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Is Adoption Possible for an Unmarried Couple?

Posted by on Sep 15, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

Is Adoption Possible for an Unmarried Couple?

An unmarried person may want to adopt a child for various reasons. As a single person, the question is: Can an unmarried person adopt children in Arizona?

The short answer: Yes! The marital status of a person does not prohibit someone from adopting a child because—in Arizona—any adult resident can adopt, regardless of whether they are single, separated, or married.

More specifically, this means you can be any kind of “single,” whether this means that you are in an (unmarried) relationship with another person, or you are thinking of raising a child by yourself. Either way, you can adopt.

Is the process different?

Generally, just as for married people, adoption can be conducted through a direct placement adoption or through private adoption agencies in Arizona for those who are not married at the time of adoption.

However, there is one small difference regarding being single but looking to adopt as an unmarried couple.

While this is permitted, there is a little bit of nuance to it. When married couples adopt a child, the child becomes the child of both parents. When an individual adopts a child, it becomes that individual’s child. But, when an unmarried couple adopts a child, one individual in the couple is the adoptive parent, because in Arizona unmarried couples cannot adopt together as one unit.

So in other words, while any adult can adopt, the situation is a bit different for unmarried versus married couples, because unmarried couples are not allowed to adopt a child jointly.

In addition, this can have important implications regarding child custody if you and the person you are with at the time of adoption, but are not married to, end up splitting up.

What does the law look into, if not the marital status?

Instead of concentrating on the marital status of the parent—which could limit great parents from adopting—the law instead focuses on the needs of the child. Whether married or unmarried, the child’s physical and mental health needs are centered as being the most important consideration.

However, the qualification criteria can include looking at the stability of the home, which can mean the marital status and length of a marriage. The other considerations that look to the child’s welfare include the financial ability of the adoptive parent to care for the child, an established relationship between the child and the parent, and the prospect of placing the child with siblings.

Certification and home study

Whether you are married or unmarried, you will still need to be certified by the Department of Child Safety in order to ensure the placement is best for the child.

This rule does not apply if you are a close relative, a step parent, or a licensed foster parent of the child and you wish to adopt him or her. If the rule applies to you, then you must be certified to adopt before you submit an adoption petition.

You will also need to do an adoption certification study, which is conducted by an individual from the court, adoption agency, or agency contracted with the Arizona Department of Economic Security and is designed to assess whether you and your home is suited to adopting a child.

This will include performing a complete social history, the applicant’s moral fitness, the applicant’s religious background, and any court actions against the applicant related to child abuse and other maltreatment of children.

Contact Stuart & Blackwell today!

Here at Stuart & Blackwell, we have seen a variety of family situations and believe that everyone should be able to build a family. Adoption can be a hard process to navigate alone or in a couple, one that takes energy, resources, and time. In providing legal counsel, we take this all into account in crafting our services to fit your precise situation, to make sure you get the best service possible as you go through the ups and downs of building the family you have always wanted. We will be with you every step of the way to provide legal counsel on all of the small legal details that might pop up.

Please contact us today to assist you with any and all legal issues around family law in Arizona. We are here to help. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

What is the process to adopt a stepchild?

Posted by on Sep 1, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

What is the process to adopt a stepchild?

A variety of situations can lead someone to adoption. One of these situations is one in which you have a relationship with a stepchild, and wish to formally adopt him or her. The fact that a child is not your biological child does not hinder the nurturing, positive relationship that can develop between parent and child.

While adopting a child that you do not already know can be a great way to bring a child into a family’s life—and provide a home for a child who needs one—when a stepparent adopts a child, they already have a relationship.

Adoption, for legal purposes, can be the last step in this process to finalize the formalities of this preexisting bond.

At Stuart & Blackwell, we have dealt with a range of familial situations and are with you every step of the way to assist you with all the legal aspects of the process. This post will briefly discuss stepchild adoption in the state of Arizona.

There are several steps that are necessary to complete prior to finalizing a step-parent adoption.

These include:

  • a criminal record check (completed via a fingerprinting technology service as well as from registry records, which will show that you have not been to court for child abuse)
  • lawful marriage to the child’s parent for at least one year
  • to have lived with the child for at least six months
  • and, if the child is 12 or over, consent from the child

It is also worth noting here that the laws in Arizona for same-sex couples are the same.

What are the steps?

