Private Adoption in Florida
A private adoption is a way to complete an adoption without an agency. In Florida, a private adoption begins with the birth parents selecting the adoptive family and ends with the placement of the child and termination of parental rights. No agency is involved. Once their rights have been terminated, the adoptive parents file a petition for adoption with the court. The adoption is then finalized through a Final Judgment of Adoption.
To complete a private adoption in Florida, the prospective parents must (1) match with the birth parents, (2) secure the help of an adoption attorney, (3) accept placement of the child, (4) obtain a termination of parental rights, and (5) secure a final judgment of adoption.
A private adoption is also called an independent adoption, as both sides are completing the adoption independently without using the assistance of a large adoption agency.
Requirements for Private Adoption
In Florida, private adoptions are governed by Chapter 39 and Chapter 63 of Florida law. Chapter 39 covers the termination of parental rights, while Chapter 63 covers the adoption procedures. The requirements to adopt a child through a private adoption in Florida are:
- The adopting parents must have the financial and emotional ability to fully support the child.
- The parental rights of the biological parents must first be terminated through a Termination of Parental Rights Proceeding.
- The biological motion must consent to the adoption.
- The father must consent or sign an affidavit of non-paternity. If the father cannot be found or is unknown, then the adoption attorney must try to serve the father the adoption plan.
- The adopting parents must file a petition to adopt after the parental rights of the biological parents are terminated.
The process starts with the filing of a petition to terminate parental rights pending adoption. Because this is a matched, private adoption, the mother (and ideally the father if available) will consent to the termination of parental rights. Once the parental rights are terminated, the parents can file a petition for adoption in the same county.
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Steps to the Private Adoption Process
The steps for a private adoption in Florida can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the adoption, but generally, the process includes the following steps:
- Finding an adoption attorney.
- Creation of an adoption plan.
- Completion of a homestudy.
- Placement of the child.
- Finalization of the adoption.
1. Finding an Adoption Attorney
Both the birth parents and the adoptive parents will need to work with their own adoption attorneys. The attorneys guide both parties through the legal process, ensuring that all of the necessary paperwork is completed.
The adoption attorney will represent the adoptive parents in court for the finalization of the adoption.
2. Creating an Adoption Plan
Many families like to create an adoption plan. The plan outlines the terms of the adoption, including the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved.
This plan can include details such as the level of contact the birth parents will have with the child after the adoption (if any), the amount of financial support that will be provided, and any other important details.
3. Home Study
Before the private adoption can be finalized, the adoptive parents will need to complete a home study, which is a review of their home and background to ensure that they are suitable adoptive parents.
The home study is conducted by a licensed social worker and includes a review of the adoptive parents’ financial situation, personal references, and a criminal background check. Florida law imposes strict requirements on what the home study encompasses.
Once the home study is complete and the baby is born, the child can be placed with the adoptive parents. For a situation where the match occurred prior to the birth of the child, the placement can take place at the hospital itself. This means that the adoptive parents could go home with the baby from the hospital.
Either way, the child will be placed in the adoptive parents’ care with the expectation that they will become the child’s parents once the adoption is finalized.
After a waiting period, usually up to 6 months, the adoption will be finalized in court. A judge will enter a Final Judgment of Adoption. Once the adoption is finalized, no further home study visits are needed, as the child becomes the legal child of the adopting parents.
This is the final step in the adoption process.
After the adoption, you will be able to apply for an amended birth certificate for the child, which will show the adoptive parents as parents.
Benefits of Private Adoption
There are several benefits to a private adoption in Florida, including:
- Control. In a private adoption, you can work with an attorney to create an adoption plan that best meets the needs of all parties involved. In contrast, with an agency adoption, the adoption agency asserts control over the entire adoption process from start to finish.
- Speed. Private adoptions can often be completed more quickly than agency adoptions or adoptions through the foster care system.
- More information about the birth parents and the child. In a private adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents typically have more direct communication and exchange more information about each other and the child.
- Lower cost. Private adoptions can often be less expensive than agency adoptions, as there are typically fewer fees and expenses associated with the process.
Adoption Without an Agency
Adoption without an agency, also known as an independent adoption, is a process in which birth parents and adoptive parents work directly with each other and with attorneys to arrange an adoption without the involvement of an adoption agency.
In fact, the only two professionals you will need to hire are an adoption attorney and a home study social worker. No other professionals are required.
In an adoption without an agency, the birth parents and adopting parents find each other through personal connections, social media, Facebook, and so on. They then work together to create an adoption plan that is in the best interest of the child.
While some birth mothers choose an agency to handle the adoption, others prefer a private adoption, or independent adoption, for several reasons. The added control and ability to work directly with the adoptive parents and the attorney gives some birth parents more assuredness that the adoption will go smoothly and that the child will be taken care of.
Adoptive parents will find that an adoption without an agency is considerable less expensive due to high agency fees.
FAQs About Private Adoption
Here are frequently asked questions about private adoption in Florida.
How much does a private adoption cost in Florida
A private adoption without an agency usually is between $5,000 and $10,000 in legal fees and court costs. This is considerably less expensive than adopting with an agency. Additional costs could include living expenses for the birth mother, as well as medical bills and counseling.
Is private adoption legal in Florida?
Yes, private adoption is fully legal in Florida. You are not required to use an agency to complete an adoption. Florida law does, however, require the use of an adoption attorney to complete a private adoption.
How long does private adoption take in Florida?
Between 6 and 12 months from start to finish. Keep in mind that placement of the child with the adoptive parents occurs much earlier in the process.
Can you adopt your friend’s baby in Florida?
Yes, you can adopt a friend’s baby in Florida so long as everyone is in agreement. You do not need an agency, but Florida law does require the assistance of a licensed adoption attorney.
How long does a birth mother have to change her mind in Florida?
In Florida, the birth mother has up to 48 hours to revoke her consent to the adoption. The birth mother can revoke her consent even if she promised she would not. She does not need to give any reason.
However, once 48 hours has elapsed after the consent was signed, the birth mother can no longer revoke her consent.
About the Author
Gideon Alper specializes in stepparent and relative adoptions for families throughout Florida.