Adoption is a wonderful blessing for many hopeful parents. Fertility can be difficult for many, impossible for others. Other families may wish to adopt because they want to help children who would otherwise be without a family. While people wishing to be parents are encouraged to adopt, not all would-be parents are eligible. Children are precious and are not simply handed over to any adult who fills out a form. People must demonstrate that they meet eligibility requirements and that they are a good fit for a child. The adoption process can be quite long and difficult, but it is very rewarding in the end.
The adoption process is difficult to navigate and requires the legal assistance of an attorney. There are many different eligibility requirements beyond being a stable adult with the resources to take care of a child. Depending on your circumstances and the path you take, your adoption process could be quick and easy or long and challenging. There are several avenues to adoption, like private adoption between birth parents and adoptive parents, adoption through an agency, or adoption through foster care. An attorney can help you decide which avenue is the best way for you to begin or add to your family.
If you want to adopt a child, please call our Utah adoption lawyers for assistance. Adopting a child is not easy to achieve, and a simple mistake could prevent you from becoming a parent. Schedule a free, private legal consultation with our adoption attorneys today. Call (801) 758-2287 to meet with the team at Overson & Bugden.
Adoption in Utah
While adoption laws serve many purposes, their greatest concern ultimately lies with protecting adopted children’s safety and best interests. As a result, Utah lawmakers have determined that some people qualify as eligible adoptive parents while others do not.
Utah’s adoption laws are consolidated under the aptly named Utah Adoption Act. This act, part of the Utah Code, establishes criteria regarding who can and cannot adopt a son or daughter in Utah. While there are separate laws that deal specifically with adopting adults, the law on who can adopt a child or minor, meaning a person under age 18, is set forth under Utah Code § 78B-6-117.
This law generally requires a person to be legally married in order to adopt a child. However, there is also an exception that allows single adults to adopt children and minors. If you are a single, unmarried adult, you may adopt a child as long as you are not living with a person you are not married to. However, there are exceptions if you are related to the child. For example, an unmarried woman who lives with her boyfriend could adopt her niece, but not a child to which she bears no familial relation.
There are numerous other regulations and restrictions regarding who may adopt a child in Utah. People with criminal records may be barred from adoption unless special circumstances exist. Also, many cases may require consent before an adoption can go through. You might need the consent of the child’s birth mother and father. You may also need the consent of the child you wish to adopt if they are over the age of 12. Our Utah adoption attorneys can walk you through this process to help you begin your family.
Can LGBTQ Parents Adopt in Utah?
Until the recent past, the language of Utah Code § 78B-6-117 effectively prohibited gay and lesbian couples from adopting by specifying that only married adults whose marriages were legal within the State of Utah were eligible to adopt. For many years, marriages between same-sex couples were not considered legal, making same-sex couples ineligible to adopt. However, same-sex marriage was legalized in Utah on December 20, 2013. While the Supreme Court initially stayed the legalization order, that stay was lifted on October 6, 2014. Moreover, in 2015, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized gay marriage throughout the United States.
As a result of these rulings, same-sex couples in Utah now have the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples and single adults. Same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples have the right to international adoptions, adoptions involving stepparents, adoptions involving surrogate mothers, and many other types of adoption procedures, provided they also satisfy the broader criteria that apply to all adoptive parents regardless of sexual orientation.
Contact our Utah adoption lawyers for guidance if you and your partner wish to begin the adoption process. Our team will help you determine if you are eligible to adopt and what path will work best for you and your family.
Adoptions for Couples and Adoption for Single Adults in Utah
The State of Utah does not forbid single adults from adopting. However, the state tends to prefer married couples adopt children rather than unmarried ones. There are more restrictions on adoptions for single adults than married couples, and the law explicitly states that when a married couple and a single adult both want to adopt the same child, the married couple will receive preference.
According to the Utah Code § 78b-6-117(4), a child up for adoption will always be placed with a married couple unless no married couples:
- have applied to adopt the child,
- have shown willingness to adopt the child, and
- are an appropriate placement for the child.
