Experienced Family Lawyers Facilitate Adoptions in Rolla, MO
Trustworthy guidance through every step of the adoption process
If you have decided to welcome a child into your home with an adoption, the experienced family law attorneys at Williams, Robinson, Rigler & Buschjost, P.C. in Rolla, Missouri are ready to help. An adoption is a loving act and should be an occasion for great joy, but the process can be frustrating, especially without reliable legal guidance. We have more than a century of combined experience in South-Central Missouri and are determined to make every step easier for you as we work toward a successful conclusion.
Requirements for a legal adoption in Missouri
Any adult or married couple can adopt in Missouri as long as they comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. The adoptive individual or family does not have to have Missouri residency. The state’s laws do not bar adoption based on LGBT status. A felony conviction is not necessarily a bar to adoption. A prospective adoptive parent or couple must complete a home study and go through the approval process to adopt.
The child must be available for adoption. This means both parents must consent to having their parental rights terminated, or a court must order termination over their objection. A birth mother may consent 48 hours after giving birth. A birth father may consent at any time. If the child is 14 years of age or older, the child’s consent to the adoption is also required.
If a pregnant mother offers the child for adoption in advance of delivery, Missouri law allows the adoptive parents to pay for pregnancy-related expenses, including medical costs for the birth mother, counseling, legal fees and living expenses.
If parents in Missouri adopt a child born and residing in another state, the adoption must comply with that state’s laws and relevant provisions of the Interstate Compact. If the child belongs to a Native American tribe or Alaskan Native village the Indian Child Welfare Act may apply. Finally, international adoptions must follow the laws of the child’s country and Missouri’s.
How to start the adoption process in Missouri
Where you begin depends on what type of adoption you are planning. Your options include:
- Private agency adoption
- Independent adoption
- Stepparent adoption
- Public agency or foster care adoption
- International adoption
Domestic adoption, meaning you plan to adopt an American child, involves the following steps:
- Finding a child — You may already know the child you want to adopt, or you may need assistance locating a child. Prospective parents seek help from an adoption agency, a Rolla family law attorney, the foster care system, friends, physicians, advertisements, church and the internet. Missouri law allows prospective parents to advertise for a child.
- Home study — State law requires the prospective parents to undergo a formal assessment known as a home study to evaluate the environment the child would be living in. This can take six to eight weeks.
- Background assessment of birth parents and child — State law mandates that birth parents and their child undergo assessments of their physical health, medical histories and social backgrounds. The report goes to the adoptive parents, but birth parents can request confidentiality as regards identifying information.
- Relinquishment of birth parents’ parental rights — Birth parents may give up their parental rights voluntarily or, in extreme cases, lose their rights after a court proceeding finds them to be unfit. For an unwed mother, it is very important to make reasonable efforts to provide notice to the father and gain consent prior to the adoption.
- Receiving the child — The child is placed with the adoptive parents for a temporary period of six months before a court can finalize the adoption. During this time, the agency performing the home study provides ongoing supervision. In some instances, the court appoints a guardian ad litem to look after the child’s best interests during this period. At this time, the adoptive parents have rights under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Finalizing the adoption — After the temporary placement, the adoptive parents appear for a court hearing. When the judge grants the adoption, the adoptive parents have the same parental rights as if the child had been born to them.
With stepparent adoptions and many foster care adoptions, the child is already living in the home with the prospective parents, but a home study is still required.
International adoptions must adhere to the host nation’s laws, but you must still follow U.S. immigration laws, starting with a federal form I-600A that you submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. USCIS will arrange for you to be fingerprinted and for your home study. Missouri recognizes any valid overseas adoption, so you do not have to readopt your child within the state. However, many countries require a home study after you return with the child and for you to submit child status updates for the first years.