Helping families in York, Lancaster, and Chester Counties grow and move forward
There are few experiences more exciting or fulfilling than watching your family grow. Protecting the legal interests of those seeking to adopt a minor child through an agency, individual, marriage, or family adoption is my honor – and one of the greatest joys of my role as a family law attorney.
Communication is key when acting as an intermediary between birth parents or agencies, and prospective adoptive parents. I'm thrilled to be a positive part of the rewarding process of helping children and families come together. Whether you are seeking an open or closed adoption, you can feel secure that my decades of experience will help streamline the process, so you can begin your new life together as soon as possible. Call Holland Law in Fort Mill or Rock Hill today to get started.
What does an adoption attorney do?
Adoption attorneys play a crucial role in the legal process of bringing another couple's child into your family. In addition to serving as an advocate for birth parents and prospective adoptive parents, your attorney will prepare and file all required legal documents, and guide you along the process by representing you at hearings and proceedings.
It can be an emotionally charged time for those on either side of the process, so having an intermediary who understands those feelings and fears can help ease some of the stress. It is my job to help you and your family though the process, and to smooth out as many wrinkles as possible.
Types of adoption
There are many different types of families, and many types of adoptions. The goal is to find the best possible route for you, the children, and (potentially) the biological parents.
This adoption style permits mutual contact between the birth parents and adoptive parents before, during, and after the child's birth. Your attorney negotiates that level of contact, so everyone feels secure and heard. It can be as little as sharing photos and progress updates or as much as allowing the birth parent(s) to participate in the child's life. Determining the proper level of involvement or contact should be based on what's in the child's best interest.
This level of adoption will be limited to communication through the adoption agency or attorney to exchange more general information related to the child. This provides both sides with important information, while reducing the amount of contact between all people.
This form of adoption prohibits contact between the birth parents, the child, and his or her new family.
Due to the complex emotions involved, you need an attorney who can anticipate challenges before they arise, and minimize the risks. Regardless of the adoption route you are considering, as your adoption attorney, I will fully advise you on each form to alleviate any concerns about your choice.
What prospective adoptive parents should expect
Adoption in “real life” is not like the movies. There are a lot of steps to take, because the state and any agencies involved want to ensure that you and the child will be a good fit. As such, you need to be prepared, and you need to put in the work.
A home study will be conducted on each person living in the prospective adoptive household. These studies are done to ensure proper placement of a child. The investigation will include everything from finances, to physical and mental health of the adoptive parents, to any allegations of prior abuse or neglect of any child. Thorough criminal background checks will be conducted, including of the sex offender registry. The state will ensure that you have a safe home, a steady job, and health insurance.
A child may be temporarily placed into the home of the prospective adoptive parents pending the outcome of the home study. In the case of step-parent adoptions, however, a home study is not required unless the court orders one.
Once all requirements under the law have been met, you will need to return to court one final time to have the adoption finalized. Having a knowledgeable attorney who is educated in all facets of adoption law will minimize any errors that can create delays in the adoption process.
Birth parent rights in Fort Mill, Rock Hill, and throughout the state
I understand the difficult decision that lies ahead for birth parents looking at adoption as an option for giving your child a wonderful life. No matter your reasons, I will ensure that you fully understand your rights during the process so that you are certain of your decision. The important thing is that you are concerned about what's in your child's best interest, and want to be sure you are making the right choice.
Understanding the adoption process, the decisions you will have control over, and which form of adoption is right for you are all paramount to ensuring the right fit between prospective parents and birth parents. Call me to learn how I can help you get started.
Rights of birth mothers
Birth mothers must consent to an adoption in South Carolina, which relinquishes her parental rights. This means the birth mother cannot change her mind about giving up her child for adoption so it's extremely important that she make sure adoption is the right path for her and her child. However, she does have the right to change her mind up until the time that she signs the consent form no matter how far you are into the process.
Birth mothers do have limited circumstances that may allow them to revoke their consent to adoption. Under South Carolina law, a birth mother who has consented by fraud, duress or coercion has two years to file a withdrawal of consent. After the two year mark has expired, the only avenue a birth parent has is to show the revocation is in the best interest of the child.
Rights of birth fathers
Paternity issues may come into play with adoption. Birth fathers are required to receive notice of and consent to the adoption, which can sometimes prove to be a little more challenging when his location is unknown. If the birth father has had no contact with the birth mother and has left the Fort Mill, Rock Hill or Lancaster areas, an additional procedure will be required to provide the proper notice in an attempt to obtain legal consent to the adoption.
Under S.C. Code Section 63-9-820 (C), any unmarried birth father has the right to file a claim of paternity with the Responsible Father Registry through the Department of Social Services. Filing a claim preserves the father's right to notice of an adoption proceeding or of a petition for termination of parental rights.
A claim of paternity may be filed before or after the child's birth, but to be valid it must be filed prior to the filing of a petition for termination of parental rights or a petition for adoption. A signed claim of paternity may only be filed by the birth father and must include all of the following:
- Father's name, address, and date of birth
- Mother's name and, if known, her address and date of birth
- The child's name, place of birth, and date of birth, if known
- The date, county, and state of conception of the child, if known
- The date the claim is filed
Whether an unmarried birth father is aware of the mother's pregnancy does not excuse his responsibility for filing a claim of paternity. Failure to file the claim means he no longer has any right to notification of an action for adoption or termination of parental rights, leaving no ability to contest the action to stop it.
Requesting a name change
While the birth mother and/or father has the option of naming the child on the original birth certificate, there's typically a point where the adoptive parent(s) need to go through the process of changing the child's full name, if not at least his or her last name.
Name changes are done by the adoptive parent(s) petitioning the court. A guardian ad litem will be appointed to the child and if the court finds the name change is in the child's best interest, the request will be granted.
You can discuss this process in full with your family law attorney to ensure a seamless transition.
Families come in all forms and sizes today, and my goal is to help parents and children realize their dream of becoming part of one. No child should go through life feeling like they're missing a part of themselves because they haven't been able to find where they fit in. No parent at heart should miss out on the opportunity to raise and nurture a child.
Educated legal support for families throughout Fort Mill and Rock Hill
At Holland Law, my goal is to make families whole by guiding them through the adoption and name change process. To learn more about the legal steps involved in an adoption or name change in York, Lancaster, or Chester County, schedule your consultation in either my Fort Mill office on Gold Hill Road, or in my Rock Hill office on Oakland Avenue, by calling 803-590-8170, or reach out to me through my contact page to tell me your story.