Other exceptions to the preference for married couples include the child’s relatives. The state is often eager to place children with their own family, married or not, over strangers. Married couples may also be passed over for adoption if the child has been placed with someone else and established a significant relationship with that person. This may include arrangements intended to be temporary until an adoptive family could be found, but by the time a family came forward, the child developed an important and substantial relationship with the person taking care of them.
A single person would have a better chance of adopting a child if they knew the child’s birth parent or parents before the adoption. For example, a potential adoptive parent might have been selected by the birth parents to adopt the child. While adopting as a single adult can be difficult, it is not impossible. Our Utah adoption attorneys are here to help.
When Consent is Required for Adoption in Utah
The rules regarding consent for adoption can be found under the Utah Code § 76b-6-120. While children enter the adoption system through a number of channels, some happy and some tragic, many circumstances require consent from several parties before an adoption is allowed to go through.
While children are often adopted very young, often as young as newborns, older children are also waiting to be adopted. Under the law, a child older than 12 years of age must provide consent to adoption unless they do not have the mental capacity to do so. Therefore, even if you want to adopt a child, that child can refuse the adoption.
In many cases, the birth parents must also provide consent. The birth mother is easier to identify than the birth father. The father, or the parent other than the birth mother, is someone who is recognized by their name on the birth certificate or their marriage to the birth mother. It may be possible to circumvent the consent of a birth parent if they cannot meet the legal standards for the presumption of parenthood. Finally, if the child is placed with an adoption agency, the agency itself must consent to the adoption.
The requirements for consent may be different in different cases. Sometimes, a child is up for adoption because their birth parents have passed away. Other times, the birth parents have proven themselves unfit to take care of a child, and the child was removed from their care by the state. Still, other times, birth parents make private, legal arrangements with adoptive parents, and an adoption agency is not involved. Whatever your circumstances are, contact our Utah adoption attorneys for help.
Can You Adopt with a Criminal Record?
If you have a prior criminal record – particularly one which involves former convictions related to domestic violence such as spousal abuse or child abuse – you will generally be disqualified from consideration. As the Utah Division of Child and Family Services explains, “If the applicant(s) does not pass the Criminal Background Check or the Child Abuse Database Screening, the caseworker will inform the applicant(s) that they are not eligible to proceed with the assessment.”
In addition to performing background checks, the Division also enforces other criteria for adoptive families in Utah. To provide a few examples:
- You must successfully complete an adoption training program, which the Division must approve.
- You must submit to and pass a home inspection by a licensed child placement agency.
- The Division must formally determine the adoption would not entail any conflict of interest.
These Utah adoption eligibility criteria are strict legal requirements in accordance with the Utah Administrative Code (R512-41-3).
In addition to passing all required screenings, inspections, interviews, and background checks, you must also satisfy all additional legal requirements contained within the relevant statutes. Several examples of these requirements are listed below.
- Utah Code § 78B-6-118 — If you are single, you must be at least 10 years older than the child you plan to adopt. If you are adopting together with your spouse, only one of you must satisfy this requirement.
- Utah Code § 78B-6-120 — You must obtain the appropriate form of consent from the adoptee, the father, or the mother, depending on the adoptee’s age. If the adoptee is age 13 or older, they must grant their consent to be adopted.
- Utah Code § 78B-6-125 — You must abide by certain waiting periods. To provide an example, birth mothers are required to wait at least 24 hours until after birth before providing legal consent for adoption.
- Utah Code § 78B-6-128 — You must meet all pre-placement requirements. This statute overlaps with the requirements enforced by the Division of Child and Family Services, such as submitting to be fingerprinted and successfully passing a criminal background check.
Finally, at the end of the process, you must also appear in court and make a formal agreement that the adopted child will be treated as your own lawful child would be treated. This requirement is established by Utah Code § 78B-6-136.
Our Salt Lake City Adoption Attorneys Can Help
Adopting a child can be a confusing and difficult legal journey, but don’t get discouraged or give up. Our experienced Utah adoption lawyers may be able to help you reach your goals. To arrange for a free and confidential case evaluation, call Darwin Overson right away at (801) 758-2328.