Articles Posted in Adoption

1391967_baby_hands.jpgAdoption laws in Florida sometimes change due to cases that make their way through the court system. Adoptions are often a pleasant legal experience when everyone cooperates from the beginning, but that is not always the case. What results is not just a long court battle when things do not go as planned, but changes to the law to help minimize the risk of difficulties in the future. That recently occurred in Florida and the changes not only impact the adopting parents, but the birth mother as well.

In a recent Florida adoption case, the court determined that a birth mother, giving up her rights to the child through the signing of a consent, should be represented by her own legal counsel. Often the way adoptions go, the birth mother is generally advised of her rights by counsel that may be representing the adopting parents or by someone from the adoption agency. The Florida courts recently held that a birth mother should actually have her own adoption lawyer present at the time of signing consent so that she is fully advised and aware of her rights and options in the proceeding.

As a lawyer, I agree with this change because I think that it better protects the birth mother throughout the process. Often emotions run high and you want to make sure that as a mother, one choosing to your child a home with an adopting family, that you understand the legal process from the beginning. I do not think that the birth mother should only be represented at the time of signing a consent, but as soon as possible when she has made the choice to place the child. This decision is a great decision to make and being armed with knowledge as to the process and feeling like you have support from the beginning can be crucial to a good outcome for you, the child and the adopting parents.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1391967_baby_hands.jpgAs a Jacksonville Family Law attorney, often I am asked whether Florida allows homosexual couples to adopt children. In the recent years, Florida has been in the spotlight for the gay adoption ban that exists here in the state. With celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell publicly adopting and living in Florida, many think that it is now a non-issue. The fact is that Florida remains semi-silent on the issue of homosexual adoption in that there are presently cases that provide law showing that the ban is unconstitutional. The decision was reached in a South Florida case and was later the topic of another adoption. After the cases were heard, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the original party to the suit, decided not to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court and thus, the ban has been lifted, in theory at least.

Now, the question remains whether all parts of the state will follow suit in allowing homosexuals to adopt children in need of a family. Though DCF has historically allowed gay couples to foster children, they have been reluctant to allow gay couples to adopt. The agency with which a couple works may be the telling factor in how well the adoption process works for gay couples. Though the ban was ruled unconstitutional, the true tests have not been measured in certain parts of the state and only time can tell.

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney at Law

1350860_hand-in-hand.jpgFlorida adoptions fall under Florida Statute Chapter 63, which provides the different grounds for adoption and the process that must be followed in order to pursue an in-state adoption. In addition, the Florida legislature has provided for different forms of adoption, which can be assessed to best fit your needs if you are pursuing to adopt a child in Jacksonville or other Florida cities. There are multiple options for adoption, which consist of the following:

1. Private adoptions

763367_missing_.jpgAs a Jacksonville divorce and family law attorney, I often have clients ask me if they can have the other party’s parental rights terminated due to the lack of participation in the child’s life. In child support cases, when a parent has not paid child support nor attempted to contact the child or have any visitation with the child, the primary parent grows weary of tracking down the other and tired of explaining to the child why the other parent is not involved in the child’s life. Other times that this topic arises is when a parent remarries and the stepparent wants to adopt the child. However, terminate the rights of a parent, without consent, is not as easy as 1, 2, 3 because it is a big deal to give up rights to the child and for the child to give up rights to the other parent. The Florida legislature has given provisions that protect children, but ultimately, if the other parent does not respond to the court action, then by default his/her parental rights may be terminated regardless of the provisions.

The main factor in terminating parental rights is whether the other parent agrees to the termination. Termination of parental rights may be accomplished by consent of both parties. However, if there is no one there to step-in as the other parent (e.g. stepparent adoption), then the court may require financial information for the remaining parent to show that the parent is financially capable of independently providing for the child. The reason for this is that parents that do not have financial means to provide for the child may request some type of government assistance, such as Medicaid for the child’s healthcare. The State then has an interest in the case and the Court needs to protect the State from the remaining parent presently asking for such assistance from the government and voluntarily relieving the other parent of financial support.

If the other parent’s whereabouts are unknown, then a diligent search must be completed. If the missing parent is the father, then the search must include the Florida Putative Father Registry. The Putative Father Registry is a place where men should register their name and identifying information if there is any chance that he may be the father of a child in Florida. Once the registry search is completed, that notice of search is filed with the court. In addition, regardless of mother or father, the requesting party must also publish notice of the case in a local newspaper in the city of the last known address of the parent. If no answer or reply is ever received, then parental rights may be terminated by default. Once a clerk’s default is entered, a final default hearing must be held with the Judge to determine whether it is in the best interest of the child for the parent’s rights to be terminated.

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

1143194_my_boy_4.jpgFlorida had a long standing adoption ban for homosexuals until an appellate court ruled that there was no merit for the ban and found it unconstitutional. However, the issue was not over with that court ruling because there was a push for the Florida Supreme Court to hear the case and brief filed by the State and the Department of Children and Families. However, in October 2010, the State of Florida and DCF announced that they would not appeal the court’s ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. Since they were the original parties, their lack of further appeal meant the end to the ban on homosexuals adopting children in Florida.

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

897653_kite_flying___.jpgStepparent adoptions in Florida can be done in a relatively short amount time, if all parties are in agreement. Basically, if the biological parent is willing to sign a consent for termination of parental rights, then the adopting parent and primary parent can file a joint petition for the adoption of the child. Once the parental rights of the biological parent are terminated, an order can be entered by the court for the stepparent to be the adopted parent of the child. Basically, an adoption finds that the adopting parent has the ability to provide for the emotional and financial needs of the child and understands that the child is the responsibility of that parent regardless of the marital status. In addition, the child no longer has the right to inherit under the biological parent and therefore, inherits as a natural child of the adopting parent.

Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney

Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.

920576_pregnant.jpgTeenage pregnancies or unwanted pregnancies seem to be a common topic in American culture. From Sarah Palin’s daughter to Jamie Lynn Spears who was 16 and pregnant, and to your own child possibly knowing someone in school that is pregnant. There are options available, but knowing them is half the battle.

Adoption.jpgThe Florida Department of Children & Families has decided that it will not appeal last month’s 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning the state’s 30-year-old ban on gays and lesbians adopting children.

According to news reports, the only way the case would remain alive would be if the state’s Attorney General decided to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court to allow the gay adoption ban to continue. The decision to appeal must be made by October 21, and the Attorney General’s office has said that it is not sure how it will proceed, but will meet with DCF attorneys to discuss the case.

The case that resulted in the overturn of the gay adoption ban involved a gay foster parent, Martin Gill, who wished to adopt two boys who were placed in his care by the Department of Children & Families after they were removed from their home because of neglect. At the time, Florida law allowed gay men and lesbians to serve as foster parents and guardians.

Adoption.jpgThe international adoption process is complex and fraught with hazards, as evidenced by even celebrities like Madonna who have all the legal and financial resources at her command, but nevertheless encountered a number of problems adopting her son from Malawi.

Couples who have grown increasingly frustrated with the adoption process in the U.S. often believe that it is much easier to adopt overseas, but this is not necessarily always the case. Each country has different laws governing adoption, and non-citizens seeking to adopt must strictly adhere to those laws.

Some countries have lengthy residency requirements, so it is best to do your research prior to choosing a country for a potential adoption. It is unlikely that many Americans would want to spend a year or more living overseas, especially in third world nations where the living standards are startlingly different.

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