We represent adoptive parents in all kinds of adoptions — agency, independent, step-parent, adult, foster care and international.
For many of our adoptive parent clients, Brittany are the first attorneys they have ever worked with. Our goal is to provide you with compassionate, cost-effective and successful representation in one of the most important events of your life.
Adoptive parents dream of bringing their new child home directly from the hospital. This dream is most often realized in direct placement adoptions, also commonly referred to as independent adoptions. In order for this to occur, the adoptive parents begin by obtaining a court order prior to the child’s birth, granting them legal custody of the child upon birth. Because birth mother is placing her child directly with the adoptive parents, it is important, and the law provides, that she also has her own attorney to guide her through the process.
Shively Law Office LLC specializes in direct placement adoptions. We work closely with the birth mother’s attorney to ensure that the legal process and paperwork, including the consent to the adoption, is complete. Under Minnesota law, a birth mother must wait a minimum of 72 hours following the child’s birth before they may sign the Consent to adoption, which is then irrevocable 10 working days after it is signed. Often, the extent of a birth father’s involvement in the adoption is unclear. We are experienced at working with birth mother’s attorney to determine whether a birth father must also consent to the adoption or – as is more commonly the case – whether his rights will be dealt with according to the Minnesota Fathers’ Adoption Registry (MFAR).
Once birth parents’ rights have been satisfied, we file your petition for adoption as soon as possible, knowing that you are anxious to finalize the adoption! From pre-birth, through the final hearing, we will handle every step of the legal process so that you may focus on simply enjoying baby – and perhaps taking a nap, if possible! Please contact us to schedule a free consultation to learn more and discuss how we may assist you in this incredible journey to parenthood!
Most international and some American infant adoptions are Agency Adoptions. In an Agency Adoption, after the birth of the child, the Birth Mother signs legal documents giving the right to place the child for adoption to a licensed adoption agency.
This agency may be in Minnesota, in another state, or in a foreign country. The agency then is legally in charge of the child until the adoptive parent goes to court to complete the adoption.
In an American infant adoption, because the agency has legal control of the child, they can set criteria which the adoptive and birth parent(s) have to meet. For example, they can decide that adoptive parents must be a certain age or a specific religion or have stopped infertility treatments before they can adopt from that agency.
They can also require a Birth Parent to do certain things, including requiring that the Birth Father be named and involved in the adoption process, which are not required by law. Always ask any adoption program what their requirements are before you begin working with them.
The ICPC is a law adopted by all 50 states which requires that the state the child is leaving (sending state) to notify the state the child is going to (receiving state) that the child is coming to live in the receiving state. All states have rules on what must be in the package of information submitted to their ICPC office, and the rules differ from state to state. Children moving across state lines must have the approval of both states before they can legally come to the receiving state.
In most interstate state adoptions, adoptive families can expect a delay of up to 2 weeks in bringing a child home after birth while the ICPC process goes on.
Penalties for failure to give proper ICPC notice and receive approval for moving the child range from criminal penalties in some states to the state having the right to object to an adoption being allowed. Because of the potential risk to an adoption, it is always best to consult with an attorney experienced in this area of adoption law.
A step-parent adoption is the easiest type of adoption in Minnesota in terms of the legal process. In this type of adoption, the court can waive the requirement that the adoptive family have an adoption study done, but background checks will still be required.
Most courts will do this as long as the step-parent has been married to the legal parent for more than three months. If an adoption study is required, it is usually done by the adoptive parent’s county social services.
If the birth father of the child is listed on the birth certificate, was married to the birth mother, was adjudicated the father by a court, or has paid child support, his rights must be dealt with before the step-father can adopt the child.
This can be done either voluntarily by the birth father signing a Consent to Adoption or involuntarily by a court finding that he has “abandoned” the child. Usually abandonment means he has had no contact with the child and/or not paid any support for the child for at least six months.
If the adopting parent is related to the adopted person within three degrees of relationship, Minnesota law designates this a relative adoption. An aunt adopting a niece is a relative adoption, but an aunt adopting a great-niece is not a relative adoption.
Courts may waive an adoption study in a relative adoption although it is up to the individual judge to decide. Many relative adoptions occur when a child is in foster care or being cared for by a grandparent or other close family member who wants to formalize the legal relationship.
An adult can be adopted by another adult under Minnesota law. There is no requirement that the parents of the person being adopted agree to the adoption since the adoptee is an adult. Only the person being adopted must Consent to the Adoption.
