Arizona Adoption Attorneys for a Smooth Process
Adoption in Arizona can be both a beautiful thing, and a daunting task. There are many reasons why a person or couple would like to adopt a child and, many reasons for a parent to give up parental rights to a child. In either case, the most important factor in that decision-making process is what is best for that child.
While most children tend to have great relationships with their parents, there are some cases in which a child’s relationship with a parent can be problematic. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible to sever a parent’s parental rights in Arizona so that another person may adopt a child.
In some cases, everyone agrees that it would be in the child’s best interests for a parent to allow someone else to adopt his or her child. This might happen with young parents who agree to give a child up for adoption. In other cases, the process of terminating parental rights and adopting a child can become fairly complicated.
A family law and adoption attorney at the Law Office of Daniel Hutto can explain the process and what you might expect, given your specific circumstances.
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What are the Requirements to Adopt a Child in Arizona?
Under A.R.S. § 8-103, any adult in Arizona can petition to adopt a child, including unmarried, married, and legally separated adults. An adult who does not reside in Arizona can adopt a child in the state under the following circumstances:
- The child is under the supervision of the juvenile court.
- The child lives in the petitioner’s home.
- The child was placed in the petitioner’s home by the department.
- The department recommends that the petitioner adopts the child.
- The case has been reviewed by the Foster Care Review Board.
Before a parent can adopt in Arizona, he or she must be certified by the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
DCS will issue a certificate to a parent once the department completes an investigation and certification process. Having a qualified adoption lawyer familiar with Arizona adoption laws and regulations can help this process go much smoother. The adoption process begins with a written application by the parent. The parent will then go through adoption training and an investigation by the agency under A.R.S. § 8-105.
Once the investigation is finished, the agency will file a report with the court that includes its assessment of the parent’s fitness. This report will include the following types of information about the prospective parent:
- Fingerprint clearance for every adult in the household
- Information about court actions for child abuse
- Assessment of the parent’s mental and physical health
- The parent’s moral fitness
- The parent’s financial ability to support the child
- The parent’s references and social history
Some requirements must be met before a child will be free to adopt under A.R.S. § 8-102. Ultimately, a termination of parental rights must be completed before the process can proceed.
The child must also be younger than age 21 and present in Arizona when the petition is filed unless the parent is a nonresident who qualifies to adopt as previously described.
Establishing Paternity is Required to Begin the Adoption Process
The court cannot grant an adoption if the parents do not consent unless their parental rights have been terminated. Under A.R.S. § 8-106(G), a child’s potential father must be notified about a proposed adoption. The father may then file a motion to establish paternity to challenge the adoption.
The notice that must be given to a potential father should include all of the following information:
- The proposed adoption of the child
- The father’s right to consent to the adoption or to contest it
- The father’s responsibility to try to establish his paternity of the child and to serve the mother within 30 days of receiving the notice
- The father’s responsibility to proceed with the paternity case through to judgment
- The father’s right to file for custody
- The father’s responsibility to provide support if paternity is established
If the potential father does not file a paternity action or ensure that the child’s mother is served before the judgment in the paternity case, any further interest in the child will be terminated.
A potential father’s rights may be terminated in cases of:
- Chronic alcohol or drug abuse
- Imprisonment with a lengthy sentence
- A felony conviction that demonstrates his unfitness as a parent
The father’s rights may also be terminated if his rights were severed during the past two years for one of the above-mentioned reasons, and he continues to be unable to serve as a parent for the same reasons.
The most common method for termination of parental rights occurs when both parents have consented to the child’s adoption and have surrendered their rights as parents.
If three months have elapsed while the parent’s identity and location could not be established, his or her rights may be terminated.
Terminating Parental Rights in Arizona
A parent’s rights may be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. Cases involving voluntary termination might include unwed teens, people who suffer from serious medical conditions, people who have chronic addictions to alcohol or drugs, and others. In cases where the parents voluntarily agree to the termination of their rights, the process will likely be smoother.
In a voluntary termination, the child might be adopted by a relative. In others, strangers may adopt the child to provide him or her with a better home and potential future. Parents who surrender their rights will no longer have the obligation to provide financial support.
Involuntary termination of rights is much more contentious in most cases. Arizona will generally not terminate a parent’s rights unless it has evidence that doing so is necessary to protect the child’s safety and well-being. Before these types of proceedings can be initiated, the child must be found to be in danger emotionally, physically, or mentally.
