Salt Lake City Adoption Attorney

Making the decision to adopt a child into your family is a momentous occasion and cause for celebration. However, adoption is also one of the most heavily and strictly regulated legal procedures in the U.S. Like other states, Utah enforces numerous adoption laws, many of which are highly demanding and specific. For prospective adoptive parents in Salt Lake City or other parts of Utah, trying to navigate this complicated system can be a truly daunting task.

Fortunately, you don’t have to tackle the legal challenges of adoption on your own. Rex Bray is an experienced, compassionate, and dedicated family law attorney serving men and women throughout Utah, and will help you understand and exercise your legal rights as an adoptive parent. Wherever you may be in the Utah adoption process, call Rex Bray at (801) 708-0913 to set up a confidential legal consultation, completely free of charge. Let’s start discussing the possibilities for your new family.

Who is Eligible to Adopt Children in Utah?

young child holds parents hand

While adoption laws serve many purposes, their greatest concern ultimately lies with protecting the safety and best interests of adopted children. 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. Statutes within this act, which is part of the Utah Code, establish 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 (“cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage under the laws of this state”).

Can LGBT 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 as eligible only “adults who are legally married to each other in accordance with the laws of this state.”  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 resulted in the legalization of gay marriage throughout the United States.

As a result of these rulings, same-sex couples who live in Utah now have the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples and single adults. Gay couples, lesbian couples, and heterosexual couples have the right to international adoptions, adoptions involving step-parents, 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.

Utah Adoption Requirements for Families

judge signing documents in courtroom

While sexual orientation no longer prevents hopeful parents from adopting in Utah, other factors can still render a man, woman, or married couple ineligible. Continue reading to learn more about the Utah requirements for adopting a child.

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 must be approved by the Division.
  • 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 need satisfy this requirement.
  • Utah Code § 78B-6-120 — You must obtain the appropriate form of consent from either the adoptee, the father, or the mother, depending on the adoptee’s age. If the adoptee is age 13 or older, he or she must grant his or her consent to be adopted.
  • Utah Code § 78B-6-125 — You must abide by certain waiting periods. To provide an example, “A birth mother may not consent to the adoption of her child… until at least 24 hours after the birth of her child.”
  • 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.

Salt Lake City Adoption Attorney for Men, Women, and Couples

Adopting a child can be a confusing and difficult legal journey, but don’t get discouraged and give up. As a highly experienced adoption attorney in Utah, Rex Bray may be able to help you reach your goals. Though based in Salt Lake City, Rex Bray provides adoption legal services for men, women, and married couples throughout the state of Utah, including Layton, Logan, Ogden, Provo, Sandy, South Jordan, Spanish Fork, West Jordan, West Valley City, and beyond.

To arrange for a free and confidential case evaluation, call Rex Bray right away at (801) 708-0913, or contact us online. We’re here to protect your rights, answer your questions, and guide you through the legal process with the goal of helping you and your loved one welcome a child into your family.