First, is for the birth parent to give up their legal rights to the child. They can consent to this, or if they are unwilling to consent you will have to go through the process to terminate their parental rights. If you believe the other birth parent will not consent you should consult with an attorney about the grounds for which termination of parental rights can be sought.

Second, you will need to file a petition for adoption, which will contain a lot of basic information about you, such as your name; where you live; whether you are married; and your relationship to the child. This petition will also include information like the current custody arrangement; the name, date, and place of birth for the child; and a description of the child’s property.

Third, you need to get ready for the hearing. However, before the hearing, you are often responsible for the wellbeing of the child, including aspects of the child’s life like medical procedures.

Fourth, you must go to the adoption hearing, which should happen within a few months of filing the adoption petition.

The last, the final step is to finalize the adoption and start your new life with your child.

Contact Stuart & Blackwell

At Stuart & Blackwell, we know that these processes can be long and stressful. We want to be here for you to take care of any and all legal matters that may arise, so you do not have to worry about them. Contact us today for high-quality legal services, and you can rest assured you have a great team supporting you during an exciting time. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

Current Laws for LGBT Adoption in Arizona

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

Current Laws for LGBT Adoption in Arizona

Same-sex rights and adoption: an overview

Many strides have been made lately in terms of LGBT rights, most prominently the Obergefell v. Hodges decision which federally allowed same-sex marriage, but they are still under threat.

Like marriage, adoption for LGBT couples has a complicated legal history too. For a long time, like other rights denied to LGBT people, adoption was not permitted. That has changed in some parts of the country, but not in that many places.

Just 16 states and the District of Columbia permit LGBT people or couples to petition for the adoption of a child.

At present, because there is no federal legislation covering the matter of LGBT adoption, each state is able to set its own rules. This means that some states might explicitly restrict it, while others can allow it in full or allow it in certain situations.

For example, adoption and foster care agencies in some states can outright refuse to place a child with LGBT parents, such as in Michigan, or there could be exemptions against LGBT parents from adoption and foster care agencies, like in Virginia.

Generally, often, only the biological parent of a child can adopt the child, or one individual, but not an LGBT couple together.

This means that oftentimes, for LGBT couples, one of the parents is legally a parent—either through adoption or biologically—and the couple leaves it at that because they have no legal recourse to do anything about it.

Arizona is, fortunately, one of the states that allows for same-sex adoption. This post explains what is allowed in Arizona for LGBT individuals and couples. Here at Stuart & Blackwell, we are here to help in a variety of situations and for couples of all kinds.

Same-sex adoption is permitted in Arizona

While many state legislatures are threatening the rights of LGBT individuals at the present—the right to adoption being one of them—Arizona is standing firm. Right now, LGBT couples can adopt in Arizona. Arizona allows for same-sex adoption in a few ways.

First, one distinction that could come up within states that do allow some kind of LGBT adoption is whether they permit LGBT individuals to adopt versus LGBT couples. Arizona allows both single LGBT individuals to petition to adopt and it also allows couples, which makes it different from states that do not allow any kind of LGBT adoption or just individual adoption. So, in Arizona, LGBT couples can petition for adoption.

Second, there is also the situation where one individual wants to adopt their partner’s child, which is allowed in Arizona (no explicit prohibition on this).

This is called second-parent adoption. It is a way for one parent to adopt the biological child of the other parent, or a child another parent already adopted and they want to raise together.

The main limitation on adoption in this fashion is not on the sex of the parents, but that the parents must be married.

In sum, LGBT couples can enjoy the ability to petition for adoption in Arizona. Indeed, the Arizona legislature is considering a nondiscrimination bill, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation related to many basic rights.

What is considered in adoption?

Like in any situation, when an LGBT couple looks to adopt, factors will include:

  • marital status
  • where the child’s siblings have been placed
  • relationships between the child and adoptive family
  • the new family’s ability to meet the child’s needs and support the child financially

Further, there are adoption expenses that can be financially burdensome for couples looking to adopt, but nonprofits and GoFundMe can be two places couples can look for assistance in this.

What can Stuart & Blackwell do for you?

At Stuart & Blackwell, we believe strong, caring families come in a variety of shapes and sizes. As described above, LGBT families can adopt in Arizona. We want to be there for these—and all—families looking to add a child to their growing family and to provide the legal support and know-how that comes with extensive family law experience right here in Arizona.

While adoption can be complex, expensive, and challenging, we want to be there every step of the way, from the initial consultation discussing options to the arrival of your adopted child into your home.

