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Montgomery Family Law
Divorce & Family Law

North Carolina Adoption

Adoption law is one of the most gratifying areas in which to practice for a family law attorney. In most cases a family law attorney is involved in the break-up of a family. In adoption, the family law attorney helps in the creation or expansion of a family.

Adoption in North Carolina

In general, adoption is a method of establishing the legal relationship of a parent and child between persons who are not already related by blood. The principal object of adoption is to promote the welfare of the child. NC state statutes governing adoption should be understood as a process of selecting fit parents for children, not of finding children for adoptive parents.

At the same time that adoption creates the legal relationship of parent and child between two persons who are not related, it permanently severs the relationship between the adoptee-child and his or her natural, biological parents and their families. The final effect of a legal adoption is that the adoptive family is substituted into the place formerly held by the biological family. From the date the adoption decree is signed, the adoptee-child has the same legal status as a legitimate child born to the adoptive-parent and may inherit through his or her adoptive parents through intestate succession. At the same time, the biological parents are relieved of all their legal rights and obligations toward the child. Neither the adoptee-child nor the biological parents may inherit by and through each other through intestate succession.

An exception to the above paragraph is in the case of a stepparent adoption, when a stepparent adopts his or her stepchild, the adoption does not terminate the relationship of the child with his or her natural, biological parent who is, of course, the spouse of the adopting stepparent.

NC Adoption Laws

Legal adoption in North Carolina is governed by state statute and the statutory procedures set forth in Chapter 48 of the North Carolina General Statutes must be strictly adhered to in order to accomplish a legal adoption. The statutory procedures for legal adoptions will differ depending on whether it is a private adoption or agency adoption. Different articles under Chapter 48 cover adoptions of minors, adult adoptions, stepparent adoptions, and the re-adoptions of a child by his or her natural parent after a stepparent adoption. The later type of adoption is becoming more and more frequent. Because strict compliance with statutory procedures is required, it is advisable to hire a family law attorney to handle your North Carolina child adoption.

As expressly stated in Chapter 48, the primary purpose of our North Carolina adoption statutes are to " promote the integrity and finality of adoptions, to encourage prompt, conclusive disposition of adoption proceedings, and to structure services to adopted children, biological parents, and adoptive parents that will provide for the needs and protect the interests of all parties to an adoption, particularly adoptive minors."

Secondarily, NC adoption statutes seek to protect biological parents from making hasty and ill-considered decisions to relinquish the child to an adoption agency or to consent to a private adoption. The adoptive parents are also protected under our statutes from adopting a child without knowledge of the child's heredity and state of health. The privacy rights of all parties to an adoption are also protected under Chapter 48. Finally, our adoption statutes strongly discourage illegal trafficking in children for the purposes of adoption.

Any person over the age of 18 may adopt another individual, with the only caveat under Chapter 48 being that spouses may not adopt each other. And any person may be adopted. The name of the adoptee person will be changed to the name designated in the adoption decree.

Private or direct adoption placements are those made by the natural, biological parents either directly to prospective adoptive-parents or through a non-licensed intermediary such as a physician, lawyer, relative, or friend. Agency placements are those made by a licensed private adoption agency or an official state bureau designated to make adoption placements. In an agency placement, the child is formally "surrendered" or "relinquished" by the biological parents to the agency, which then acts in place of the parents in seeking to bring about a desirable adoption. Agencies can also receive children through judicial disposition in cases where the parental rights of the natural, biological parents have been terminated through a court proceeding and ruling. Both direct and agency adoptions are governed by Chapter 48 of our state general statutes.

The Legal Process of North Carolina Adoption

The legal process for adoption begins with the filing of your Petition for Adoption. To complete your petition, various documents must be included. They are as follows:

1) your preplacement assessment;
2) the consents to adoption from the natural, biological parents;
3) the affidavit from the biological mother indicating the names, known addresses and marital status of the biological parents;
4) the certified copy of the background information on the adoptee-child's health, social, educational and genetic history which is provided by his or her biological parent(s) or by the adoption agency placing the child up for adoption;
5) any court order or pleading regarding the adoptee-child's custody or visitation; and
6) an affidavit accounting for any payment made in connection with the adoption; and
7) the document identifying any individual whose consent to the adoption is required and had not been obtained at the time your petition for adoption was filed.

Upon the filing of your Petition for Adoption, notice of its filing must be served on any individual whose consent to the adoption is required by law and whose consent had not been obtained at the time your petition was filed. Chapter 48 sets out in detail those individuals from whom consent to the adoption is required as well as the correct procedure by which to serve these individuals.

By statute, the court is required to set a hearing date on your adoption petition within 90 days after you file your petition for adoption. The hearing or disposition of your adoption petition must take place within 6 months after the date you file your adoption petition. If your petition is unopposed, there is no need for a hearing. If you have been found to be a fit adoptive parent and no one opposes the adoption, you can be assured that your petition for adoption will be granted. If a hearing is necessary, the court must find upon a preponderance of the evidence that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, that you are a suitable adoptive parent, and that all the statutory procedural requirements for adoption have been met.