Step Parent & Family Adoption

Florida Family Law Adoption Attorney

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North Miami Beach adoption lawyer Michael Lechtman has over 39 years of experience helping families adopt a stepchild, grandchild, or other family member. Due to Florida’s extremely complex and changing adoption laws, families should beware that the process requires experience. Mr. Lechtman’s representation has resulted in successful adoptions for families in numerous communities, including Miami, Miami Beach, and Dade County.

Stepparent Adoption

Chapter 63 of the Florida Adoption Act governs the adoption of children by stepparents. Section 63.042 provides that any minor or adult may be adopted by an unmarried adult, a husband and wife “jointly,” or a married person whose spouse is either the parent or whose consent has been excused “for good cause” by the court. The court retains authority over adoptive minors until the adoption becomes final. But before the adoption can take place, § 63.062 requires that the child’s biological parents consent to terminate their parental rights. This requires notifying the child’s birth mother and, in some cases, the father, depending on paternity-related factors:

  • Marriage to birth mother at time of conception or birth
  • Adoptive father or father of minor by court adjudication
  • Unmarried “putative” father in paternity registry, unless:
    • Minor 12 years or older consents or court waives requirement
    • Child more than 6 months old living with adoptive parents requires:
      • Showing substantial father-child relationship
      • Present and future responsibility for child
      • Demonstrated “full commitment” to parenthood
      • Provision of financial support based on ability
      • Regular visitation or sustained communication

If the biological father has not substantially complied with the requirements to establish paternity and maintain parental rights, he waives legal rights to the child and his consent is not required. In uncontested cases where both birth parents consent or waive their rights, stepparents may initiate the adoption by filing a joint petition, Form 12.981(b)(1), with supporting documents, including the consent to terminate parental rights, child’s birth certificate, a Uniform Child Custody Act affidavit, and parent’s death certificate, if relevant. In contested cases, § 63.054 requires that adoptive parents perform a search of the Florida Putative Father Registry.

Family Adoption

Where a minor is surrendered for adoption to an intermediary such as an adoption agency, the agency becomes the child’s legal guardian. Section 63.092 requires that the adoption entity report any placement with a person who is not a relative or stepparent of the child. Extended family members are still considered an “at-risk placement” if the birth parents have not yet consented to terminate their parental rights. In some cases, the court will require a study to determine the suitability of the intended home. A home study often involves:

  • Interview with adoptive parents
  • Determination of financial security
  • Evaluation of physical environment
  • Criminal and central abuse registry check
  • Counseling, education, and support services
  • Prohibited residence of sexual or child offender

A favorable home study results in placement of the minor in the adoptive home while the final adoption order is pending. Once the judgment becomes final, the adopted child inherits from the adoptive parents and obtains other benefits associated with a new parental relationship. However, adoption does not relieve a birth parent’s duty to pay child support accumulated prior to the adoption and termination of parental rights.

Getting the Process Right

If you are considering adopting a stepchild, grandchild, or extended family member, contact South Florida family law attorney Michael Lechtman first. Florida’s adoption statutes make it difficult to navigate the requirements of consent, notice, and venue. Michael Lechtman provides legal representation from filing the petition and home screening to dealing with potential conflicts and the final adoption hearing. Get the legal process done correctly by calling (305) 652-9500 or contacting us online.

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