At Stuart & Blackwell, we take care of the legal side of things, so you can take care of all of the other, more important parts of adoption and getting prepared to care for your child. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

Ways to Fund an Adoption in Arizona

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

Ways to Fund an Adoption in Arizona

While many families might make the decision to adopt, one issue that prevents a family from doing so can be the costs they face when they want to adopt a child. The cost of adopting a child can be the difference between bringing a child into a family—benefiting both the child as well as the family itself—and not being able to do so.

This is where outside funding comes in, to help with this process. Especially with the internet, there are now a number of ways to try to raise funds toward expensive adoption costs.

At Stuart & Blackwell, we want to be there for you during the entire adoption process, helping you navigate a tricky and complex system. The goal of this post is to briefly speak to a couple of ways individuals and families can fund an adoption in Arizona.

First, we will talk a bit about nonprofits (such as Gift of Adoption Fund) and online resources (such as GoFundMe), both of which can be helpful ways to decrease the financial burden many people face when looking to add a child to their home.

Nonprofits

There are nonprofits that offer funding for adoptions. One big nonprofit that provides funding for the adoption process is the Gift of Adoption Fund. This is one option for families who want to apply for funding to be able to afford (or better afford) an adoption.

There are two areas that this nonprofit cover: Domestic adoptions and international adoptions.

Gift of Adoption Fund prioritizes some applications. Namely, for domestic adoptions, it prioritizes grants that help prevent kids from going into the foster care system and that help unite biological siblings (and thereby stop them being separated). If your situation falls into one of these categories, then you could be prioritized for funding by Gift of Adoption Fund and potentially other nonprofits that use similar criteria.

The goal for Gift of Adoption Fund is to keep children from the foster system and, where siblings are concerned, keeping those siblings together or reuniting siblings can be prioritized.

Second, international adoption prioritization covers similar values: Priority is given to uniting or keeping siblings together, preventing children from “aging out” of orphanages, preventing special needs children from being institutionalized, and ensuring placement for a child with a life-threatening medical condition who will otherwise not receive care until adoption.

Like domestic adoptions, this prioritizes keeping kids together, but it also prioritizes getting disadvantaged or particularly vulnerable kids into caring homes.

Whether your situation can be prioritized as based on the above or not, applying for funding can be important either way.

To apply, you will need to fill out an adoption assistance grant application on the website of the nonprofit you select. You will need to submit things like an income tax return, check stubs, and a current and approved home study, among other elements of the application.

There are several nonprofits that provide grants for adoption, including but not limited to Helpusadopt.org and Family Formation Charitable Trust.

Fundraising Online (e.g. GoFundMe)

GoFundMe is another option for those looking to raise money for an adoption. Through adoption fundraising online, a family can get a portion or all the money they need to pay for adoption costs.

One main site people use is GoFundMe, which is a website where people (including anonymous people and people you do not know) can donate to a given cause. In this case, the cause will be your adoption costs.

You will need to tell a story about why someone should fund the adoption, such as highlights about your life that get into why you would be excited to be a parent or what kind of home you can offer a child.

Basically, the goal is to explain how and why you would be both a good fit for a child, but also someone who deserves a bit of help with the costs along the way.

Checking out other people’s posts in adoption fundraising might be a good place to start, to get a sense of how people talk about it and how much can be raised.

Stuart & Blackwell

At Stuart & Blackwell, we come with the knowledge and legal know-how to assist individuals and families contemplating and planning out adoption. With extensive family law experience with people facing a range of situations, we provide top-notch legal services for Arizona families looking to better understand and navigate the adoption system.

It can be overwhelming and challenging, and we are here to help with the details—big and small—that get in the way of realizing your dream of adopting a child and adding one (or more!) to your family. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

5 Reasons a Family Might Fail a Home Study

Posted by on Jul 15, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

5 Reasons a Family Might Fail a Home Study

No one wants to think of the possibility, but occasionally, a potential adoptive family may end up failing the home study.

The purpose of a home study is to investigate the appropriateness of the home and the potential adoptive parent’s fitness to adopt.

The study will examine the following factors:

  • The ability the potential adoptive parents have to provide financially for the child, as well as their history of providing financial support for other children;
  • The age and health of both adoptive parents;
  • The length and stability of the marriage or relationship between the adoptive parents;
  • Any past disturbances that may have occurred within the immediate family of the potential adoptive family, including divorce, death of spouse or child, any history of child abuse, etc.

