About 135,000 children are adopted every year in the U.S., but if you want to adopt in Indiana, you may face some legal challenges – especially if you are trying to adopt a child without a biological parent’s consent. The right Lake County adoption lawyer may be able to help.
In all fifty states, adoption laws and regulations are exceedingly complex and complicated. Adoptions are almost never straightforward or simple here in Indiana, so it’s important to have a good family law attorney’s personalized advice from the beginning.
WHY MAY A CHILD IN INDIANA BE ADOPTED WITHOUT A BIOLOGICAL PARENT’S CONSENT?
Generally speaking, a child in Indiana may be adopted without a biological parent’s consent only if the child has been abandoned or abused, or if a parent is unfit or incompetent to raise the child.
Indiana law lists these instances where a biological parent’s consent to adoption is not required:
1. The child has been abandoned for six months or more.
2. The parent has failed to communicate meaningfully with the child or to support the child financially.
3. The father denies paternity and/or the child’s paternity has not been legally established.
4. The child was conceived through rape, incest, sexual misconduct with a minor, or child molestation.
5. The putative father’s consent to adoption has been irrevocably implied.
6. Paternity was established after a petition for adoption was filed, or the father failed to register with the Indiana Putative Father Registry.
7. Parental rights have already been relinquished or terminated.
8. A parent is incompetent, unfit, or mentally defective.
9. The child’s custodian or guardian is withholding consent for a reason or reasons that are not in the child’s best interests.
WHAT ARE THE LEADING REASONS FOR ADOPTION WITHOUT A BIOLOGICAL PARENT’S CONSENT?
If you become involved as a prospective adoptive parent in a contested adoption in Indiana, your adoption attorney will probably use one of these nine reasons to explain to the court why the consent of one or both biological parents to the adoption is not required by Indiana law.
In every state, most adoptions without the consent of a biological parent are predominantly the consequence of abandonment, parental unfitness, or failure to support.
Abandonment is easy to explain and prove. If a parent or parents leave a child with a friend, relative, or complete stranger, and if you can prove that the parent or parents have abandoned the child for at least six months, consent by the parent or parents to the adoption is not required.
WHAT CONSTITUTES PARENTAL UNFITNESS?
Indiana law provides that “if a petitioner for adoption provides by clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit to be a parent; and the best interests of the child sought to be adopted would be served if the court dispensed with the parent’s consent,” the adoption may proceed.
However, Indiana law provides no definition of “unfitness”; nevertheless, unfitness can be demonstrated by a parent’s inability to hold a job, drug and/or alcohol issues, history of abuse, criminal convictions, failure to support, and other behavior generally deemed unfit for parents.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A PARENTAL FAILURE TO SUPPORT OR COMMUNICATE?
Adoption without a biological parent’s consent may also be allowed in Indiana because of a parent’s failure to support a child financially or to communicate with a child meaningfully when the parent was “able to do so as required by law or judicial decree” for at least one year.
Prospective adoptive parents should understand that none of the reasons listed here make adoption without a biological parent’s consent automatic in Indiana.
The courts will scrutinize the details of every adoption case, and if your adoption effort is challenged by a biological parent, in some cases, the court may choose to hear that parent’s side of the case.
For instance, if a child is age ten, and if the father did not support the child financially for the first year of the child’s life – but has supported the child financially for the last nine years – a judge will probably rule that the father’s consent for the adoption will be required.
WHAT IS LEGALLY REQUIRED TO ADOPT WITHOUT A BIOLOGICAL PARENT’S CONSENT?
Allowing the adoption of a child without the biological parent’s consent is a serious legal decision for a judge. If prospective adoptive parents contend that a biological parent’s consent to an adoption should not be required, they must prove that contention with convincing evidence.
A child’s biological mother may not execute a consent to adoption before the birth of the child. A biological father, however, may execute a consent to adoption – in writing and in the presence of a notary public – either before or after the birth of the child.
A biological father’s written consent to adoption must include an acknowledgment that the consent is irrevocable and that the father will not be notified of adoption proceedings. If a consent has been signed, the biological father will have no standing to challenge an adoption.
THE OBLIGATIONS OF ADOPTIVE PARENTS
Adoptions in the State of Indiana are permanent. Prospective adoptive parents should understand that when they adopt a child in this state, they are acquiring full legal parental rights to make important decisions regarding the child’s healthcare, education, and overall well-being.
Those who seek to adopt a child in Indiana do not need to be affluent, but they must have the ability to provide a stable environment and a safe home that fosters and enables a child’s physical and psychological health along with the child’s social and educational needs.
If you and your spouse adopt a child together, and if you subsequently legally separate from or divorce your spouse, your legal obligations to that child continue until that child turns age 18.
YOU’LL NEED CAUTION—AND A GOOD ATTORNEY—ON YOUR SIDE
Although adoption is one of the most wonderful events that families can experience. adoption is not for everyone. The emotional, physical, and financial challenges are considerable.
Additionally, prospective adoptive parents must be cautious. Not every adoption agency operates professionally, but a good family law attorney can protect your interests and make sure that every aspect of the adoption is ethical and is compliant with Indiana law.
Let the right Lake County adoption lawyer explain Indiana’s adoption laws and walk you through the complicated legal process. Prospective adoptive parents must have a good family law attorney advising them and protecting their legal rights from the start of the adoption process.