Florida adoption laws are important because they govern the process of placing a child for adoption and adopting within the state. Have you thought about expanding your family through adoption? Or have you considered placing a child with a prospective adoptive family?
If so, you’ve probably discovered that understanding Florida state adoption laws can be a challenge. Some facets, such as who can adopt, are easy to comprehend. Other requirements, such as the adoption home study, may be more complicated.
Upon conducting research about Florida statutes regarding adoption, you may have more questions than answers, including:
- Who is eligible to adopt?
- How does a birth parent place a child?
- What legal expenses are involved in adoption?
- What are the laws on open adoption in Florida?
- What laws protect the rights of birth parents?
- And many more
To further complicate things, there are multiple types of adoption. For example, private adoption laws in Florida are quite different from international adoption legal requirements. Therefore, it’s wise to gain an understanding of Florida adoption laws and statutes before deciding which adoption path is right for you.
This guide is meant to help you learn more about the Florida state adoption laws as you investigate the adoption process. While this should not be taken as legal advice or guidance, we hope that it is a helpful primer for anyone considering adoption in Florida.
Continue reading to learn more about general child adoption laws in Florida and how it may apply to your adoption journey.
Laws and Qualifications for Adoption in Florida
In some ways, Florida state laws on adoption are clear and straight-forward. The qualifications that make a person eligible to adopt are not prohibitive.
Though there are significant differences in the laws covering the three primary forms of adoption, general Florida statutes regarding adoption are similar. For example, every adoption must be preceded by an adoption home study from a licensed agency or provider.
Below, you’ll find information about some specific areas of Florida adoption laws.
Who can adopt in Florida?
In short, almost anyone who has not been convicted of a felony related to violent crime, drug crimes, or child abuse and neglect may be eligible to adopt a child. Although there may be more specific requirements from particular adoption agencies or other authorities, Florida adoption laws don’t specify many parts of adoption eligibility.
Florida child adoption laws only dictate that prospective adoptive parents live and work in the state, be of good character, and have the financial and emotional ability to nurture a child.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about adoption eligibility in Florida and their accompanying answers:
- Do I have to be married to adopt? No, anyone can adopt regardless of marital status. You can adopt a child in Florida whether you are married or single, so long as you are financially and emotionally able to care for a child. However, it’s worth noting that while not required by Florida child adoption laws, some private agencies may require marriage as a precursor to adoption. Some also require that a couple is married for a specific amount of time before adopting.
- Can I adopt if I’m in a same-sex relationship? Yes, same-sex couples can pursue legal adoption in Florida so long as they meet the established criteria for adopting a child. The law that previously prohibited same-sex couples from adopting in Florida was struck down as unconstitutional in 2010.
- How old must I be to adopt? There is no minimum age for prospective adoptive parents in Florida, though many agencies require potential parents to be at least 18, the age of legal majority in Florida. Other agencies may require prospective adoptive parents to be 21 or older before adopting.
- Can I be too old to adopt? Just as there is no minimum age requirement for adoption, there is also no maximum age limit for prospective adoptive parents. Some private agencies may be wary to place a young child in the care of a person of advanced age, but the practice isn’t prohibited by law.
- Can I adopt a child if I have a felony conviction? In some cases, prospective adoptive parents who have been convicted of crimes related to violence, drugs, or child abuse and neglect may not be allowed to undertake legal adoption in Florida. Wide discretion is given to the court to take into account the specific circumstances concerning each case and decide whether adoption eligibility is warranted.
What expenses can be paid by prospective adoptive parents?
Birth parent financial assistance makes up a significant portion of the hopeful parents’ adoption budget in private domestic adoption.
There are several classes of expenses that can be paid by prospective adoptive parents to cover eligible expenses for the expectant birth mother before and after the birth of the adoptee. Payments aren’t made directly to birth parents, but instead go straight towards expenses.
Some states exercise tight regulation of these allowable costs, but Florida adoption laws are less stringent regarding maximum expenses.
Here are a few expenses that can be paid by prospective adoptive parents according to Florida private adoption laws:
- Birth parent pregnancy expenses: Expenses accrued through the pregnancy and up to six weeks after birth can be paid by prospective adoptive parents. This can include any reasonable living expenses and medical expenses.
- Administrative expenses: Expenses such as investigative fees and process service fees.
- Legal fees: Litigation expenses, court costs and legal filing fees.
- Document fees: Costs for birth certificates or medical records.
- Professional fees: Fees for counseling, legal fees and agency fees for facilitating communication between parties.
- Agency and placement fees: Any fees charged by an adoption agency or state authority are to be paid by the adoptive parents. However, if those fees exceed the thresholds established by Florida adoption laws, court approval is required. Fox example, if birth parent living and medical expenses exceed $5,000, court approval is required.
Private adoption laws in Florida also stipulate that for any allowable expenses that are to be paid, there must be a description of the expenses filed with the court in an expense affidavit. The affidavit must include an itemized detail of anything of value that is exchanged during the adoption proceedings, including professional fees.
That expense affidavit must include several key details to be considered complete. The list of details necessary includes:
- The service provided
- The date and time of the provided service
- The time required to provide the service
- The individual or agency that provided the service
- The hourly fee charged for providing the service
What expenses cannot be paid by prospective adoptive parents?
Just as child adoption laws in Florida dictate the expenses that prospective adoptive parents are allowed to pay, the law also determines which expenses cannot be paid by adoptive parents.