A home study investigation and report is required to be completed within 90 days after an application for adoption certification has been officially accepted. The court will then receive the home study and certify the applicant as acceptable or unacceptable to adopt children, based on the report.

This determination must be made within 60 days of receiving the agency’s home study.

When a home study is denied, the applicants will receive written notification of the denial, as well as an explanation on what they can do to petition the court for review.

1. Felony Conviction

If one of the parents wanting to adopt have been convicted of felony child abuse or neglect, offenses involving drugs or alcohol abuse or domestic violence, adoption is normally prohibited.

Before the home study begins, both potential adoptive parents will be subject to background checks to determine if either have been convicted of one of these felonies.

If either parent has minor convictions in his or her background from youth, that will normally not be held against that person so long as he or she is honest and discloses them before the home study starts.

2. Investigation of Other Family Members

The home study also investigates all family members in the potential adoptive family’s home. Every adult who lives in the home is subject to a criminal background check.

Depending on what is discovered in that person’s criminal background check, the adoption could run into some roadblocks or even a denial of the home study.

3. Health Issues

Another reason a denial of the home study may be given is if either of the adoptive parents suffers from a life-threatening illness or disease.

An adoption agency is not going to want to approve a family if there is any serious concern that one of the parents is not going to be there forever for the child. Serious illnesses can also impact the home dynamic and the ability that person has to parent the child properly.

Likewise, if either parent suffers from a psychological disorder that could impair his or her quality of life or ability to parent the child, the home study could be rejected. If the parent does suffer from a psychological illness but is in regular therapy and on medication, if he or she has a letter from the therapist or prescribing physician regarding this treatment, any issues may be fine.

In all home studies, the adoptive parents are asked to disclose any medications that they take, and it is important that the parents be upfront about this and not hide anything as that would raise red flags.

If a medication is for a serious physical or psychological illness, simply include a statement from the doctor about this medication. Honesty is always best when it comes to any part of the home study.

4. Financial Troubles

The prospective adoptive parents will also be asked to give a detailed account of their financial situation. The adoption agency is not asking that the parents be rich necessarily, but they do have to be capable of providing financially for the child.

If the parents are in serious financial trouble, this could end up being a reason for failing a home study.

5. Lack of Honesty

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to working with an adoption agency on a home study. If they discover that either parent made any omissions or lied during the process, this could result in the home study failing.

Do not lie about anything, especially questions regarding criminal background, medical history or finances as this can result in a denial.

It is also important that the parents work with the home study worker and not be uncooperative in the process. If the social worker feels like the family is not cooperating, this could also result in a denial.

If You Are Thinking Adoption, Contact Stuart & Blackwell Today

At Stuart & Blackwell, we understand just how stressful the adoption process can be. We’re here to help you find the path to adoption that’s right for you. Every adoption is as unique as the adoptive parents themselves, but the journey doesn’t have to be harrowing.

We specialize in Arizona adoption law, and we have the experience, knowledge, and compassion to help you welcome your child into your loving home. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

Is Adoption Possible without Parental Consent?

Posted by on Jul 1, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

Is Adoption Possible without Parental Consent?

Parental consent is almost always required in any adoption, but some circumstances do exist where parental consent is not needed for an adoption to go through.

The following explores these situations, as well as other roadblocks that may come along the way when pursuing an adoption without parental consent.

Birth Parent Consent

The birth parents may give official consent to the adoption of their child 72 hours after the child’s birth.

All consents must be given in writing and must be signed by the parent giving the consent. It also must be signed in the presence of a notary public or witnessed by two or more credible witnesses who are over 18 years old.

On the written consent for adoption, either the specific parents authorized to adopt the child or an agency where the child will be placed for adoption must be given.

In Arizona, consent for adoption must be given by:

  • The birth or adoptive mother;
  • The father, if he was married to the mother when the child was conceived, if he was the adoptive father or if he has otherwise legally established paternity;
  • Any guardian or agency with whom the child has been placed for adoption;
  • The guardian of any adult parent, if one has already been appointed
  • The child, if he or she is over the age of 12 years old. This consent must be given in open court.

Consent Not Necessary

In some situations, consent is not necessary. These situations include the following:

  • When the adult parent already has a guardian appointed;
  • When the parental rights have been previously terminated by court order;
  • If the birth parents had already consented to an agency or division for placement of the child for adoption and adoptive parents are later chosen by the agency or division;
  • If the potential father has failed to pursue a paternity action and has not complied with the requirements set within 30 days of receiving notice.

