While adopting a child is a beautiful thing, the process can be stressful and confusing for prospective parents. Whether you are attempting to adopt a family member or are seeking to adopt a child that is unrelated to you, an experienced adoption attorney can streamline and simplify the process. If you are seeking an adoption in Oklahoma, the experienced adoption attorneys at the Worden Law Firm are prepared to guide you through the process.
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The Oklahoma Adoption Process
The process for adopting a child under Oklahoma law depends in part on the type of adoption that is taking place. There are, generally speaking, two types of child adoptions in Oklahoma:
Related Adoption: By far the most common of the two, related adoption occurs when at least one of the adopting parents has a blood or marital relationship with the child. This can include adoptions by grandparents and other relatives. However, most related adoptions involve stepparent adoptions.
Unrelated Adoption: Less common are unrelated adoptions. Unrelated adoptions occur when the adopting person or persons are completely unrelated to the child. In most cases, unrelated adoptions are handled through adoption agencies or adoption attorneys.
While the requirements that must be met vary greatly between the two types of adoption, the process is generally the same. If there are birth parents that still have parental rights to the child, they must either consent to the adoption or have their rights terminated before the adoption can proceed. Once that is done, the court must enter a final order formalizing the adoption.
Consent of the Birth Parents
In both types of adoptions, the simplest way to proceed involves the biological parents consenting to the adoption. If both biological parents agree to terminate their parental rights and consent to the adoption, the process will be considerably shorter. Every adoption is different -- while some parents are prepared to consent to an adoption, others are not.
Termination of Parental Rights
If a biological parent refuses to consent to the adoption, the only other option is to have their rights terminated through a court order. There are limited circumstances under which an Oklahoma court may terminate the parental rights of a biological parent without their consent. This includes when the parent abandons the child, fails to provide for the child, or fails to maintain a positive relationship with the child for 12 of the previous 14 months.
There is no need to seek a court order terminating parental rights in cases where those rights have been previously terminated or where the birth parent is no longer living. The termination of parental rights can be a contentious issue that requires a court hearing; it is highly recommended to hire an experienced Oklahoma adoption attorney for this process.
Final Orders in an Oklahoma Adoption
Once the parental rights of the biological parents are no longer at issue, all that is left is for the judge in your case to finalize the adoption. This requires a hearing in front of the judge where your attorney will ask you a series of questions regarding fulfilling the requirements of the adoption. If the judge is convinced that the requirements were met, he or she will enter a final order that formally grants you parental rights to your adopted child.
The Requirements to Adopt in Oklahoma
The requirements for adoption vary greatly depending on which type of adoption you are pursuing. Generally speaking, unrelated adoptions have far more requirements than related adoptions, which makes sense considering the fact that the child will most likely have already formed a bond with the adopting family member in a related adoption.
For unrelated adoptions, you must be at least 21 years old. If you are adopting with a spouse, both adoptive parents must be at least 21 years of age. There is a six-month waiting period for an adoption to be finalized, and the adopting parents must complete a home study. You will also be required to complete parenting classes.
In related adoptions, there are no requirements for home studies or parenting classes. The waiting period may also be waived. However, in the case of stepparent adoption, the stepparent must be married to the child's biological parent for at least 1 year before being granted a related adoption.
The Legal Effects of Adoption
Once an adoption has been finalized, you will have the same rights as a biological parent. You are required to provide a permanent home for your child as well as commit to supporting them until adulthood. This requires more than just financial support; you are required to support the child mentally, physically, and emotionally as well. You will have a legal say in the decisions regarding the health and education of the child. Your child will also inherit property from you like a biological child if you pass away without a will.
Changing a Child's Last Name / Surname After Adoption
The process for changing the last name, or surname, of your adopted child is the same whether you are proceeding with a related adoption or an unrelated adoption. Your attorney will submit the requested name change to the judge at the final hearing during the adoption. Your final adoption order should reflect that the child's name has been legally changed.
A copy of the order is sent to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, who will replace the original birth certificate with a new copy reflecting the new surname. The Department of Health will then update state records as needed. If your adopted child was born in a different state, the Department of Health will forward the order to that state so that their records can be updated.
An Experienced Oklahoma Adoption Attorney Can Simplify the Process
Adopting a child in Oklahoma is an enormous undertaking, and not something you should do without help. The family adoption attorneys at the Worden Law Firm are ready to help guide you through the adoption process. When you rely on their legal experience, you can focus solely on building your new family. Contact the Worden Law Firm today to set up your consultation with an experienced Oklahoma adoption attorney.