|Posted on November 30, 2015 at 9:00 AM|
This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, and it is imperative to note that each situation is unique. The circumstances surrounding a particular adoption significantly contribute to the timeframe expected for finalization of that adoption. This blog is intended to provide general information regarding an "ordinary" non-contested adoption in Ohio.
1. When Should I Retain an Attorney?
As early as possible. If this is an independent (non-agency) adoption, paperwork will need to be drafted and possibly filed before the child is born/before placement may be made. Having an attorney who works exclusively for you throughout the process increases your clarity, confidence and comfort throughout the placement process. Some agencies notify adoptive parents from the very start that they will need to retain counsel; however, other agencies do not always provide this notice early into the process. It is important to understand that in Ohio, the attorneys who represents the agency and the birth mother do NOT represent the adoptive parents. It is likely that legal questions will arise throughout the placement process, so having access to your own attorney around the time that a match is made ensures that you have someone who represents you only that you can contact with any questions or concerns. Additionally, due to the promptness in which documentation needs to be requested, organized, drafted and filed, the process tends to run more smoothly if an attorney is involved early on.
2. How Do I Choose an Adoption Attorney?
This is a very important question. See the prior blog post for things to consider in hiring an attorney. You can do a search of experienced adoption attorneys by state here: http://www.adoptionattorneys.org/aaaa/home.
3. I Chose My Attorney, Now What?
Once you select your adoption attorney, you will need to go through the preliminary aspects (i.e. sign formal Agreement(s), complete Intake paperwork, etc.). This allows the attorney to get everything in place to request the necessary paperwork from other offices and draft the pleadings. If it is an independent Ohio adoption, the attorney may need to draft and file PrePlacement paperwork with the appropriate probate court. Sometimes, in an infant adoption, the probate court wishes to meet with the birth parent(s) before the baby's birth. At least 72 hours after undergoing an assessment and at least 72 hours after the birth of the baby, the birth/legal parent(s) will need to go to the Court for a Consent Hearing to consent to the adoption, if the adoption will be finalized in Ohio. If it is an agency adoption, however, a Permanent Surrender may be signed outside of Court and thus a Court appearance is not required. The process changes if it is an interstate adoption.
4. How Do I Know My "Placement" Date?
The Placement date varies by the circumstances surrounding your adoption. If you live out of the state from where the baby was born, the ICPC approval date is the date of your placement (the date you receive permission to travel home). If ICPC was not necessary in your situation, your Placement date is the date the Court or agency legally placed the child into your home, which may or may not be the same date the Consent/Surrender was signed by the birth parent(s). If you are a step-parent seeking to adopt a step-child, the Placement date is the date of your married the the legal parent of the child you wish to adopt. If you hold legal custody or guardianship of the child(ren) whom you are seeking to adopt, the date you were granted legal custody/guardianship is your placement date.
5. When Will the Attorney File the Petition for Adoption?
The Petition for Adoption should be filed as soon as possible, but that varies based upon your situation, as well as the county in which you will be finalizing the adoption. As a general answer for an "ordinary" non-contested adoption, the Ohio Revised Code Section 3107.051 requests that the Petition for Adoption be filed within ninety (90) days of placement.
6. When Is My Hearing?
The attorney has obtained the necessary documentation, drafted the pleadings, which you signed, and is filing in the appropriate probate court. Some courts will schedule the hearing the day the Petition is filed and other courts take 1-2 weeks to schedule the hearing after the Petition is filed. The attorney will continue to file documentation up to the point of the hearing. If you have an independent adoption, your Interlocutory Hearing can be no sooner than thirty-one (31) days after placement. For a final hearing, the hearing can be no sooner than six (6) months after placement. The Court's docket will impact the timing, but the goal is to schedule these hearings for as soon as possible after these timeframes.
7. What Happens at the Hearing?
The Magistrate/Judge will need the Petitioner(s) and the Adoptee(s) to appear for a hearing. The Magistrate/Judge will have already had an opportunity to review the Court file in preparation for the hearing and will therefore ask questions to determine whether the adoption is appropriate. If all paperwork has been filed timely, the case is not litigated, all necessary consents have been filed or are not required and the court determines it is in the child(ren)’s best interest for the adoption to proceed, the adoption may be granted at the hearing! Some courts will take the matter under advisement and your ruling will be received by mail following the hearing, so be sure to ask your attorney what to expect at the hearing.
8. When Will I Get my Child's New Birth Certificate?
The Adoption Certificate for Parents, which you should receive along with the Final Decree of Adoption once the adoption is granted, acts as a temporary birth certificate. The new birth certificate should not be requested until at least 5-6 weeks after the hearing to provide the State with adequate time to update the records.
9. How Do I Obtain a Social Security Card for the Child?
Once the new, certified birth certificate arrives, you need to take it to the Social Security Administration Office for a social security card to be issued. If your child(ren) had a social security number already assigned, you can request a new number be assigned due to the adoption. (Sometimes you have to be assertive to get a new number assigned.)
10. If I Wish to Adopt Again, Can I Use the Same Homestudy?
Yes, as long as you completed an update to reflect your adoption. Additionally, keep in mind that a homestudy only lasts for two years. Thus, an update will be required prior to the two year anniversary or you may have to start back at the beginning! Additionally, even if the homestudy is not expired, keep in mind that the court may require updated fingerprints and medical evaluations for your adoption.
11. Can I Use a JFS Homestudy for a Private Adoption?
If you have an active foster-to-adopt homestudy, it should have been prepared on the same State-required form that private agencies use. Therefore, regardless of whether a public or private agency completed your homestudy, it can be used. However, some agencies have policies that prevent them from releasing the homestudy for a private adoption. Most agencies that are willing to release a homestudy do charge a fee. Speaking with your social worker should help you to learn the policy of your agency.
Please keep in mind that every adoption is unique and has its own set of facts that can alter the answer to any of these questions. This blog is not intended to provide legal advice but is merely intended to provide you with a general overview of the non-contested adoption process in Ohio. Please contact Ginn Law Office, LLC to discuss the specifics of your unique situation!