The answer to most modern-day legal questions is usually: “It depends.” State adoption laws determine who is eligible to adopt a child.
In New York, the main laws regarding adoptions can be found in Dom. Rel. §109-117. Generally speaking, the following requirements must be fulfilled before the adoption of any baby can occur:
- The adoptive parent must be an adult over the age of 18
- They can be single or married, and sexual orientation is irrelevant
- The only time a minor person can adopt a child is if they are married to someone over the age of 18 and their spouse has a child
- Sometimes, but very rarely, a minor can adopt another minor without being married; for example, when a sibling near the age of majority adopts their own younger sibling
So, as long as you are over the age of 18, you can at least start to be qualified to adopt your sister’s baby in New York — it would be treated just as the adoption of any other baby. In other words, there is no legal impediment otherwise to you adopting your sister’s child simply because it is the baby of your sister.
If you do decide to adopt a relative’s baby, it is prudent to get the advice of an attorney, as the adoption process is lengthy and paperwork-heavy. In New York, parents can consent to the adoption by signing a formal document called a “surrender.” It must be done either in court, before a judge, or outside of court. The downside is that if the surrender is executed outside of court, the parent has the chance to change their mind within 45 days and the child may be returned. If it’s done in court, the surrender is final and cannot be changed.
If your sister (and/or her partner) is willing to terminate their parental rights, then in New York, there are several steps you need to take before the adoption can be complete. If the child in question is part of the New York Family Services agency, more steps are required. First, you will have to submit to a background check, provide a medical history and a check to make sure you do not have any investigations by Child Services. You will need to go through a home study to ensure that your residence (and the other members of the family living with you) is safe for a child. After the child is placed with you, you will need to work closely with the child’s caseworker and the agency to ensure the child is adapting well before the adoption is finalized.
If you and your sister have a private agreement concerning the adoption of the child, you still need to undergo the necessary background checks and home study, after which you will need to be certified by the court. However, the process would be more streamlined and efficient if your sister agrees to terminate her rights and voluntarily place the baby.
The relative adoption process varies based on each state’s laws. An attorney can help you begin this process, and ensure that all the documents are filled out properly.
Overall, an attorney will be essential to making sure the process is initiated and finalized. They will know what is required, which documents to file and where, and can even tell you what to expect during the home study. Overall, there is no obvious impediment to adopting your sister’s baby, provided you are a good candidate to adopt a child in general.
In the event that you find yourself facing any of these questions, please do not hesitate to contact Zurica Law at 917-538-3670. We will be happy to assist you in answering your questions and representing your interests.
Anthony Zurica is an Attorney specializing in Adoption Law and a guest writer for Considering Adoption. Based in New York City, Anthony stands by his clients as an ally and friend during the entire process of adoption, from application to successfully becoming a parent. Although adoption can be an emotional and oftentimes lengthy process, Anthony is committed to being there every step of the way, 24/7.
Dedicating his life to inspiring optimism and encouraging patience, Anthony works closely with individuals and families. Furthermore, Anthony is a proponent and advocate for LGBT families.
Anthony also volunteers as a CASA (court-appointed special advocate for children), and is on the junior board of the New York Foundling, a charity that that empowers thousands of children and families to live independent, stable and fulfilling lives throughout NY. Find out more and feel free to get in touch through his website, www.nycadoptionlawyer.com, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.