Adoption is the legal procedure by which a child becomes part of a family other than his or her birth parents. Through court action, the parental rights of the birth parents are first terminated. Then the adoption occurs. The adopted child has the same rights as if he or she was born biologically to the adoptive parents, including the rights of inheritance, at the time of the adoption finalization.
There are different types of adoptions including non- relative, step parent, relative, and adult adoptions. The different types of adoptions are governed by different provisions of the statute.
Pursuant to Fla. Stat. 63.039, an adoption entity placing a minor for adoption has an affirmative duty to follow the duties of Chapter 63 and specifically those that "protect and promote the well being of adoptees, and their parents and prospective adoptive parents by promoting certainty, finality and permanency."These duties include:• providing written initial disclosure to the prospective adoptive parent and birth parents;• obtaining consent in the time and manner required;• including in the petition to terminate parental rights pending adoption and all information required;• obtaining and filing the affidavit of inquiry, if required;• conducting a diligent search and filing an affidavit if the location of the person whose consent is required is unknown;• serving the petition and notice of hearing to terminate parental rights; obtaining the written waiver of venue, if required;• provided an adoption disclosure statement to all persons required.
1. All Florida adoptions are considered “At Risk” because the minor is being placed in the prospective adoptive home before the parental rights of the minor’s parents are terminated.
The adoption process itself can be considered “risky” because the payment of living or medical expenses by the prospective adoptive parent does not obligate a birth parent to place their child for adoption. Furthermore, there is an emotional process involved in an adoption. There can be fear and anxiety for the birth parent and prospective adoptive parents. This is why it is absolutely essential that all parties have an open and honest relationship where there is a high level of mutual respect.
Florida law requires that the birth mother must consent.The birth father must consent if:• the child was conceived or born while he was married to the mother;• the child is his by adoption;• the child has been adjudicated by a court to be his child before a petition for termination of parental rights is filed;• he has filed an affidavit of paternity or recorded not he child’s birth certificate;• he is an unmarried biological father who has acknowledged in writing, in the presence of a competent witness, that he is the father, has filed this acknowledgment with the Office of Vital Statists within the set time, and demonstrates a full commitment to parental responsibilities. F.S. 63.062, 63.053.An Adoption entity shall serve a Notice of Intended Adoption Plan upon any known and locatable unmarried biological fathers who are identified by the birth mother by the time the consent is executed.
By law, a birth mother cannot sign away her rights to her child until 48 hours after the child’s birth OR on the date of discharge from the hospital, whichever time is earlier. If the child is over six months old, the mom can sign at any time. F.S. 63.082(4)(b). Consent must be given by affidavit acknowledged before a notary public and in the presence of two witnesses. F.S. 63.082(4)(d).
A birth father can sign his consent any time after the child is born. If the father is a legal or biological father, he can sign an Affidavit of Non-Paternity any time before or after the child’s birth relinquishing rights. FS 63.082(4)(1). Consent must be given by affidavit acknowledged before a notary public and in the presence of two witnesses. F.S. 63.082(4)(d)
A consent for adoption signed before the child attains the age of 6 months is binding and irrevocable from the moment it is signed unless it can be proven in court that the consent was obtained by fraud or duress. A consent for adoption signed after the child attains the age of 6 months is valid from the moment it is signed, but it may be revoked up to 3 business after it was signed. Unless the child is above the age of 6 months, there is no grace period for which a birth parent can change their mind about the adoption placement.
All legal relations between the birth parent and their relatives are terminated during the initial proceeding for termination of parental rights.
The birth mother must complete a report called the Family, Social, and Medical History of the Child to be Adopted. It contains biological and sociological information on the birth parents. This form is attached to the petition for termination of parental rights pending adoption. F.S. 63.082(3)(a). We will request all medical records for the mother and child unless waived by the prospective adoptive parent.
The birth parent will have the information provided in your family profile. All papers and records pertaining to the adoption are confidential and are subject to inspection only by court order.
Florida law allows the prospective adoptive parent to pay necessary and reasonable medical expenses for the birth of the child and the mother. Also reasonable living expenses of the birth mother which the birth mother is unable to pay due to unemployment, underemployment or disability. These expenses are available to the birth mother for up to 6 weeks post partum. Prior approval of the court for these expenses is not required unless it exceeds $5,000. F.S. 63.102(3). Payment of said expenses does not obligate a birth mother to place her child for adoption.
The birth parents may like counseling to assist them once they have made this big decision. We will arrange counseling with a mental health professional or at a pregnancy resource center. The fees can be paid for by the prospective adoptive parents.
You can structure the adoption as you wish. There are three categories:1. A “closed adoption” means that there is no contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents.2. An “open adoption” means the birth parents and adoptive parents are in direct contact with each other and there is no third party facilitating communications.3. A “semi-open” adoption means that there is a certain level of openness facilitated by a third party and there is a level of privacy maintained for all parties.
Final home investigation must be conducted before the adoption becomes final. The report must contain an evaluation of the placement with a recommendation for adoption and any other information the court requires regarding the minor. There must be two scheduled visits with the minor and adoptive parents, one of which must be in the home.
A hearing on a Petition to Adopt may not be held sooner than 30 days after the date the Judgment terminating parental rights was entered or sooner than 90 days after the date the minor was placed in the physical custody of the adoptive parents.
Yes. There are additional regulations governed by the Interstate Compact of the Placement of Children that must be satisfied when adopting from another state. F.S. 409.401 et seq.
Please refer to IRC sec. 23 for the allowable tax credit amount. Said amount fluctuates on a yearly basis. Expenses can include attorney fees, court costs., home study fees, and birth mother expenses. For the year 2021, the maximum tax credit was $14,300.00 per child.