Some of these types of situations include the following:
- Chronic child abuse or neglect of the child or other children in the same household
- Child abandonment
- Parent’s chronic illness
- Parent’s chronic substance abuse
- Parent’s incarceration due to a long sentence
- Parent’s conviction for a felony demonstrating unfitness
- Parent’s failure to establish paternity
- History of sexual abuse
- Parent’s psychiatric illness or mental deficiency
- The parent’s identity is unknown after searching for three months
- The parent’s rights have been terminated in the past two years to another child, and the reason for that termination continues to exist.
Involuntary terminations of parental rights are only completed as a last resort.
Beginning the Process of Terminating Parental Rights
Before an involuntary termination petition will be granted, all other options to try to maintain the relationship between the parent and child must first have been exhausted.
An unmarried mother who doesn’t want the child’s father involved in the child’s upbringing will not be able to terminate his rights unless his death has been confirmed, his paternity has been disproved, or she can prove to the court that he is unfit for one of the aforementioned reasons.
The following parties can petition the court to terminate a parent’s rights:
- The child’s other parent
- Foster parents
- Grandparents or relatives
- Doctors or other health care professionals
- Arizona Child Protective Services
Normally, a dependency hearing will be held when neglect or abuse is suspected. Arizona Department of Child Safety will remove the child from the parent and place him or her in child protective custody. Investigators will then determine whether the child can safely return home. A plan may be created in the best interests of the child based on the evidence that is discovered.
If the abuse or neglect reports are confirmed, the plan might include a recommendation to terminate the parent’s rights.
Note: If the child is Native American, your Arizona adoption lawyer will need to talk to the Attorney General’s Office before you can pursue a case to terminate the rights of the other parent. Those types of cases are covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act in addition to Arizona’s state laws.
Stepparent Adoptions in Arizona
After the birth parent’s rights have been terminated, a stepparent can adopt his or her stepchild. To be eligible for stepparent adoption, the stepparent must have been legally married to the child’s legal parent for a minimum of one year. The stepchild must also have lived with the stepparent for a minimum of six months.
These types of adoptions are generally not as complicated as adopting a child through a private placement or an agency. Stepparents will not have to go through a certification process or placement study, and there will not be an accounting review. However, the parental rights of the non-spouse biological parent must first be terminated. If the parent is deceased, this will not be necessary.
Grandparent Adoption – Petition to Adopt Grandchildren
Similar to stepparent adoption, grandparents who petition to adopt grandchildren do not have to go through the lengths of a certification process. However, they do need temporary custody orders while the adoption is pending. The grandparents may undergo a social study based on their particular circumstances.
The grandparents’ criminal and Arizona Department of Child Services (DCS) records will be reviewed before an adoption will be approved
Under A.R.S. § 25-409, grandparents who do not file petitions to seek custody of their grandchildren will have their visitation rights terminated as soon as the grandchildren are placed for adoption or are adopted. However, their visitation rights will not be severed if the grandchildren are adopted by a stepparent.
If the grandchildren are subsequently removed from their adoptive homes, the grandparents’ visitation rights may be reinstated.
Note: If the children qualify under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the grandparents will have placement preferences.
Benefits of Hiring an Arizona Adoption Attorney
If you are wanting to adopt a child, you will likely have questions about how the process works. Our adoption lawyers can assist in preparing you for all of the processes and requirements to complete an adoption and should have a plan that will continue through the finalization of the adoption.
Each adoption attorney on our legal team can offer substantial help throughout the process of adoption. Some of the benefits of hiring an adoption attorney from the Law Office of Daniel Hutto include the following:
- Explanation of the entire process of adoption and issues that might arise
- Representation in court if issues arise
- Guidance about collecting and filing the required documents
- Help with the adoption of an out-of-state child
- Explaining in detail what is considered the best interest of a child
Adoption can be a confusing and complicated process. Having an experienced Arizona adoption attorney on your side can help demystify the process and handle any problems that may arise.
Rated Best Phoenix Adoption Law Firm – Ensuring a Smooth Process to Adopt a Child
If you are considering wanting to adopt a child, need more information on the Arizona adoption process, or how to start the process of terminating parental rights, our law firm can guide you through the process and facilitate the adoption.
To start with your free child adoption consultation with an adoption attorney, give us a call us any time at 602.536.7878 and our experienced and caring staff will take all the needed information to get your child adoption case underway.
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Daniel was really great! I did not work work him directly but the work he’s done for my best friend and her daughter, we are so grateful for! He was really dedicated, always available when she needed him, professional and well prepared. He helped my best friend get primary custody of her daughter which is never an easy matter and he did advised well and knew his stuff. Thank you Daniel!⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Savanah Linares (Review from Google)
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