Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent-AdoptionAdopting a child is one of the most exhilarating moments you can ever experience. The wonderful feeling is magnified when you adopt a stepchild because the adoption is formalizing a relationship that already exists. By officially adopting your stepchild, you become the legal guardian of your spouse’s child thereby removing all logistical questions as to who is the child’s true parent.

Stepparent Adoption Process

Stepparent adoption is certainly not mandatory, but, often times, highly recommended for an involved stepparent. This form of adoption is typically easier to complete than the standard adoptive process. The reason for this is because the stepparent adoption can often be streamlined thanks to the permanence of the home, the other family members involved, and the applicable laws. Typically, adoptions require a long list of formalities, including a waiting period, home study and multiple court appearances. However, many of these requirements are not necessary for a stepparent adoption. This allows for a stepparent adoption to be less expensive and completed on an accelerated basis.

The Importance of an Adoption Attorney

However, this isn’t to say that a stepparent adoption doesn’t come with its own struggles, both financially, legally and emotionally. When multiple parents are involved there may be resistance, and children will often experience emotional stress even under the most loving of circumstances. This is why it is essential that an experienced adoption attorney become involved in the process. Utilizing a skilled adoption attorney will provide you with insight, support and legal advice during the entire adoption process. Most importantly, an experienced adoption attorney will be able to fast-track the case through the court if all of the paperwork is in order.

Quick Facts about Stepparent Adoption

The stepparent adoption process is typically used when one parent is absent or has lost parental rights. It may also be completed when one parent wishes to remove parental rights from the child’s second parent. This is common when the child has little or no connection with the second parent. There are several issues that can pose problems during even a standard stepparent adoption, which is where an adoption attorney is most beneficial. These issues include:
  • Terminating the rights of a non-consenting parent
  • Proving the absent parent has abandoned the child
  • Proving that the presumed father is not, legally speaking, the father
  • Complying with all statutory requirements to complete the adoption
Having an adoption attorney to guide you through this can make the entire process easier.

What about a lawyer for the birth mother?

Young Woman Having Counselling SessionOne of the differences between hiring Shorstein & Kelly as a law firm and hiring an adoption agency is that Shorstein & Kelly only represents adoptive parents. Adoption agencies say that they represent everyone who participates in the adoption plan. As attorneys, it is not ethical for us to represent both the prospective adoptive parents and the birth parents at the same time.

We help birth mothers

Shorstein & Kelly provides exclusive legal representation to the prospective adoptive parents, as required by Florida law. As such, some may ask: if the law firm is only representing the adoptive parents, who is looking after the birth mother and who is providing for her needs? Answer: Shorstein & Kelly!

Supporting birth mothers is not giving legal advice

Providing legal representation is not the same as helping birth mothers with medical care, financial assistance, counseling and other adoption related services. Our firm has been providing this type of support to birth mothers for over 20 years––in a kind, loving and respectful manner. As for legal representation, we let birth parents know of their right to have their own attorney and, if they chose to have one, the prospective adoptive parents will pay for the costs.

Birth mothers understand choices

As a practical matter, very few birth parents choose to have their own attorney. Some say it’s because they feel comfortable with our experience and dedication to ensuring that their needs will be met. Some say they prefer working directly with us because we provide support in a non-judgmental, pressure-free manner. Others reference a prior birth mother’s recommendation as the reason for working directly with us. No matter what the situation, each birth mother makes all of her own decisions as part of Shorstein & Kelly’s comprehensive adoption program.

Adoption Agency vs. Adoption Attorney – a birth mother perspective

When a birth mother first requests information about developing an adoption plan, she often asks about the differences between working with an adoption attorney or an adoption agency. After talking with hundreds of birth mothers who have experienced working with both an adoption attorney and an adoption agency, we have compiled a list of four areas mentioned most often.

Birth Mother Independence:baby swing

Adoption Attorney Freedom – An adoption attorney prefers to work with a more independent birth mother – in other words, a birth mother who wishes to maintain control and supervision of her own everyday activities. The adoption attorney will propose ideas and make recommendations to the birth mother while sharing the benefit of many years of experience. This practice eases the stress, worry and fear of the birth mother that may accompany her adoption plan. But, most importantly, the independent birth mother continues to manage and control her own life. Adoption Agency Control – Many adoption agencies require birth mothers to adhere to rigid rules, practices, and procedures which force the birth mother to become dependent upon the adoption agency. For example, several local adoption agencies require the birth mother to be accompanied by the agency caseworker for each OB/GYN appointment, including the examination room. Other adoption agencies require each birth mother to live in a certain place, maintain a certain diet, adhere to certain schedules and attend specific, regimented activities.

