What is Relative Adoption in Florida?
In Florida, a relative adoption is an adoption of a child by a grandparent, uncle, aunt, or sibling. Relative adoptions are also known as kinship adoptions, and the most common form of relative adoptions are those by grandparents.
Florida law has created expedited and simplified procedures for adoptions by relatives. The procedure is similar to a stepparent adoption. The adoption procedure is governed by Chapter 63 of the Florida Statutes.
- In Florida, relative adoptions and grandparent adoptions use a simplified set of procedures compared to regular adoptions.
- After the adoption, it will be legally as if the child was born to the relatives.
- The parental rights of the biological parents will be terminated through the adoption.
- The child’s last name can be changed through the relative adoption.
How Grandparents or Relatives Can Adopt in Florida
The steps to a Florida grandparent adoption are as follows:
- File the petition. The petition is filed in the Circuit County of the Court where the grandchild lives or where the attorney is located.
- Include required consents. Without the consents of the biological parents, grandparent adoption is difficult, but not impossible.
- Attach to the petition all required documents. These documents include the UCCJEA, Indian Child Welfare Act Affidavit, the birth certificate, and copies of any prior court orders concerning custody or support.
- Once the case is assigned to a judge, contact the judicial office to schedule a hearing.
- At the hearing, the judge will review the case. If everything is in order, the judge may decide to grant the adoption.
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Sometimes, for whatever reason, a child’s biological parents are not the best parents for the child or are not available to actively be the child’s parents. Fortunately, the child’s family members can step in and adopt the child. The adoption grants the family members full legal parental rights.
For example, sometimes the child will already be attached to his or her extended family while the child’s relationship with his parents is interrupted by death or some other situation where the parents can no longer take care of the child.
Cost of Relative Adoption in Florida
A relative adoption can be economical. While you will still have to pay attorneys fees, generally you will qualify for the adoption tax credit, which can reduce your income tax by the amount of your adoption expenses.
Note that adoptions by a stepparent do not qualify for the adoption tax credit. You should contact a CPA or accountant for more information about your taxes.
Consent for Florida Grandparent Adoption
Does the current parent need to consent to the adoption? Not necessarily. With a Florida grandparent adoption, or in a Florida relative or kinship adoption, Florida law may allow such an adoption even when the current parent contests it or merely refuses to sign a consent. These exceptions are generally based on the parent emotionally or financially abandoning the child or otherwise being unfit to be a parent.
Tip: It is significantly easier to complete the adoption if the biological parents are willing to sign a consent.
Length of Adoption Process
If the current parent consents, just 1-2 months. Most of that time is waiting to schedule a hearing with the judge assigned to the relative adoption case. In a relative adoption, the order to terminate the current parent’s rights does not have to be done beforehand, so the entire process (the termination plus the adoption) can be done in one proceeding.
Generally, you do not need a home study for a relative adoption. In Florida, most regular adoptions require a home study. However, adoptions by grandparents and other relatives do not. This exception to the normal home study requirement is the primary way Florida law makes it easier for people to adopt their relatives.
Orlando and Florida are home to many grandparents that are raising their grandchildren. Sometimes they find themselves helping out temporarily, while other times, what they thought was temporary has turned into several years. Regardless of how you came to be raising your grandchildren, to secure the most permanent custody, you should complete a grandparent adoption.
Florida has expedited procedures to make it easier for grandparents to adopt their grandchildren. Nevertheless, the process will only be quick if the child’s current parents consent to the adoption. Still, parental consent to the adoption may ultimately not be required, as Florida law generally allows Courts to terminate parental rights even without consent when the parents abandon their child emotionally or financially. However, keep in mind that showing this kind of abandonment is difficult: Florida law generally protects a parent’s right to raise his or her child.
Finally, keep in mind that nobody is too old to adopt. In fact, grandparent adoptions are one of the most common types of adoptions in Florida. Every child deserves to have loving parents, and sometimes you need to be those parents for your grandchildren.
A grandparent or relative adoption in Florida is completed in several steps:
- The filing of a Petition for Adoption. Along with the Petition, several supporting documents such as the birth certificate and a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit are attached.
- Once filed, the case is assigned to a judge.
- Your attorney will work with the judge’s office and you to schedule a court hearing.
- The court hearing itself will be brief and friendly, but it is required to complete the adoption.
- At the hearing, the judge will sign an judgment of adoption, which formally grants the relatives full parental rights and terminates the rights of the biological parents.
- After the court hearing, we send in the paperwork required to amend the child’s birth certificate to show the relatives at the parents.
Kinship Adoption Forms
In most cases in Florida, counties do not have ready-made adoption forms available for use. Typically you’re on your own if you don’t have an attorney. Florida counties often only have forms for stepparent adoptions.