Consent of the Father

Many times, the birth father is completely supportive of the adoption plan, but sometimes this is not the case.

In the Arizona, a man is considered the child’s “legal father” if he is or was married to the mother any time in the 10 months preceding the child’s birth, if he and the child’s birth mother signed the birth certificate of paternity statement, or if genetic testing showed that the man had a 95 percent probability of paternity.

If any of these circumstances apply, either the consent needs to be given or the father’s parental rights need to be terminated.

However, other circumstances exist where the consent is not needed, including the following:

  • When the identity of the birth father is unknown or his whereabouts are unknown, the adoption may be able to proceed without his consent. However, in these situations, the adoptive parents must make an effort to identify the birth father, and a search on the putative father registry must be completed before the adoption can proceed.
  • If the birth father is unsupportive of the birth mother’s decision for adoption, the birth father will need to demonstrate his desire for custody and willingness to support the child. If he simply does not want to agree with the adoption and does not want to care for the child, the court may be able to terminate his parental rights so that the adoption can move forward.

If any of the circumstances exist, it is almost always recommended that an adoption attorney be hired to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

While it is possible to terminate parental rights through a court proceeding, an attorney will be needed to properly present the evidence to support the claim that the birth father is not able or willing to care for the minor child.

If You Are Thinking Adoption, Contact Stuart & Blackwell Today

At Stuart & Blackwell, we understand just how stressful the adoption process can be. We’re here to help you find the path to adoption that’s right for you. Every adoption is as unique as the adoptive parents themselves, but the journey doesn’t have to be harrowing.

We specialize in Arizona adoption law, and we have the experience, knowledge, and compassion to help you welcome your child into your loving home. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

6 Myths About Foster Care

Posted by on Jun 15, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

6 Myths About Foster Care

Many people get scared off easily from adopting through foster care. Most of the time, this fear comes from misconceptions or stories that may have been passed on after one bad experience in the foster care adoption process.

These myths may be completely untrue, may be based off of old or dated information or may have only some small amount of truth to them. Regardless, it helps to separate fact from fiction before making a decision on whether to pursue a foster care adoption.

1. Foster Care Adoptions Are Expensive

Any adoption comes with its own set of costs, but when it comes to the different types of adoptions available, foster care adoptions tend to be the lower cost of the options. Private or international adoptions cost anywhere from $5,000 to up to $30,000 in costs when all is said and done.

On the other hand, if potential adoptive parents wish to go through pre-adoptive foster care placement, funding is available to provide financial assistance for eligible adoptive children. One of the only costs that is associated with a foster care adoption is the home study fee, which can be refunded after the adoption is finalized from the foster care system.

If the child is placed in a foster placement, talk with an adoption attorney to see what can be done to get financial assistance to help with adoption costs.

2. All Foster Care Adoptions Involve Children Classified as “Special Needs”

An additional myth surrounding foster care adoptions if the idea that all children in foster care have some type of need, whether it be a physical, emotional or mental handicap, that qualifies them to be classified as “special needs.” Children are in the foster/adopt system because their birth parents were not able to give them a permanent, stable and protective home.

While, yes, many children may suffer from some type of physical or emotional issue, it does not necessarily qualify them as “special needs.”

Additionally, the term “special needs” should not necessarily be given a negative connotation. It could simply mean that the child is older or requires placement with his or her siblings. No one foster care situation is the same, and each situation comes with its own set of unique circumstances.

3. The Adoptive Family Will Not Receive Support Until the Adoption Is Finalized.

Most children who are placed and later adopted through the foster care system are eligible for some type of state or federal subsidy to help the costs associated with placement and that child’s needs.

Each state has its own set of rules, but it helps to talk with the placement agency, as well as an adoption attorney. This helps to get short-term assistance before the adoption takes place and long-term assistance in the event post-adoption financial help is needed.

It helps to do your homework when looking for financial assistance for adoption, but the help certainly does not end at the date the adoption is finalized. Assistance can be made available both before, during and after the adoption is finalized.

4. Adopting a Child Through Foster Care Involves Too Much Red Tape

One common myth regarding foster care adoptions is that the process requires too much red tape and bureaucracy, making it not even worth the process.

The process does have its own set of requirements and steps that need to be taken. However Congress has made it so that the process is much more streamlined since the passing of the Adoption and Safe Families Act in 1997.

The purpose of this law was to make it so that children could find their forever homes in a more efficient and quick manner, resulting in less time in foster care with no definite sense of permanency.

