Salt Lake City Adoption Lawyer

Experienced Legal Counsel to Unite Your Family in Ogden & Provo Counties

At Spencer Family Law, children are our priority. This perspective shines through in our adoption cases, which are all about securing loving forever homes for children. Whether you have questions about how to adopt the newest member of your family or take the step out of stepchild with a stepparent adoption, our firm can help you navigate the legal process. We handle most adoption case types and can help you put together the evidence needed to complete your adoption smoothly and successfully so you can focus on celebrating the happy occasion. Adoption is an exciting next step for your family, so you should not feel intimidated by the legal jargon.

Let us handle the legal side while you focus on bringing in the newest member of your family. Call (385) 999-2474 or contact Spencer Family Law online today.

The Adoption Process in Utah

Utah implements laws regarding who can adopt and who can be adopted, and all adoption matters will be decided according to the best interests of the child, similar to the best-interest factors in child custody cases. If the child is 12 years or older, the child must consent to the adoption (if they have the mental capacity to consent).

In general, any adult can adopt, but they must be at least 10 years older than the child being adopted. If married, the prospective parent must have the consent of their spouse to adopt. Note that a single person cohabiting with or involved in a sexual relationship with someone may not adopt. This applies to unmarried couples as well, but they would just need to be married by the date of the finalization hearing.

One of the most important steps in the adoption process is the home residency requirement. Utah adoption law specifies that a child must live in the prospective parent’s home for some amount of time before the adoption is finalized (usually after six months). This requirement is extended to one year for stepparent adoptions.

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Private Placements

Private placements are where you are adopting a child who is not a relative or a stepchild. These often take place through adoption agencies, but can also be facilitated directly by the parties without paying exorbitant fees to the adoption agencies. 

These adoptions are subject to many requirements including pre- and post-placement home studies and certifications. They can be very paperwork-intensive, and are strictly regulated. 

Adoptions can be difficult to do on your own because making a mistake can delay the process significantly, or even make it possible for the natural parent to change their mind before the process is completed and throw a wrench in the adoption process. 

 

It is important to make sure you have a qualified provider lined up to conduct the home study, have your background check paperwork in order, and complete all the notice requirements in order to avoid costly and painful delays.

 

Kinship Adoption

Adopting a family member in Utah is similar to other adoptions but has fewer requirements than adopting a non-relative. Kindship adoptions refers to adoptions by a sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle, or cousin of the adoptee.

Kinship adoptions can be less costly because there is no need to do a home study. However, the same requirements for establishing the child is eligible to be adopted, or terminating the parental rights of any remaining parents apply.

 

Stepparent Adoption

To adopt a minor stepchild, the adopting stepparent must:

  • be married to the child’s custodial parent;
  • not have a felony that would disqualify them from adopting (e.g., a child abuse felony);
  • be at least 10 years older than the adoptee; and
  • have lived with the stepchild and custodial parent for one year (this can be waived by the judge).

The following individuals must consent to the adoption or be served with a Notice of Petition to Adopt and a Notice of Rights:

  • The adopting parent's spouse if they are not a co-petitioner
  • The adoptee if they are 12 years or older
  • The adoptee's non-custodial parent
  • The adoptee's court-appointed guardian (only if the order appointing the guardian expressly gives the guardian the right to consent to the child's adoption)

If one of the above people does not consent or does not waive their rights as a parent, they are allowed to file a motion to intervene in the adoption within 30 days. If the motion is granted, the objecting party can present their side at the hearing about why the adoption is not in the child’s best interests or why their parental rights should not be terminated.

If all the relevant parties consent to the adoption and no one objects, the steps for adoption are as follows:

  • File the required forms and documents
  • Attend a scheduled adoption hearing
  • Answer the judge’s questions and sign the required documents at the hearing
  • Wait for the judge to sign the final adoption decree

 

Termination of Parental Rights

In Utah, a child can only have two legal parents. That means if there are already two legally established parents, the child cannot be adopted by a stepparent until the noncustodial parent’s rights are terminated. This termination can be either voluntary or involuntary. In a voluntary situation, the parent will sign a voluntary consent to the adoption or relinquishment for adoption. An involuntary situation occurs when the person received notice of the adoption and did not file a motion to intervene within 30 days, or the court finds that there are grounds for termination, and that termination is in the best interests of the child. The standard of proof for termination of parental rights is very high – by clear and convincing evidence – as opposed to the preponderance of the evidence needed to change custody.

In such a case, the court may terminate the person’s parental rights if:

  • the parent has abandoned the child;
  • the parent has neglected or abused the child;
  • the parent is found unfit or incompetent; or
  • they have only made token efforts to support or communicate with the child, prevent neglect of the child, eliminate the risk of serious harm to the child, or avoid being an unfit parent.

Adoption can be a complex and lengthy process involving several laws, treaties, and procedural requirements. An adoption attorney can help you build a strong case for adoption, as well as help you navigate the necessary steps to adopt. Let Spencer Family Law help you unite your family.

Call (385) 999-2474 or contact us online for an initial consultation to get started.

  • “Dan and his team where very professional and sooo much help i do not think i could have went through my custody without them.”

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