A kinship adoption allows a person to formally adopt a grandchild, niece, nephew, or sibling. In Florida, a relative adoption uses streamlined court rules and procedures that make the process quicker and less expensive than a typical adoption. A kinship adoption (1) grants parental status to the adopting person, (2) terminates the parental status of the biological parents, and (3) allows the adoptee to change their name. The most common type of relative adoption in Florida is a grandparent adoption.
Florida law has created expedited and simplified procedures for adoptions by relatives. The procedure is similar to a stepparent adoption. Relative adoptions are governed by Chapter 63 of the Florida Statutes.
How to Complete a Relative or Kinship Adoption in Florida
The steps to a Florida adoption by grandparents or relatives are as follows:
- File the petition. A petition is filed in the Circuit County of the Court where the grandchild lives or where the adoption attorney is located.
- Obtain consent. Without the consent 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.
- Schedule hearing. Schedule a hearing by contacting the judicial assistant of the judge assigned to the case
- Judicial review. The judge will review the case. If everything is in order, the judge may decide to grant the adoption.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, a child’s biological parents are not the best parents for the child or are not available to actively parent the child. For example, sometimes the child will already be attached to their extended family while the child’s relationship with their parents is interrupted by death or some other situation where the parents can no longer take care of the child.
Fortunately, the child’s family members can step in and adopt the child. The grandparent or relative adoption grants the family members full legal parental rights.
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Cost of Relative Adoption in Florida
A relative adoption is typically economical. While you have to pay attorney fees, most people qualify for the adoption tax credit, which reduces 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.
Length of Adoption Process
If the current parent consents the relative adoption process takes no more than two 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 is not a separate matter, so the entire process (the termination plus the adoption) can be done in one proceeding and one hearing.
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 easy for people to adopt their relatives.
Orlando and Florida are home to many grandparents that are raising their grandchildren. Sometimes they help temporarily, while other times, what they thought was temporary has become several years. Regardless of why you are raising your grandchildren, to secure the most permanent custody you should complete a grandparent adoption.
Florida has expedited procedures that make it easy for grandparents to adopt their grandchildren, provided the child’s current parents consent to the adoption. Parental consent may not be required because Florida law generally allows courts to terminate parental rights without consent when the parents abandon their child emotionally or financially. However, showing abandonment is difficult: Florida law generally protects a parent’s right to raise their own child.
Finally, 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 a grandparent needs to be those parents for their grandchildren.
Kinship Adoption Process
A kinship adoption by a grandparent or relative is completed in several steps:
- The filing of a Petition for Adoption. Several supporting documents such as the birth certificate and a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit are attached to the Petition.
- Once filed, the case is assigned to a judge.
- Your attorney will work with the judge’s office to schedule a court hearing.
- The court hearing will be brief and friendly.
- The judge will sign at the hearing a 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 adopting relatives as the child’s parents.
Benefits of Kinship Adoption
Kinship adoption refers to a type of adoption where a relative or close family friend becomes the legal parent of a child. This form of adoption has several potential benefits:
- Familiarity: In a kinship adoption, the child typically already knows and has a relationship with the adoptive family. This familiarity can make the transition less traumatic than it might be with a stranger.
- Stability: Keeping the child within the family or close social circle can offer stability and continuity, especially in maintaining relationships with siblings or other relatives.
- Cultural Continuity: Kinship adoption allows children to remain within their cultural, racial, or ethnic group, which can be important for their identity development. It can also help them maintain ties to their cultural heritage and traditions.
- Emotional Comfort: Children may find comfort in being placed with someone they already know and trust. This can help reduce feelings of abandonment or rejection that can sometimes accompany adoption.
- Continuity of Care: In many cases, children adopted by relatives have already been living with their future adoptive parents, leading to fewer disruptions in their daily routines and care.
- Legal Rights: Kinship adoption ensures the caregiver has full legal rights to decide for the child, like accessing medical care or enrolling the child in school. It also guarantees the child’s right to inheritance.
- Permanency: Kinship adoption offers a permanent solution for the child, providing long-term stability and a sense of belonging, which can benefit the child’s emotional and psychological well-being.
- Keeping Siblings Together: Kinship adoption can make it easier to keep siblings together, which is generally considered to be in the children’s best interests.
Do parents have to consent to a grandparent adoption?
Not necessarily. The child’s current parents sometimes do not need to consent to the adoption. With a Florida grandparent adoption, or in a Florida relative or kinship adoption, Florida law may allow the 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 an unfit parent.
What forms do you need for a kinship adoption?
Florida counties have free forms available only for stepparent adoptions. Most Florida counties do not have ready-made adoption forms available for relative adoption. You’re on your own if you don’t have an attorney.
Do relative adoptions have a residency requirement?
Yes, the child being adopted must have lived in Florida for six months in order for Florida courts to have jurisdiction.
About the Author
Gideon Alper specializes in stepparent and relative adoptions for families throughout Florida.