5. It Takes Too Long to Finalize the Adoption.

Ultimately it depends on when the child is placed in the home for how long the adoption will take. If the foster family receives placement before parental rights are even terminated, the process can end up being longer.

However, once the placement is made and the adoption is set to go forward, the process is not too long. To become certified for adoption takes approximately four to six months, depending on how long it takes to complete the requirements for certification.

As soon as you are cleared to finalize the adoption, it is recommended the family meets with an adoption attorney to file the petition and move forward. It can be done within a matter of months if all goes smoothly.

6. Foster Care Children Have Too Much Baggage.

This last myth is one that prevents many individuals from ever going forward with foster care adoption, and it is unfair to the children in the foster care system that this myth prevents these adoptions from otherwise happening.

While some foster children may come in with physical or emotional needs, at the end of the day, all these children want is a forever family who will love them and provide them with a happy and safe home.

Do not let the fear of the unknown prevent you from accepting a child into your home who could make your family complete. If foster care is a consideration and this myth is the only one that is holding the family back, reach out to placement agencies in your area. Speak with other foster families who have gone through adoptions to get their stories on how well their adoptions went.

If You Are Thinking Adoption, Contact Stuart & Blackwell Today

At Stuart & Blackwell, we understand just how stressful the adoption process can be. We’re here to help you find the path to adoption that’s right for you. Every adoption is as unique as the adoptive parents themselves, but the journey doesn’t have to be harrowing.

We specialize in Arizona adoption law, and we have the experience, knowledge, and compassion to help you welcome your child into your loving home. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

How Should I Prepare for the Home Study?

Posted by on Jun 1, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

How Should I Prepare for the Home Study?

Before a family can become certified to adopt, a home study must be completed. The idea of a home study can strike a nerve in any potential adoptive families’ minds. Many want to know whether any preparation can help make the home study process go smoothly.

Understanding the Study

In the State of Arizona, the home study is completed by an authorized agency or division. These home studies normally include three different components: accumulating all of the documentation needed, the interviews, and the home inspection.

The home study must be completed within 90 days after the official application for adoption certification has been accepted.

After completing all three of these steps, the social worker who is completing the home study will put together a report, which will detail the social history of the adoptive family, their financial situation, religious background, health issues, and any court actions that involve the potential adoptive family.

Get All Documentation Together

Getting prepared for the interview is important, especially when it comes to getting all documentation accumulated to hand over to the social worker.

Certain important documents will need to be handed over to the social worker, including the birth certificates for the adoptive parents, marriage certificate, financial statement, and a doctor’s statement regarding each potential adoptive parent’s health.

Additionally, all adult members in the house will need to certify whether they are facing trial for a crime, have been convicted of a crime, especially one involving a child. They will also need to submit state and federal criminal record checks, which can take some time to get certified copies.

Unless the adoptive family has all of this information handy, it can take a little while to get it all together. This step is one of the biggest parts of the home study where the adoptive family can do the legwork ahead of time to shorten the time it takes.

Get the paperwork together and ready to go so that the social worker simply needs to receive one folder with everything in it to get thing started quicker. The sooner the documentation is submitted, the sooner the next two steps can take place.

The Interview Process

Another common question is whether the adoptive family can prepare for the interview. Arguably, this part of the home study is the most important because it is when the social worker will truly get to know the potential adoptive family.

The social worker will interview the prospective parents, as well as other key family members in the household. Most of the information will be biographical information on each parent, questions regarding the family’s motives and attitude regarding adoption, as well as their values, traditions and other important aspects of the family’s home life.

In terms of preparation, the adoptive family simply needs to review the questions that will likely be asked and practice answering them, if that takes some of the anxiety off of their shoulders.

However, at the end of the day, it is important that the interviewees be authentic and sincere in their answers. The court will be able to tell if the parents are being less than honest, and that will only cause issues with the home study in the end. Honesty is the best practice, and not much preparation can be done for that, if it is needed at all.

The Home Inspection

The part of the home study that tends to cause the most anxiety with adoptive families is the in-home visit or inspection. After all, they are letting a complete stranger in their home, to evaluate and report to the court the status of the family’s home and home life.

The key in preparing for the home study is to make sure that all safety hazards are corrected before the visit occurs. Do a thorough review of the home for faulty smoke alarms, broken window screens or faulty locks on windows and doors.

Depending on the age of the child being adopted, other safety measures may need to take place, especially if the child is young. Normally, these safety hazards are already addressed before placement occurs, but it does not hurt to do another review.

