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Oklahoma Adoption Attorneys

Adoption in Oklahoma is an extensive legal process that can be challenging for potential adoptive parents, especially if they are navigating the system for the first time. 

Whether you are a stepparent adopting your spouse's child, a grandparent adopting your grandchildren, or a single person or couple adopting an unrelated child, you need to understand how the Oklahoma adoption process works. 

An adoption attorney can assist you in reaching the end goal of having your new family altogether. 

Using an adoption attorney almost always costs less than using a private adoption agency. Potential adoptive parents will still be responsible for paying costs, such as filing fees, home study fees, court costs, birth mother fees (if applicable), and legal costs.  Attorneys may be willing to work out a payment plan for legal fees as well.

An adoption attorney has one client: the adopting parent(s). That means 100% of their focus is on protecting and advancing the adopting parents' best interests, not the interests of an agency or the birth mother. 

Agencies, on the other hand, are challenged with juggling all those interests which may come at the adopting parents' expense.

Private adoption agencies may also have strict requirements and turn down potential adoptive parents for numerous reasons. An adoption attorney can work with anyone legally eligible to adopt. 

 
 

Like most states, Oklahoma has extensive adoption requirements, which are intended to ensure adopted children go to safe homes with parents who can meet their needs. The downside is that adopting parents have a long process ahead of them, from the time the adoption petition is filed to when the judge grants the final adoption decree.

The process begins when the adopting parents file an adoption petition/application in a court with proper jurisdiction. The application requires adopting parents to disclose information about their family living situation, finances, age, and lifestyle.

Let us make the process easier 

Like most states, Oklahoma has extensive adoption requirements. These ensure adopted children go to safe homes with parents who can meet their needs. 

The process typically goes like this: 

1)      Adopting parents file an adoption petition and termination application in a court with proper jurisdiction. The documents require adopting parents to disclose specific information. 

 
2)    The next step is sometimes a home study. A social worker visits the home and observes family life and checks the applicants' backgrounds and references. This step is quite thorough and may include child welfare check, medical examinations, income verification, interviews with family members and more. 

3)    Oklahoma has a mandatory six-month waiting period before an adoption can be finalized unless waived by the judge. 

It should be noted that there are specific Oklahoma statutes related to the voluntary relinquishment/ termination of the birth mother or father's parental rights.

 

Related and Unrelated Adoption:

 
Related adoption is the most common type of adoption in Oklahoma. In these cases, the adopting parent(s) is related to the child by blood or marriage, such as a stepparent or grandparent.

And as the name suggests, the adopting parent(s) in an unrelated adoption are not related, by blood or marriage, to the adoptive child. 

What are the legal effects of adoption? 

 
·      For adoptive parents, adoption is a lifetime commitment. They must provide the child with a permanent home and meet the child's mental, physical, and educational needs. 

 
·      Once adopted, the child is legally treated the same as if they were the adoptive parent's natural child. The adopted child has the right to inherit their adoptive parent's property and vice versa.

Adopting internationally

There are additional steps to complete for finalizing an international adoption in Oklahoma. It's also important to note that each country has different requirements, travel restrictions, and costs for adoption, so keep that in mind when researching countries from which you may want to adopt.

In most cases, adopting parents must complete a home study with a social worker trained and licensed in accordance with The Hague Convention standards. Once this home study is complete, the adopting parents must be verified as eligible to adopt by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); this verification process varies based on whether the country is a Hague Convention country or a Non-Hague Convention country.

For Hague Convention countries, adopting parents submit the adoption dossier, completed Oklahoma international home study, and Form 1-800 if they have already been matched with a child, or form 1-800A if they have not yet been matched. Adoption eligibility is valid for 15 months for Hague Convention countries.

For Non-Hague Convention countries, adopting parents submit the adoption dossier, Oklahoma international home study, and Form 1-600 if they have been matched with a child, or form 1-600A if they have not yet been matched. Adoption eligibility is valid for 18 months for Non-Hague Convention countries.

USCIS sends the adoption dossier and forms to the other country's adoption department, and then the other country repeats the process to confirm that the adopting parents meet that country's adoption requirements.

Once the adopting parents are deemed eligible by both countries, they must repeat the process with USCIS and the other country's adoption department to determine whether the child is eligible for adoption. Once this is complete, the adopting parents can apply for the child's travel visa by filing Form DS-260 with the other country's adoption department.

One or both of the adopting parents then travel to the child's country, where they should plan on remaining for anywhere from one to four weeks while the U.S. and the other country prepare the adoption paperwork. Please note, some countries require the adopting parents to stay in the country for up to a year.

The adoption is finalized when the adoptive parents return to Oklahoma and complete the adoption finalization. Although the adoption is legally finalized in the other country, adoptive parents can and should readopt in Oklahoma to protect their child's U.S. citizenship and prevent future legal complications. Once re-adoption in Oklahoma is finalized, the international adoption process is complete.