Generally no adoption study is required since the adopting person will not be raising a child. The motivation for adoption may be to legally recognize an already existing parent/child relationship, to insure inheritance, or to derive some other benefit.
Often, foster parent adoptions go very smoothly. Everyone in the system, foster parents, child welfare workers, the county attorney and guardian ad litems, agree that the adoption of the child by the foster parents is in the best interests of the child.
But sometimes the desire of foster parents to adopt a child who has been in their care is opposed by the child welfare system. This may be the result of a variety of factors — a hostile child welfare worker, a county policy, opposition of the biological parent, or the intervention of a relative. When this happens, foster parents need swift, experienced legal advice and representation. Brittany has worked extensively in foster care adoptions and understand the dynamics involved in this type of adoption.
In all foster parent adoptions, the issue of Adoption Assistance comes up. The benefits for a child can be considerable — medical insurance coverage, monthly cash grants to help with special needs, daycare, and other expenses. Frequent changes in federal and state rules and policies regarding Adoption Assistance make it very difficult for foster parents to know exactly what benefits their child might receive.
Foster parents need to understand the Adoption Assistance program and advocate strongly for the benefits their child deserves. It often helps to have a strong advocate to make sure the child receives as many benefits as they are entitled to under this program.
In International Adoptions the requirements are often set by the foreign country. Each country has it’s own criteria for adoptive parents, so be sure to check carefully to make sure you meet that country’s requirements before you begin an adoption program. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services also restricts what type of children may be brought into the United States by adoptive parents.
In an International Adoption, you must meet the requirements not only of your home state but also those of the CIS. If the country you want to adopt from is a member of the Hague Treaty,
your homestudy must be done by a Hague Accredited agency, and you must comply with the rules established by the Hague Treaty and the CIS.
The Indian Child Welfare Act is a federal law designed to strengthen and preserve Indian families and tribes. It applies to all child custody proceedings involving an “Indian child.”
While adoption proceedings are typically regulated by the states, the Indian Child Welfare Act is a major exception. The ICWA, as federal law, supercedes state laws that are in conflict with it. In addition, Minnesota has it’s own version of the ICWA as state law with requirements which are much broader than those of the federal statute. Knowing whether and how the ICWA applies to an adoption matters can be a complex question involving issues such as:
An agency may be sued in federal court for violations of the ICWA. In Minnesota, the Fathers Adoption Registry may have no effect on adoptions of Indian children.
There are over 300 reported case opinions interpreting the ICWA in state adoption proceedings. By far, the most significant violations of the ICWA in adoption cases occur because agencies and attorneys fail to apply the ICWA and its heightened consent requirements.
This law is simply too complex for an agency, adoptive parents, or tribes to handle without legal advice.
Under Minnesota law, a woman who gives birth to a child has “parental rights” to the child. These include the right to have the child live with you, to raise the child, and to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, including the right to decide to place the child for adoption.
If a birth mother wants to place the child for adoption, she signs a consent to adoption form. Once a birth mother signs a proper consent to an adoption, the law requires that the mother be given ten working days for her to change her mind. After the ten days are up, the consent may not be revoked by the mother unless the court finds that the mother’s consent was obtained through fraud.
In Minnesota, a Consent to Adoption is signed by a birth mother (and birth father, if he’s involved) after the child’s birth. The Consent has to follow certain legal requirements to be valid. The most important rules are:
Open adoption refers to an adoption in which the birth mother may meet the adoptive parents and receive information from them about the child as the child grows up.
Birth mothers may want the adoptive parents to come to doctor’s visits with her before the birth, to have them at the hospital when the baby is born, and be involved in caring for the baby in the hospital. She can also make whatever arrangements for future contact she wants with the adoptive family. This may include receiving letters and pictures or having visits with the child. In most cases, these arrangements are put into a written letter or agreement.
If both the birth and adoptive parents agree, the arrangements for future contact can be put into a Court Order which requires everyone to follow the written agreement. This Order must be approved by the Minnesota court in which the adoption is taking place and must be in the child’s best interests. If the adoption is finalized in another state, a Court Order might not be available.
A birth father may not have any legal right to be notified of or be involved in an adoption. He only has rights to the child if he takes responsibility for the child’s well-being, including financial support. For more information on birth father’s rights, go to that section.
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