Are covers on all electrical outlets? Are toxic cleaners or other medications or chemicals kept out of reach? If the child is young and just now walking, make sure that gates are in place for the stairs and that the gates are secure.

The social worker will also want to see how stable and loving the home environment is. He or she may want to observe the child and family interacting in the home. This part requires no preparation, however, since the purpose is to observe the natural interaction between the family.

Once the home study is complete, it will need to be submitted to the court prior to being certified to adopt. The family will have a chance to review the report and will be notified in the very unlikely event any issues come up in the report.

If You Are Thinking Adoption, Contact Stuart & Blackwell Today

At Stuart & Blackwell, we understand just how stressful the adoption process can be. We’re here to help you find the path to adoption that’s right for you. Every adoption is as unique as the adoptive parents themselves, but the journey doesn’t have to be harrowing.

We specialize in Arizona adoption law, and we have the experience, knowledge, and compassion to help you welcome your child into your loving home. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

7 Questions to Ask Your Adoption Attorney

Posted by on May 15, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

7 Questions to Ask Your Adoption Attorney

The adoption process can be confusing and stressful. The first step is that initial meeting with the adoption attorney. It can help to be prepared before coming to that meeting. The following questions can help a prospective client adequately prepare for that initial consultation

1. Ask About the Adoption Attorney’s Qualifications

Keep in mind that this consultation is also the client’s opportunity to fully interview the attorney and not just get questions answered regarding the case. Ask about the professional experience the attorney has, not just in the legal arena in general but also in adoption law specifically.

What percentage of the attorney’s practice is dedicated to adoption? Ideally, an adoption attorney’s practice should be anywhere from 50 to 100 percent adoption practice.

2. What Types of Adoptions Do You Handle?

Ask the attorney about what types of adoption cases he or she typically handles. Are they mostly open adoptions, confidential ones, or a combination of both? If he or she prefers open adoptions, what levels of open adoptions does the attorney prefer?

Does the attorney work more with birth mothers, with the prospective adoptive family or both? Are the adoptions traditionally non-relative adoptions or are they more step-parent or relative adoptions? Get an idea on how many contested adoptions the attorney has handled and whether he or she tends to handle adoptions that are non-contested more.

3. What Services Does the Attorney Provide?

Not all adoption attorneys are the same. Some attorneys will help the potential adoptive family line up the adoptive situation and do the work to finalize the adoption. Some law offices will only handle the legal part of the process.

It is important that the client ask what services are provided, especially if he or she desires a certain level of service that may not be offered by the attorney’s office.

4. What is the attorney’s adoption philosophy?

Ask the attorney about his or her general philosophy regarding adoption. The field of adoption law is a highly personalized one. Many attorneys have a good reason or backstory as to why they chose to practice in adoption law.

Do they prefer working with adoptions that are open or confidential, and if they do have a preference, why do they have that feeling? Do they prefer to help one side over the other, and why?

The attorney may not want to answer the question specifically, but they certainly cannot hurt to ask. It can help to see if the attorney’s philosophy lines up with the client’s hopes and expectations. That may make the process that much easier.

5. How does the office function?

It can be helpful to ask about how the office works and what to expect. Many times, lawyers will rely heavily on support staff, paralegals and associates to do the case work and most of the contact.

Ask about how the attorney prefers to communicate with clients, whether it be through email communication or phone. If the attorney who is handling your case is not in the office, is there another knowledgeable attorney who is available?

6. How much will it cost?

Of course, in the back of most client’s minds is the issue regarding the cost of the adoption. Ask the attorney how much the average cost of the adoptions he or she has handles normally is. How does the attorney bill? Do they charge a flat fee for adoptions, or do they charge an hourly rate? If the attorney charges an hourly rate, do they require a retainer be paid in advance?

7. What problems could there be, if any?

It can help to know what roadblocks the client may face or run into down the road. Attorneys tend to be worst-case scenario types of people, so they are certainly experts in foreseeing potential problems.

It is not paranoid to ask these questions. While they may not happen in your specific case, the attorney should be upfront about what issues, if any, may come up in the adoption case. They can be issues from small delays to issues that could completely derail the adoption altogether. It never hurts to ask the question at the very least.

If You Are Thinking Adoption, Contact Stuart & Blackwell Today

At Stuart & Blackwell, we understand just how stressful the adoption process can be. We’re here to help you find the path to adoption that’s right for you. Every adoption is as unique as the adoptive parents themselves, but the journey doesn’t have to be harrowing.