Access to Decision-makers:76800031(1)

The adoption attorney works directly with each birth mother. As such, the adoption attorney is immediately responsive to the needs of each birth mother, especially in times involving a desperate situation. To the contrary, many large adoption agencies assign less experienced caseworkers to several birth mothers. These adoption caseworkers have very limited decision-making authority on behalf of the adoption agency or the adoptive parents. This practice tends to extend the time needed to approve birth mother expenses on a timely basis.

Choice of Adoptive Parents:

Most adoption attorneys network through state and national organizations in order to provide each birth mother with the great access to the largest pool of prospective adoptive parents. On the other hand, an adoption agency first limits a birth mother’s selection to that adoption agency’s list of waiting families. The adoption agency prefers the birth mother to select one of its families because of the substantial upfront fees the adoption agency charges the prospective adoptive parents.

Confidential Professional Assistance:

While both an adoption agency and an adoption attorney are ethically responsible for providing confidential assistance to each birth mother, in most cases, only an adoption attorney can provide complete, consistent, and comprehensive legal guidance on an as-needed basis. When working with an adoption agency, if a birth mother has a legal question, the adoption agency, most often, will not have an attorney readily available to respond to the birth mother.

Adult Adoptions: A Growing Trend in Florida

Earlier in 2012, when the media learned that a 40-year-old South Florida polo tycoon adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend as his daughter, the awareness of adult adoption skyrocketed.  It was reported that the tycoon used the adoption process to protect his fortune from the family of a man he killed in a DUI crash.  Once his girlfriend became adopted, as the legal child of the tycoon, she was immediately entitled to at least a third of a multimillion dollar trust fund.  The tycoon’s attorney argued that “the adoption was meant to secure the assets of his children and family investments, nothing more.”  Nevertheless, ever since this case became public, Shorstein & Kelly has been inundated with requests for information about adult adoption.  As such, set forth below is a summary of the typical reasons, requirements and results for completing an adult adoption in Florida.*

Reasons for Adult Adoption:

Inheritance Purposes – In the past, adult adoptions served as a means of ensuring the passage of property rights or financial assets to the adopted individual more easily.  It was also used as a mechanism for protecting the family surname – later in life, a childless couple or a couple who bore only daughters could adopt an adult male to carry on the family name. Formalized Existing Relationship – Through adult adoption, parents can now adopt an adult foster child or stepchild without the consent of the child’s parents or custodian.  In such a case, adult adoption is finalizing or formalizing an already existing relationship.  So to, adult adoption may be used to reestablish a formerly existed relationship – such as for children who find their birth family after reaching maturity or fathers who find children they were previously unaware of. Providing Long-term Care – Utilizing the adult adoption process, an adult adoptor may become the responsible party and primary decision-maker for another adult’s care.  As such, the adopting adult can provide long-term care for someone who has diminished capacity, mental illness or disabilities.

Requirements for Adult Adoption:

The requirements for a Florida adult adoption are much simpler than those of a child adoption.  The only absolute requirement pertains to the consent of the adoptor and the adoptee – each of their consents is required.  If the adoptee is married, the spouse of the person to be adopted should consent to the adoption but such consent may be excused by the court for good cause or other reasons set forth in the statute.  The adoptee’s parents are not required to consent to the adoption – they are only required to receive notice of the final hearing.

Result of Adult Adoption:

Similar to a child adoption, with an adult adoption all existing legal relationships with the biological or custodial parents are severed.  Also, as part of the process, the adoptee will have an opportunity to change his or her name.  The new name (or the same name if the adoptee chooses not to change the name) will appear on the new birth certificate which will be issued subsequent to the completion of the adult adoption proceedings.  Just like a child adoption, the adoption records will be confidential and the file will be sealed.Adoption laws are enacted by each state and, therefore, the laws for states other than Florida may be vastly different.  Other states may have restrictions or requirements making adult adoption much more difficult. * Adoption laws are enacted by each state and, therefore, the laws for states other than Florida may be vastly different.  Other states may have restrictions or requirements making adult adoption much more difficult.