Those prohibited fees include:
- Fees that represent payment of an individual for locating a minor for adoption.
- Payments that aren’t documented in an itemized affidavit filed with the court by the adoptive parents.
- Any expense included in an affidavit that is incomplete, meaning it lacks a description of the expense, the service was performed, the time that the service was performed, the amount of time it took to perform the service, and the hourly cost of the service.
Florida Adoption Laws about International Adoption
International adoption is different from other types of adoption because the process must pass legal muster in the home country of the adoptee, federal laws in the U.S. and Florida state laws.
The process is more complicated because of the extra levels of approval required to complete the adoption and immigration process for your adopted child. In most international adoptions, the transfer of custody to the adoptive parents happens in the child’s home country.
After custody is transferred, you must apply for a visa for the child through a U.S. embassy or consulate in the child’s home country to reenter the U.S. with the adoptee. That means that you must meet the federal requirements for immigration before bringing the child to Florida.
However, once home, most international adoptions are finalized, or a re-adoption is performed to provide full citizenship and rights to your child. A revised Certificate of Foreign Birth is issued at the request of the adoptive parents.
Florida Adoption Laws and Advertising
There is a Florida state policy on adoption advertising that prohibits individuals from advertising that a child is available for adoption or that a child is sought for adoption. However, adoption agencies and attorneys that are licensed by the state can place such ads to locate adoption opportunities.
Florida Adoption Laws for Placing a Child
Just as there are clear requirements for adopting a child, birth parents must also observe Florida laws for placing a baby for adoption. If you are considering placement of a child in Florida, make sure you understand Florida adoption laws regarding the rights and requirements of birth parents. Even more important: Make sure you find the best adoption agency who will ensure that your adoption placement is completed legally.
What is consent to adoption?
Consent is involved in most kinds of adoptions, whether it’s the consent of the birth parents that is provided prior to the termination of parental rights or consent given by children over 12 who are being adopted through the foster system.
In most adoption contexts under Florida adoption law, consent to adopt simply means the birth parents have agreed to relinquish a child for adoption. Consent to adopt is followed by termination of parental rights in private domestic adoptions so that the adoptive parents can become the full, legal parents.
Another context in which consent may be mentioned during an adoption is consent of a child over the age of 12 who is being placed through foster care adoption. The court or judge will ask the child to consent to the adoption.
Who must consent to adoption in Florida?
In most contexts, that includes the birth mother and birth father. However, there are some specific circumstances that require consent from the birth father. Those consent requirements apply if:
- The child was conceived or born while he was married to the mother
- The child is his by adoption
- The child has been established by court proceedings to be his child
- He has filed an affidavit of paternity
- He is not married to the mother but has acknowledged in writing and signed in the presence of a competent witness that he is the father. This acknowledgement must be filed with the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health within the required timeframes.
In some cases, the parental rights of the birth parents have already been terminated and the child is in the custody of a state agency or adoption entity. Florida adoption statutes dictate that, when this happens, the agency will provide the consent to adopt. Under those circumstances, additional consent may be required from the adoptee if the child is over 12 years of age.
Florida adoption laws also stipulate a few circumstances in which consent is not required by the following individuals:
- Parents who have deserted the child or who have abandoned the child
- Parents whose parental rights have been terminated by court order
- Parents who have been adjudicated incompetent and not medically likely to regain competency
- A legal guardian or lawful custodian other than a parent who has failed to respond in writing to a request for consent for a period of 60 days or who is withholding consent unreasonably
When and how do birth parents provide consent?
In the case of a private domestic adoption, the birth mother has 48 hours after birth or until she leaves the hospital to provide consent to adopt, which begins the process of terminating parental rights.
Birth fathers can provide consent to adopt at any point after the child is born. In some cases, an affidavit of nonpaternity takes the place of a father’s consent form. To learn more about birth father rights, and the type of consent that your adoption will need, you should speak with an adoption professional.
By Florida adoption statute, the consent of birth parents offered within the 48-hour window after the birth of the child becomes irrevocable immediately after it is given. That can only be revoked by a court order in cases in which undue pressure or duress to consent can be proven.
If consent to adopt a child over the age of 6 months is provided, there is a 3-day window for revocation after consent is provided. If the parent who is requesting revocation of consent claims to be the birth father, the court will order a paternity test to establish paternity and subsequent parental rights.
Post-Placement Child Adoption Laws in Florida
Florida adoption law also requires that post-placement visits be conducted once a child is placed in the home. The purpose of post-placement visits are to assess how well the adoptee is adjusting to the adoptive home.
Post-placement visits usually take place over the course of a 90-day period following placement. The first usually occurs within a week of the initial placement, with 3 to 5 additional visits during the 90-day window.
When placements don’t go as smoothly as expected, there may be more post-placement visits. The adoption professional conducting the visit will help identify potential resources that can help the child and adoptive parents adjust to the new arrangement.
Florida adoption laws are designed to protect the rights of everyone involved in the adoption process: birth parents, adoptive parents and the adoptee. They are complex by design because many subject matter areas must be addressed to reach that goal.
However, you don’t have to navigate the laws and regulations surrounding adoption on your own. There are many agencies and attorneys in Florida that can help you fulfill the letter of Florida adoption law, whether you’re placing a child or seeking to grow your family.