We specialize in Arizona adoption law, and we have the experience, knowledge, and compassion to help you welcome your child into your loving home. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

Understanding Consent in Arizona Adoption

Posted by on May 1, 2018 in Adoption | 0 comments

Understanding Consent in Arizona Adoption

The issue of consent can be very important matter when it comes to finalizing an adoption in Arizona. While some states handle the question of consent differently, Arizona has specific rules regarding parental consents for the adoption of their biological children.

Is Consent Required?

It is the ideal adoption situation for the birth parent(s) to give consent for the adoption. It makes the process much easier and definitely cheaper for the potential adoptive parents, as none of them want to really go through a contested adoption matter.

However, adoptions can and do often occur with the involuntary termination of the biological parent’s rights. The biological parents can provide consent to adoption at any time prior to that final adoption hearing. This is encouraged as that leaves open the door for potential open adoption conditions and future communication with their birth child.

When Can Consent Be Obtained?

Many states require a waiting period before consent for adoption can be obtained. In the State of Arizona the consents can be signed as soon as 72 hours after the child’s birth, but not a minute prior to that 72 hour rule. This rule for consent is the same for any biological parent (mother or father).

Many potential adoptive parents fear that the biological mother will change her mind once the consent is signed and that the adoption can be revoked. That situation is extremely rare.

Once the Arizona consent is signed, it is irrevocable unless the birth mother can show that the consent was signed under duress, undue influence or fraud.

If she has signed her consent with her own attorney, it is nearly impossible to successfully claim that there was duress, undue influence or fraud. This is one of the many reasons that it is so important to ensure the birth mother has her own legal representation.

The Indian Child Welfare Act, however, does allow a parent who qualifies under the act, to withdraw consent prior to the entry of a final Termination of Parental Rights or adoption order. However, these circumstances are likewise limited in scope and occurrence. Anytime the Indian Child Welfare Act applies to a case, an attorney with special knowledge in this area should be retained.

Consent of the Birth Mother

Under Arizona adoption law, the birth mother is the main decision-maker regarding the adoption, even if the birth mother is under the age of 18 years old. If a birth mother is under the age of 18 years old, a consent from her own parents is not needed. The birth mother is typically the person who consents to the adoption, unless her rights have already been involuntarily terminated or the birth mother is deceased.

Consent of the Father

Ideally, the biological father will support the adoption decision, but this is not always the case. Many times, the birth fathers are not involved in the pregnancy at all, may not be supportive of the birth mother’s decision, or may not know of the pregnancy.

An adoption without the consent of the father is possible, but it does depend on the specific facts of the case.

Generally, the only time the consent is absolutely required is if the birth father was married to the birth mother in the 10 months before the birth of the child or if the mother names him as the father. Both of these circumstances would make the father the “legal father” of the child. In these situations, the father must consent to the adoption, even if he knows he is not technically the biological father.

Consent is not required from a potential father, who does not meet the above circumstances, who fails to file and serve the biological mother a paternity complaint within 30 days of receiving official notice of the adoption, as outlined in A.R.S. § 8-106(G) & (I). This 30-day requirement is strict in the deadline the potential father must meet to be able to file a paternity complaint.

Additional Consent Needed

In some situations, additional consents may be needed, in addition to the birth mother and birth father. If the court has previously appointed a guardian over the child, and that guardianship still exists, the consent of that guardian may be needed.

If the child is over the age of 12-years-old, the child’s consent will generally be needed, and this consent is normally given by the adolescent child in open court before the adoption judge. The situation is not as intimidating as it sounds. It is simply a time for the judge to ask the child what his or her thoughts are on the adoption and what that child wants.

Children of this age generally want to be involved in the process. Arizona law recognizes that their age means that their opinion does matter a great deal.

Lastly, if the adoption stems out of a child welfare situation, the consent of the agency/division in charge of the child’s welfare case may similarly be needed.

If You Are Thinking Adoption, Contact Stuart & Blackwell Today

At Stuart & Blackwell, we understand just how stressful the adoption process can be. We’re here to help you find the path to adoption that’s right for you. Every adoption is as unique as the adoptive parents themselves, but the journey doesn’t have to be harrowing.

We specialize in Arizona adoption law, and we have the experience, knowledge, and compassion to help you welcome your child into your loving home. Contact us at (480) 420 2900 today for your free consultation.

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