It is highly recommended that the prospective adoptive parents start the home study process. Recommendations can be made for said service. Once you have retained our law firm, we will immediately supply you with the information to begin the preparation of your profile and marketing campaign. We will work side by side with the professionals to ensure that your profile is marketed in an efficient and appropriate manner.
It completely depends on certain factors that may or may not be under your control. The more stringent requirements that adoptive parents have in being matched with a birth mother, the longer the process could be. No one can provide you with any definitive answer on how long it will take. It is important to work closely with your attorney to monitor your profile exposure.
Yes. As a matter of fact, there is no home study requirement for relative or step-parent adoptions. Relative adoptions extend as far as the third line of consanguinity.
You will create a profile, which will show your family. Your profile will include information that can help a birth parent learn about you. The profile is not your life story and therefore will not disclose confidential or personal information. The profile will consist of pictures, general information about your family, and maybe poems or art that represents you. We will help you with your profile or recommend a profile specialist. You do not have to do this alone!
The birth mother will complete a social and medical history that will be provided to you. You will also receive medical records relating to the pregnancy. It is usual and customary to request HIV and drug testing as soon as prenatal care begins. Sometimes, adoptive parents are offered the opportunity to attend medical appointments and/or sonograms. When the birth father is accessible, an attempt will also be made to receive a social and medical history of him. Criminal records are also offered to adoptive parents.
Absolutely. Many adoptive families choose Florida as their forum to adopt. All out-of-state adoptions require approval from the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children. We will conduct all legal requirements to satisfy ICPC.
Pursuant to Florida law, birth mothers are entitled to reasonable living expenses if the birth mother is unable to pay due to unemployment, underemployment, or are not employable. Such expenses may include rent, utilities, basic telephone service, food, toiletries, necessary clothing, transportation, and expenses found by the Court to be necessary for the health and well being of the birth mother and unborn child.
The payment of living or medical expenses by the prospective adoptive parents prior to the birth of the child does not, in any way, obligate the birth parent to sign the consent for adoption. Birth mothers may be required to sign a financial agreement requiring that they reimburse the adoptive family should they choose to change their adoption plans. While few birth mothers have the resources for this, you may pursue a judgment against them, which is valid for 20 years. You may also consult with your tax advisor, as those expenses can be considered a deduction.
Yes. In Florida, if able and aware of the pregnancy, a birth father that desires to establish and/or protect his rights are expected to pay a fair and reasonable amount of the expenses incurred in connection with the mother’s pregnancy and the child’s birth, in accordance with his financial ability, when not prevented from doing so by the birth mother. There are other statutory requirements that a birth father must comply with in order to assert parental rights.
We will initially attempt to locate and contact birth fathers if we have information sufficient to make them locatable. A birth father may choose to voluntarily cooperate with the adoption plan made by the birth mother and sign a consent or affidavit of non-paternity.
For unmarried biological fathers who are locatable and choose to not cooperate, Florida law requires that the adoption entity or agency serve them with a notice of the birth mother’s intended adoption plan. The notice gives the potential biological father 30 days in which he must show his intent to contest the adoption by taking certain actions. If the unmarried biological father fails to timely complete ALL required actions, we seek a court ruling that he no longer has rights to the child. If the unmarried biological father timely completes the required actions, he preserves his right to notice and his consent to the adoption is required. If a birth mother is married, her husband is known as the legal father and his consent to the adoption is required.
I remember feeling helpless. I didn’t know how to get Medicaid; I didn’t know how to find the right family; I didn’t even know how the adoption process worked….I was intimidated by the situation and couldn’t accept the fact that this pregnancy was a blessing and not just a “situation”. So THANK YOU for not giving up on me and for having so much patience with me. Thank you for showing me the beauty of choosing adoption.
Elizabeth is a compassionate and thoughtful human being. My husband and I were excited, yet had some anxieties about adoption. We didn’t know what to expect. We met Elizabeth who walked us through and always made sure we knew we were an important part of the whole adoption process. She answered every question and stood with us until our adoption was final. In the world of confusion and anxiety, she brought calm. Thank you Elizabeth. Now our family is complete!
Stephanie is doing this for the right reason. It's like this is her ministry.
We highly recommend and love Elizabeth Berkowitz, our adoption attorney! She has been our adoption attorney for both our 2 boys and we had incredible experiences with her. She is highly professional, extremely genuine in her care, and works hard on both the behalf of the birth family as well as the adoptive parents. She treats us with high respect and becomes a part of oura adoption family by the end of the process. It is hard to find adoption attorneys/agencies with as high of caliber as her! You are not just a number, but a family to be taken care of through the process. She has made our adoption process that much easier for us in the midst of all the ups and downs of adoption.
Thank you for helping me and journey with all the legal necessities. Thank you for not only being my amazing lawyer, but also a friend. And most of all, thank you for helping us find the perfect family for our baby! I thank God for guiding us to you and for working everything out perfectly. We could NOT have done it without you! Thank you!
How can I ever thank you for my child? You have given us a gift that feels miraculous. You truly do God’s work in the faxes, focus, phone calls and fedexes you deal with. I hope there is a special place in heaven for people like you. You make the world -and my world in particular- a wonderful, hopeful place.
You’ve given us a gift that just keeps giving! Our baby is almost 1 year old now! He is the best thing to ever happen to us and is filling our lives with joy! Thank you!
Thank you with all my heart! I am so grateful for all your time and energy spent on our case. You have given me the most incredible gift. You are forever in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you!
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The Law Offices of Berkowitz & White recognize the overwhelming emotions involved in adoption. We provide individual and affordable legal services to adoptive parents, adoption agencies, and birth parents.