Adoption is one of the most exciting and yet stressful times in parents’ lives. The excitement is self-evident, but the stress often involves paperwork. It’s a long process with a lot of legal paperwork that needs addressing for the finalization to ensure that the adoption is complete, and the child is legally recognized and a permanent part of your family.
Before the final decree
Several steps happen after placement:
- The birth parents must sign an adoption consent to terminate their parental rights, which can occur no earlier than 72 hours after the birth.
- Adoptive parents must comply with Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) and/or the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) if applicable.
- The home study provider must sign off on the post-placement requirements.
Once the above steps are complete, an Adoption Finalization Hearing is held at the local county circuit court.
What happens at the hearing?
These are usually brief meetings before a judge, who then issues a final decree of adoption. It’s usually a happy affair where pictures are taken, and families may invite grandparents or extended family to watch. The hearing involves:
- The judge swears in the parents, the social worker and an adoption attorney.
- Parents will speak about the choice to adopt and the responsibilities involved.
- The judge asks some final questions and signs the final decree of adoption.
More to do after the final decree
There is still more paperwork after the final decree. Top of the list is creating a new birth certificate to include the new parents’ names and a legal name change for the child. Parents will also apply for a Social Security Number, set parameters for post-adoption contact for the birth family, and apply for an adoption tax credit. Parents may also want to check if their employer offers adoption or legal service reimbursement.