Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
By Michael Tupper
Attorney at Law

There are few things more wonderful than being a parent. Helping to raise a child can be a very rewarding experience. One of the ways to accomplish this is by adopting a minor child. The State of Florida has established a legal method for adopting minors. There are a number of eligibility requirements that you must meet, as well as legal steps that must be taken to complete the process. An experienced family law attorney in Jacksonville, FL, can help guide you through the process, making it as smooth as possible so you can begin parenting a child.

Who Is Eligible to Adopt a Child in Florida?

There are a number of minimum requirements for eligibility for adoption. First, you must be an adult who lives and works in Florida. You do not have to be married nor does your sexual orientation or gender identity factor into the adoption process. Most adoption agencies define an adult as any person over the age of 21. If you are married, then you and your spouse will both have to consent to the adoption, and will be subject to the requirements for eligibility.

The State also requires the prospective parent must be physically healthy enough to care for the child, as well as being mentally and emotionally stable. This is because Florida has a stake in protecting the best interests of the child. Placing a child with an adult who cannot care for the child will not further this goal. 

Finally, there are a number of other factors that will be taken into consideration when you apply for adoption. You must provide proof of financial stability. This goes along with showing that you can provide for the needs of the child. You will also have to pass a criminal background check, as well as meeting the home study requirements.

What Does the Background Check Entail?

Each prospective parent must undergo a federal, state and local criminal background check. If you have been convicted of a felony in the past, you may not be eligible to adopt a child, depending on the crime and the circumstances. If the crime involved child abuse or neglect, drugs, domestic violence, or any other violent crime, then you will be deemed ineligible. However, if it does not fall within any of these categories, then you may still be eligible to adopt depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. In any event, you cannot adopt within five years of your most recent felony conviction. Criminal background checks will also be conducted on anyone who lives at your residence, even if they will not be adopting the child.

What Is the Home Study Process?

Under the home study process, a social worker will inspect your home to ensure that you will be providing a safe place for the child. This involves making sure that stairways are gated for toddlers, there are child-proof windows, and that the doors can be securely locked. If you have a swimming pool on your premises, you will need a fence, a child-proof gate, and possibly even a pool alarm. All of this is done to ensure the safety of the child.

An adoption agency or entity, whether public or private, may not: (1) make a determination that a person is unsuitable to adopt based on the lawful possession, storage, or use of a firearm or ammunition by any member of the adoptive home; (2) require an adoptive parent or prospective adoptive parent to disclose information relating to a person’s lawful possession, storage, or use of a firearm or ammunition as a condition to adopt; and (3) restrict the lawful possession, storage, or use of a firearm or ammunition as a condition for a person to adopt.

In addition, the assigned social worker will review the background checks and will conduct interviews of each member of your household. This will include not only you and your spouse (if you are married) but also anyone else who resides with you. 

What Documentation Do I Need to File?

The adoption process involves both legal forms and documentary evidence. The documents include such things as birth and marriage certificates for everyone who resides at your home, character references for you and your spouse (if you are married), a psychological evaluation of each household member, the completed background checks and home study review, and financial documents showing things like your net worth and employment. The social worker conducting the home study may also request copies of your medical records to ensure that you are in good health. 

On the legal side, you will need to file a petition for the adoption. This will include a consent and waiver signed by the biological parents of the child before a notary public. There are other legal documents that need to be filed depending on the circumstances of the case, including a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit and, under circumstances where the biological father cannot be located, a Motion for Search of the Putative Father Registry. 

What Is the Finalization Hearing?

Once all of your paperwork has been finalized and submitted, a Florida judge will review all of the information, including the home study. Then, he or she will hold an adoption finalization hearing, usually within one year after you have begun caring for the child. At the hearing, the judge will have you and, if applicable, your spouse sworn in, as well as the minor child. The hearing is held in the judge’s chambers, not in the courtroom, and is used to confirm that you want to adopt the child, and that the child is in favor of the adoption. The judge may also ask you a few questions to make sure that everyone is happy with the adoption. Once this is completed, the judge will sign the decree of adoption, finalizing the adoption process.

If You Are Considering Adopting a Child, Our Family Law Attorneys Can Help Guide You Through the Process

Adopting a child is a major step in your life, as well as that of the child. You want to make sure that the entire process goes smoothly, which is why you should contact the experienced family law attorneys at Tupper Law, P.A., to help you with all of your legal needs in the adoption process.

About the Author
Michael Tupper is an experienced and skilled attorney from Jacksonville, FL, and is the driving force behind Tupper Law P.A. With an illustrious career spanning several years, he has established himself as a reliable and skilled legal advisor and representative across various disciplines. Having obtained his license to practice law in the State of Florida in 2004, Michael has consistently catered to the legal needs of Northeast Florida, encompassing Duval, Clay, and Nassau counties. His unwavering commitment to delivering timely, personalized, and proficient services reflects his dedication to providing the highest level of professional assistance.