What is an adoption?

Adoption is the legal procedure through which a minor or adult is recognized by law as being the son or daughter of the adopting adult(s) and as having all the rights and duties of such relationship, including the right of inheritance. The adoptee takes the name designated by the petitioner(s).

Who may adopt?

Any person who is 19 years of age or older. The Adoption Code specifically prohibits discrimination in granting adoptions on the basis of marital status or age.

Who can be adopted?

The following persons may be adopted:

  1. A minor.
  2. An adult under any one of the following conditions:
    1. He or she is totally and permanently disabled.
    2. He or she is determined to be mentally retarded.
    3. He or she consents in writing to be adopted and is related in any degree of kinship, as defined by the intestacy laws of Alabama, or is a stepchild by marriage.
    4. He or she consents in writing to be adopted by an adult man and woman who are husband and wife.

(Acts 1990, No. 90-554, p. 912, & sect;6, Act 98-101, p. 118, & sect;1.)

What is the difference between an adoption by a stepparent or a close family member and other adoptions?

There is usually a lot less formality and fewer requirements when the adoptee is being adopted by a stepparent or close family member.

Unlike all other adoptions, usually no pre-placement or post-placement investigation or accountings of the cost relating to the adoption are required.

The adoptee must have lived with the petitioner for at least one year unless the residency requirement is waived for good cause shown.

Can grandparents obtain visitation rights to see the adoptee after the adoption?

Ordinarily the grandparents have no visitation rights with their grandchildren when the natural parent’s rights have been terminated by adoption. However, at the courts’ discretion, the court may allow such visitation rights if the child is adopted by a close relative or a stepparent, provided it is in the child’s best interests.

What steps are usually involved in an unrelated adoption?

  1. Pre-placement investigation (may petition the Court or go to Department of Human Resources or a Licensed Child Placing Agency).
  2. All necessary consents and/or relinquishments concerning the adoption are obtained.
  3. Guardian ad litem is appointed when either natural parent of the adoptee is a minor or in case of a contested hearing.
  4. Petition court for authority to pay fees or expenses.
  5. Placement of child with petitioners.
  6. File petition for adoption within 30 days after placement.
  7. Serve notice or obtain waiver of notice on or from all parties entitled to notice of the adoption.
  8. Post-placement investigation.
  9. Hearings.
  10. Affidavits of non-payment.
  11. Accounting of disbursements.

What is a pre-placement investigation?

It is an investigation conducted for the purpose of determining the suitability of each petitioner and the home in which the adoptee will be placed. The investigation will include a criminal background search and will focus on any other circumstances relevant to the placement of the adoptee.

Whose consent to the adoption is required?

  1. The adoptee, if 14 years or older unless mentally incapable of giving consent.
  2. The adoptee’s mother.
  3. The adoptee’s presumed father if he meets the requirement set out in §26-10A-7(c) of the Code of Alabama.
  4. The agency to whom the adoptee has been relinquished or which holds permanent custody, except that a court may grant an adoption without the agency’s consent when it would be in the child’s best interest and the agency’s withholding of consent is unreasonable.
  5. The putative father if known, provided that he responds within 30 days after receiving notice of the adoption.
  6. Others as required by Alabama law.

Can a minor consent to the adoption of his or her child?

Yes, however, prior to such consent the court must appoint the minor parent a guardian ad litem to represent the minor’s interests. A minor who is 14 years of age or older can nominate a guardian ad litem to protect his or her interests.

When, where, and in what form must a consent or relinquishment for adoption be given?

A consent or relinquishment for adoption may be given at any time. The pre-birth consent of the mother must be signed or confirmed before a Probate Judge. All other pre-birth or post-birth consents or relinquishment must be signed or confirmed before the Probate Judge or clerk of the Probate Court, or someone appointed by the Court to do such, a person appointed by the agency conducting the investigation, or a notary public. The consent or relinquishment must be in substantially the same form as provided in the adoption code and must be in writing and signed by the person consenting or relinquishing.

When may a consent or relinquishment be withdrawn?

A consent or relinquishment may be withdrawn for any reason five days after the birth of the adoptee or five days after the signing of the consent or relinquishment, whichever occurs later.

The time to withdraw the consent or relinquishment can be extended to 14 days if the court finds that such delay is reasonable under the circumstances and is in the best interest of the child.

When is a petition for an unrelated private adoption filed?

The adoption petition must be filed within 30 days after the minor is placed with the prospective adoptive parent(s) for adoption. If the person seeking the adoption is a stepparent or relative of the adoptee, then the adoptee must reside with the petitioner for a year before such petition is filed. If the child has not lived with the stepparent or relative for a year, the adoption will proceed in the same manner as all other adoptions unless the court waives the residence requirements for good cause.

Where is a petition for adoption filed?

A petition for adoption may be filed in the probate court of any of the following counties: where the minor resides; where the petitioner resides or is in military service; or where the office of the agency or institution having guardianship or custody of the minor is located.

What expenses can I pay?

A person seeking to adopt a child may pay maternity connected medical or hospital and necessary living expenses of the mother preceding birth and during pregnancy and related incapacity as long as such payments are made as an act of charity and such payment is not contingent upon placement of the child for adoption. All fees and expenses, including legal, medical, investigative, or other legitimate professional fees may only be paid with court approval.

How confidential is an adoption?

The adoption code was designed to keep an adoption as confidential as possible.

  1. Before a final adoption decree is rendered, the only people with access to the adoption records are:  the petitioner, the petitioner’s attorney; the pre-placement investigator and any attorney appointed for or retained by the minor being adopted. No other person has access to the adoption records unless they obtain a court order after showing good cause to allow them to inspect the records.
  2. All adoption hearings are confidential and held in closed court open only to the interested parties and their counsel, except with leave of the court.
  3. After the final decree of adoption is entered, all documents pertaining to the adoption are sealed and identifying information cannot be obtained by anyone except the adoptee under limited circumstances. (see below).
  4. The natural parent(s) may consent in writing under oath to disclosure of identifying information to the adoptee when such adoptee reaches the age of 19. The adoptee, upon reaching the age of 19, may petition the court for disclosure of identifying information, or the adoptee can contact the State Department of Human Resources to see if a consent is on file to disclose the name(s) of the natural parent(s). Such information will not be released to the adoptee without the natural parent’s consent unless the court determines it is best after weighing the interests of the parties involved.