Adoption is a great alternative for many grandparents and step-parents. Many grandparents and step-parents find themselves thrust into being a parent. Most relish the chance, but not everyone starts by considering adoption.
Many adoption cases have come into our office recently. They all have one major thing in common – a parent who is missing. Maybe he or she is in jail. Or maybe they realize the child is in better hands. But a common theme is that someone else is taking care of the child. In some cases, it may just a year or two. In many, it’s been the child’s entire life. There are several types of adoptions. Our office handles mostly step-parent and grandparent adoptions.
THE MAIN ISSUE IS WHETHER THE PARENTS ABANDONED THE CHILD.
Taking away parental rights is a major judicial act. Parents have Constitutional rights regarding his or her kids. This includes the right to Due Process, and a right to privacy. Thus, the burden of proving that a parent has abandoned his or her kids is high.
Unless he or she consents to the adoption, Florida courts require proof, by clear and convincing evidence, that the parent(s) abandoned the child. The statute provides strict definitions. There is no abandonment unless there is proof, for example, that the parent has made little or no effort to support the child. There must be proof that the parent has rejected his or her responsibilities. This can be shown by proof that he or she has not financially helped the child. Proof that the parent does not communicate with the child is also considered.
Once you show the parent has abandoned the child, we must prove that the adoption is in the child’s best interests. For example, we need to show that the child is now bonded with the step-father or grandparent. He or she has the ability to provide financially for the child. And that there are no health concerns.
Parents are also often missing. We must do a diligent search for them. This includes contacting each branch of the Armed Forces, the Post Office, and utility companies. Having the internet has helped find parents. However, if we cannot find them, then we submit an affidavit and seek to publish notice of the pending adoption. Final hearings are often a great experience. You feel a sense that you are putting a family together, and it makes the entire process worthwhile.
If you know someone with questions about the adoption process, please have them call us.