-year period immediately preceding the filing of the petition for termination of parental rights.
- The court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the child was conceived as a result of an act of sexual battery.
- The parent is convicted of an offense that requires the parent to register as a sexual predator.
A Florida adoption attorney at Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant can ensure that your petition setting forth the reasons and need for termination of parental rights, whether voluntary or involuntary, is completed accurately and clearly. We can conduct and document the necessary searches in cases of abandonment, and can compile records to document abuse, neglect, imprisonment, and substance abuse. If your petition is challenged, we will prepare you for court and advocate for you before the family law judge.
Contact Our Palm Coast, Florida, Adoption Lawyers
Few things in life are more important than children’s welfare and parental rights, which are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. At Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant, we take pride in our work ensuring that children join loving, welcoming and safe families. We are just as dedicated to ensuring the adoptions we facilitate are legally sound and will not leave any family open to legal disruption in the years to come.
Our Palm Coast adoption attorneys have well-earned and long-standing reputations for compassion, attention to detail and dedication to our clients in family law matters. If you are considering adoption or giving up a child for adoption, contact Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant today at (386) 445-8900 or online today for an appointment to discuss how we may assist you.