What about international adoption? 
There are additional steps to complete for finalizing an international adoption in Oklahoma. Each country has different requirements, travel restrictions, and costs for adoption, so keep that in mind when researching countries from which you may want to adopt.

-       Adopting parents must complete a home study with a social worker trained and licensed in accordance with The Hague Convention (link here) standards

-       Once this home study is complete, the adopting parents must be verified as eligible to adopt by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); this verification process varies based on whether the country is a Hague Convention country or a Non-Hague Convention country. 

Hague vs Non-Hague Convention Countries 

 
For Hague Convention countries, adopting parents submit the adoption dossier, completed Oklahoma international home study, and Form 1-800 if they have already been matched with a child, or form 1-800A if they have not yet been matched. Adoption eligibility is valid for 15 months for Hague Convention countries.
For Non-Hague Convention countries, adopting parents submit the adoption dossier, Oklahoma international home study, and Form 1-600 if they have been matched with a child, or form 1-600A if they have not yet been matched. Adoption eligibility is valid for 18 months for Non-Hague Convention countries.
USCIS sends the adoption dossier and forms to the other country's adoption department. The other country repeats the process to confirm that the adopting parents meet that country's adoption requirements.

Once the adopting parents are deemed eligible by both countries, they must repeat the process with USCIS and the other country's adoption department to determine whether the child is eligible for adoption. 

The adopting parents can then apply for the child's travel visa by filing Form DS-260 with the other country's adoption department. 

Parents should plan on remaining in the child's country for anywhere from one to four weeks while the U.S. and the other country prepare the adoption paperwork. Some countries require the adopting parents to stay in the country for up to a year. 
The adoption is finalized when the adoptive parents return to Oklahoma and complete the adoption finalization. Although the adoption is legally finalized in the other country, parents should readopt in Oklahoma to protect their child's U.S. citizenship. 
 

Adopting a Native American Child in Oklahoma 

The federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was enacted in 1978 to protect children of Native American descent because they were being removed from their homes and placed for adoption more frequently than children of other races, causing Native American children to lose their culture.

ICWA applies when a Native American child is placed for adoption. 

Prior to the adoption process, birth parents must provide whether their child is of Native American descent. If so, Oklahoma law specifies placement preferences in the following order: 

Option 1) Placement with a member of the child's extended family

Option 2) A member of the child's tribe 

Option 3) Placement with another Native American family of another tribe

ICWA also gives the child's tribe the authority to intervene in the process and select the placement option they feel best meets the child's needs. 

Other factors that can change circumstances: 

-       Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) may seek to modify placement preference based on the request of the biological parents

-       the request of the child, when of age to “understand” the decision

-        the needs of the child

-       unavailability of placement with a Native American family

Native American child can be adopted into a non-Native American home if a suitable Native American home cannot be located for the child. However, non-Native American adopting parents should be aware that the biological parents or the child's tribe can intervene at any point in the adoption process

The tribe also has rights independent of the biological parents and can request that the adoption proceedings be moved to tribal court. 
 

When is biological parental consent not required? 

 
In some adoption cases, the biological parent does not have to consent to the adoption. These circumstances include the following.

  • The biological parent is deceased
  • For 12 consecutive months of the 14 months before the adoption petition, the biological parent willfully refused or neglected to support the child, including maintaining a substantial relationship with the child
  • The biological parent abandoned the child
  • The biological parent's rights to the child have been relinquished or legally terminated 
  • The child has remained at a licensed childcare facility for at least 18 months, and the biological parent has failed to comply with a written plan of care for 12 of the 14 months before the adoption petition
  • The biological parent failed to appear at the adoption hearing or waived their rights to notice of the hearing in writing
  • The biological parent was convicted of sexually molesting the child or the child's sibling, or failed to protect the child or the child's sibling from sexual molestation
  • The biological parent has been sentenced to incarceration for at least 10 years, and continuing the parent-child relationship would harm the child
  • When a child is placed for adoption within 90 days of birth and the putative (presumed) father failed to prove that he had exercised his parental rights by supporting the child or supporting the mother to the best of his financial ability during her pregnancy
  • When a child is placed for adoption within 14 months of birth and the putative father failed to exercise his parental rights toward the child, including failing to financially support the child to the best of his ability
  • When the putative father failed to prove that he was the biological father of the child

A Criminal Record Can Impact Eligibility

Persons with felony convictions are not automatically disqualified from adopting in Oklahoma. The social worker who conducts the home study shares the report with the Court, and the parties discuss the circumstances of the case. However, if the felony conviction was for child abuse, child neglect, child pornography, domestic violence, or sexual assault, it is unlikely that the applicants will be deemed eligible to adopt.
 

Hire an Experienced Oklahoma Adoption Attorney

Our family adoption attorneys at Worden & Carbitcher can guide you through the process, representing your rights and fighting for your best interests. 

Contact Worden & Carbitcher today to schedule a free consultation at 405-360-8036. 

Download our "Helpful Guide to Oklahoma Adoptions" eBook for a more extensive overview: 

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