Steps in the Adoption Process

“How long does it take to go through the adoption process” is the single most asked question regarding adoptions. The answer is “it depends” because so often your case is dependent upon another person or agency such as:

  • How long it takes to obtain the consents from the birth parent(s);
  • How long it takes to serve the birth parent if they aren’t consent (either personal service or publication);
  • How long it takes to terminate the parent’s rights (foster care cases);

Regular / Private Adoptions

Power of Attorney – The birth parents sign a power of attorney (POA) granting legal authority to either the agency or the adoptive parents. In cases of newborns, this permits the adoptive parents to leave the hospital with the child. Paperwork is then filed with the court immediately (or in the case of newborns 48 hours after the baby is born).

While the POA can be signed immediately after the child’s birth the consent to terminate the birth parent’s rights cannot be signed until the newborn is over 48 hours old.

Transfer of custody – takes place after the petition has been filed and either shortly after the child’s birth or after the expiration of 30 days when parents have to be served by the Sheriff.

Final hearing – This is the hearing where parents’ rights are finally terminated (if not previously terminated), the adoption is granted, and the child’s name is changed.

Foster Care / Step-Parent Adoptions

In cases where the prospective adoptive parent has had lawful and actual custody for a period of six (6) months or longer, neither the POA or the Transfer of Custody steps can be skipped and the Court will go straight to the final hearing. This can occur in:

  • Step-parent adoptions where parents have custody via the marriage contract
  • Guardianship and Third-Party cases where parents have custody via a court order
  • Foster parent adoptions but in some cases even the six (6) months can be waived
  • In very exceedingly rare cases where a parent has left a child with a third party knowing the end goal is adoption