LEGAL CORNER: What are the stages applied in an adoption?

Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 4:56 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Legal Corner answers viewers’ civil legal questions.

QUESTION: What are the procedures or stages applied in an adoption?

ANSWER: Generally, the first stage determines whether the natural parent’s rights may be terminated. The second stage is an independent determination as to whether the adoption is in the child’s best interests.

La. CHC Art. 1243 (Louisiana Children’s Code) states persons who may petition for intrafamily adoption:

A. A stepparent, step-grandparent, great-grandparent, grandparent, aunt, great aunt, uncle, great uncle, sibling, or first cousin may petition to adopt a child if all of the following elements are met:

(1) The petitioner is related to the child by blood, adoption, or affinity through a parent recognized as having parental rights.

(2) The petitioner is a single person over the age of eighteen or a married person whose spouse is a joint petitioner.

(3) The petitioner has had legal or physical custody of the child for at least six months prior to filing the petition for adoption.

B. When the spouse of the stepparent or one joint petitioner dies after the petition has been filed, the adoption proceedings may continue as though the survivor was a single original petitioner.

C. For purposes of this Chapter “parent recognized as having parental rights” includes not only an individual enumerated in Article 1193, but also:

(1) A father who has formally acknowledged the child with the written concurrence of the child’s mother.

(2) A father whose name or signature appears on the child’s birth certificate as the child’s father.

(3) A father, if a court of competent jurisdiction has rendered a judgment establishing his paternity of the child.

Adoption is a very complicated legal process. There are three types of adoption: agency adoption which includes the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), private adoption, and intrafamily adoption. Kinship families with children in Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) custody would fall under agency adoption guidelines. Most relative family adoptions would fall under intrafamily adoption. A private adoption is arranged by an intermediary, typically an attorney who represents parents wishing to place their child for adoption. The attorney arranges with adoptive parents for the child to be placed with them.

All three types of adoption begin by the removal of the rights of the biological parents which “frees” the child to be adopted by others. The removal can be a voluntary legal surrender or an involuntary termination of rights by a court. In order to ensure that would-be adopting parents can offer a safe, secure and loving home, a home study must be done of all potential adoptive homes. A Petition for Adoption is filed with the court containing very detailed specific information. If the court approves, it will issue a judgment of adoption at the conclusion of a finalization hearing. The child will become the legal child of the adopting parents just as if they were born to the adopting parents.