Finalizing an adoption in Florida can be one of the most exciting days of your life, because it will mark the growth of your family. If you’ve considered adoption and have started the process, you are probably looking forward to seeing your final Florida adoption decree.
But before you get that certified statement of final decree of adoption in Florida, there are some steps you must take to complete the process. The path to a successful adoption can be a long one, and it includes steps such as:
- Finding an adoption professional to guide you
- Researching adoption rules in Florida
- Waiting for the right adoption opportunity
- Undergoing a formal home study
These steps culminate in adoption finalization in Florida, as you’ll welcome your child into your loving home. But what does adoption finalization really mean, and what’s involved? Keep reading to find out more about getting a final decree of adoption in Florida.
What is Adoption Finalization?
Adoption finalization in Florida is the point in the adoption process in which you will officially gain custody of a child and the child will become a fully-fledged legal member of your family.
It means that you will have full legal custody of the adoptee. This finalization can only take place after several requirements have been met. The finalization process culminates with a court proceeding in which a judge reviews the details of the adoption and determines that all rules and regulations were observed.
What must happen before finalization?
Before the finalization proceeding can take place and the judge can issue a final decree of adoption in Florida, all requirements established by state law must be fulfilled. Those requirements include:
- Termination of Parental Rights: Termination of parental rights means that the parental rights of the birth parents must be dissolved in a legal and ethical way. In private domestic adoptions in Florida, the mother gives consent to adopt within 48 hours after the child’s birth or when the birth mother leaves the hospital, whichever comes first. In foster care adoptions, parental rights are often terminated by court order.
- Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children Clearance: Clearance through the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, or ICPC, must occur when adoptions take place across state lines. The ICPC ensures the laws of both states are observed and the child is placed in a safe adoptive home.
- Clearance of Indian Child Welfare Act Requirements: The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law that was designed to protect children from federally recognized Native American tribes. It requires additional court proceedings for children from Native American tribes and families who are being placed for adoption.
- Post-Placement Visits: Adoption laws in Florida mandate that there are post-placement visits for a period of at least 90 days after placement of a child in an adoptive home. The first visit usually occurs within a week of placement, with a minimum of three more visits over the 90 day period. The purpose to assess how well the child is adapting to your home and offer resources if the process isn’t going smoothly.
Before you can request a hearing to obtain a final decree of adoption in Florida, these four criteria must be met. Once these requirements have been satisfied, you’re ready to work with your adoption attorney request a finalization hearing.
Your Finalization Hearing
The finalization hearing marks the final step in your personal adoption journey. It’s usually a day of joy for a growing family, which is why many adoptive families invite friends and family to join them for the momentous occasion.
After months of pursuing adoption, the finalization hearing is the point at which you will become the parent of your child. When it’s over, you’ll receive your final decree of adoption in Florida. It shouldn’t be a stressful time, though for many parents, the day of the hearing can be the cause of some anxiety.
For the most part, the hearing will serve as a formality since your home study will be completed and all required clearances will have been previously obtained. Your attorney and adoption professional will have submitted the required filings and paperwork in advance, so there’s little left to be decided on the day of the finalization hearing.
The hearing provides an opportunity for a local circuit judge to offer one last examination of the adoption process to ensure everything complies with legal requirements before finalizing an adoption in Florida.
What to Expect at Your Finalization Hearing
While you may not feel comfortable facing a judge in a courtroom, there’s no reason for the finalization hearing to cause you any consternation. You’ll be guided by your attorney and your adoption professional in the midst of your friends and family.
The process is also quite simple despite the gravity of the moment. It usually only takes between 30 minutes to an hour to complete.
Here’s what you can expect at the average Florida adoption finalization hearing:
- You, your attorney, and your adoption professional will be sworn in before the court.
- Your attorney will introduce you and ask you a few questions about your background and motivations to pursue adoption.
- In foster care adoption, the adoptee will be asked for consent to adopt if over the age of 12.
- The judge may ask you a few questions about your adoption experience and the reasons you chose to adopt.
- The judge will issue a formal Florida decree of adoption.
Once the Florida decree of adoption is issued, you, your child, and your family can snap pictures and begin the celebration. Your child is now a legally recognized member of your family.
While the adoption is officially legally completed, there may be a few steps left to take to finish up the paperwork and documentation.
For example, you may wish to attain an amended birth certificate for your child, as well as a new Social Security card. You can get both documents amended once you have the final decree of adoption in Florida. Consult with your attorney to get the process started.
In the case of an international adoption, there may be additional steps involved. Your adoption may have been finalized in the home country of the child with a full transfer of custody. However, to complete the immigration process, you may need to undertake a re-adoption or finalization in the U.S. to get a U.S. birth certificate for your child and full recognition as a citizen of the U.S.
The Journey Ahead
Just because your adoption is final in a legal sense doesn’t mean the journey is over. In fact, in many ways, obtaining a final judgment of adoption in Florida is only the beginning of a lifelong endeavor. You’ll have questions and need support along the way. That’s where your adoption professional can be a true resource as you navigate life after adoption finalization.
The finalization process is cause for joy for an adoptive family, so be sure to take it all in. After many months of wading through the process, you’re ready to embrace your new role as a parent to a child you can now call your own.