How Does Private Adoption Work?

How Does Private Adoption Work?
October 11, 2022

Life circumstances could mean that a child in your family is left without a responsible custodian. Cases like this have become relatively common, and caring family members or step parents might want to step in and provide the loving and nurturing home that every child deserves. Private adoption makes this possible. At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, we understand your plight. As a trusted Cleveland adoption attorney and family lawyer, we have vast experience in this arena and are ready to help you understand how private adoption can be a viable solution.

What Is Private Adoption?

In general, this is a broad term used to mean an adoption that isn't a direct result of foster care and isn't international in nature. Private adoption can also refer directly to situations where there is a direct agreement made between the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s), prior to a baby’s birth. This contract can be made either through or independently of an adoption agency.

All that said, at the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, we don’t generally work with birth parents looking for a non-familial infant adoption. Our focus is on step-parent or intrafamily adoptions and guardianships. Providing secure homes for children who already have a family, but who may have lost a parent or guardian due to an unfortunate life event is a very real need. Situations where an adoption might be necessary include a natural parent’s illness, death, addiction, incapacitation, or incarceration. 

Types of Private Adoption

Step-parent adoptions are common, and these occur for various reasons. Perhaps a spouse dies or is incapacitated and either the remaining birth parent is not in their child’s life, or is not capable of taking on the responsibility of care. A step-parent can step in and do what they've always done–care for this child as their own–but as an adoptive parent they then have more legal rights and responsibilities. 

The adopted child also gains from a step-parent adoption, as they can remain in a home with an adult they love and trust without much upheaval in their routines or surroundings. Being an adopted child also means that they will retain certain legal rights, such as being able to inherit and change their last name, if applicable. If a step parent chooses to adopt a child without any extenuating circumstances at play, but instead to unify their family, then they also may hold a legal responsibility to support the child in the event of a divorce. 

Kinship adoptions or intrafamily adoptions are also common, and refer to an arrangement in which a relative adopts a child who’s natural parents aren’t able to care for them. Oftentimes the child already has a bond with this family member, or may already be under their care. Once adopted, the relative will also assume full legal responsibility for the child. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles are typically involved in this sort of adoption, but other relatives could be candidates as well. Just like step-parent adoption, this is a permanent arrangement that gives the adopted child full rights as if they were the adoptive parent’s biological child.

Adult adoption may be an option in other scenarios. For instance, if a child’s biological parent’s rights were not terminated, a stepparent would not have been able to adopt them while they were a minor. Now that the child is legally an adult, the stepparent could adopt them to ensure their access to an inheritance, social security benefits, and health care. Same-sex couples who were unable to adopt their spouse’s child(ren) in the past may also opt for adult adoption.

The Private Adoption Process

In Ohio, any adult over the age of 21 can legally adopt a child from their state. Parents can be single or married, and can either rent or own a home. In general, everyone should be in agreement that adoption is the best course of action.  Each adoption agency will also have its own set of eligibility requirements for adopting parents, but if you work with a family lawyer, you’ll find that the focus is more on the child and their wellbeing.

Private, familial adoptions in Ohio will take place in the probate division of the court of common pleas. The specific county will depend on where each party lives, be it the child, natural parent, or adoptive parent. Filing a Petition for Adoption begins the process. This legal document includes some basic information about both the prospective adoptive parent’s and the child’s identity and circumstances. Depending on the county in Ohio, a Supplemental Petition may also be necessary, along with various filing fees and procedures. Working with an experienced family lawyer ensures that you meet all necessary requirements and correctly file your petition.

Since the natural parent will be giving up their parental rights with adoption, they also need to be served with a copy of the petition as well as being informed about any related court hearings. Natural parents need to give their consent for the adoption unless they have forfeited their rights by neglecting to communicate with or support their child. Depending on their age and ability, the individual being adopted may also need to give their consent. A family lawyer can make sure that all relevant legal requirements are met.

Once a petition is submitted, the court will order a home study. The goal of the home study is simply to verify that the adoptive parent’s home will be a safe place for the child to live and grow. Factors that will determine this could include background checks, medical information, criminal clearances, employment references, and financial records. An Ohio-licensed social worker will carry out the home study over the course of at least three in-person visits, and the study will be finalized at least 6 months before the adoption is official.

After all relevant information has been collected, the judge will make their ruling. If they issue a decree of adoption, it could be immediately final or finalized after a six-month period. Upon finalization, the adopted child’s legal relationship ends with their natural parent and begins with you. A newly-issued birth certificate will list you as the child’s parent. 

Work With a Cleveland Adoption Lawyer

Family adoption is a way to reinforce strong bonds between individuals, regardless of how they are related. It can be a powerful and emotional symbol of their commitment, and a safeguard for a child who would otherwise be exposed to unstable or unsafe environments. Remember though, that while various individuals can help to arrange adoption, only an adoption attorney or agency can help you to formalize it.

Working with a family lawyer is the best way to approach familial adoption. An attorney with experience in private adoption is aware of local laws and requirements and is your best guide through the adoption process. At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC our goal is to ensure that children are cared for by loving adults, and sometimes that’s best achieved through private adoptions. Contact us today to learn more or to get started on your own adoption journey!