Utah Adoption Law
Helping to Ensure the Adoption Process Goes Smoothly
Provo firm provides legal advice and representation for adoptive parents
Adoption in Utah is complicated, with many potential legal and other snags. A birth mother may change her mind, a putative father may decide to exercise his paternity rights, a home inspection can go awry or paperwork may be completed incorrectly. Fillmore Spencer LLC is well-versed in Utah adoption law and the adoption process — we know how to anticipate and head off problems before they materialize.
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Who can be adopted?
As long as there’s a 10-year age difference between the adopter or their spouse and the adoptee, any baby or other minor, or even an adult, can be adopted. The court will need to see why the adoption is in the best interests of both the parties and the public. In the case of a minor, the child’s parents must consent to the adoption. Many adult adoptions are stepparent adoptions — typically, the stepparent didn’t get around to adopting the individual as a minor, but now wants to assure the individual’s inheritance rights.
Who can and who can’t adopt?
Utah family law permits adoption by:
- Adults who are legally married to each other
- A stepparent
- Any single adult
If you cohabitate with another but are not legally married to them, you may not adopt.
Who may place a child?
According to Utah adoption law, a minor may be placed by either a parent or a licensed child-placing agency. A minor birth mother may place her child for adoption without her parents’ consent.
An attorney, physician or other professional may help locate either potential adopters or a child to be adopted, but is not allowed to accept a payment, expense reimbursement, nor exchange of value of any kind in return for that assistance. Of course, an attorney is allowed to help both adoptive and birth parents with any paperwork and other adoption finalization requirements.
Types of adoption
Adoptions are typically done either independently or through an agency, either a licensed private one or a public one such as Utah Child and Family Services. In an independent adoption, the prospective parents (or a representative) deal directly with the birth parents. Independent adoptions can get problematic if the birth parents hand over parental rights, but then decide to keep the child, or if, in the case of a single birth mother, the putative father’s paternity rights are in question.
If the adoptive parents and birth parents have contact during the gestation period and the new parents agree to maintain some contact with the birth parents after the adoption, the adoption is “open.” If the adoptive parents never meet the birth parents and details regarding all parties are kept confidential, the adoption is “closed.”
A stepparent adoption occurs when a parent’s new spouse adopts a child the parent had with a previous partner. A stepparent adoption can be more straightforward and less prone to drama versus an agency and independent adoption, especially if the child’s other birth parent consents to “voluntary relinquishment” of parental rights. The adoptive parent does need to obtain clearance from both the Utah Child Abuse Registry and the Division of Child and Family Services Bureau of Criminal Investigations (through the Department of Public Safety) before the adoption can proceed — the state wants to make sure the stepparent has not been convicted of child abuse or other violent crimes.
The stepparent adoption process requires a bit more effort if the other birth parent cannot be found or refuses to consent to the adoption. Also, while most adoptions in Utah can be finalized within six months, the minor must reside with the stepparent for at least a year before their adoption can be finalized.
As with stepparent adoptions, the birth parents’ agreement to terminate parental rights makes the process go more smoothly in adoptions by grandparents. If either parent contests the adoption, you must be well-prepared for battle: While Utah courts like grandparents enough to sometimes grant them grandchild visitation privileges and even award custody, they are predisposed to favor parents’ rights. You will need to prove to the court that both birth parents are unfit and that termination of their parental rights would be in the best interest of the child or children involved. You may need to obtain court-ordered guardianship as a precursor to grandparental adoption.
Don’t go the adoption process alone
A competent adoptions lawyer can guide you through state requirements. Schedule an obligation-free initial consultation to speak with a Fillmore Spencer LLC adoption attorney about your adoption needs by calling us at (801) 426-8200 or by contacting us online today.