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Adoption in North Carolina

Types of Adoption:

In North Carolina there are many forms of adoption. There is foster care adoption, agency adoption, independent or private adoption, relative placement and adoption, step-parent adoption, surrogacy adoption, and foreign adoption. Each adoption requires different forms, and different steps. However, in all cases there must be parental consent followed by a petition for adoption filed in district court. After the petition is filed, and if there is no opposition to the petition, a hearing will not be required. If the petition for adoption is opposed, then the court will set a date for a hearing no later than 90 days after filing.

Who can be Adopted:

Essentially anyone can be adopted. The process differs for adult adoptions vs. adoptions of a child. For adult adoptions the county departments of social services have no statutory responsibilities, if the child is 12 years or older, they must consent to the adoption.

Who must Consent to the Adoption:

Generally, the consent of biological parents is required for adoption. Consent of biological parents is no longer needed if:

  • parental rights have been terminated by a court;

  • a guardian has been appointed for the child;

  • the putative father has executed a notarized written affidavit denying paternity;

  • a guardian or placement agency determines that consent if being unreasonably withheld; or if

  • the child is over 12 years of age, and there is a finding by the court that it is not in the best interest of the child to require consent from his or her parents, then consent by the biological parents is no longer required.

If a biological parent does not respond in a timely manner after service of notice of the adoption proceeding the court may waive the consent requirement altogether. When giving consent in North Carolina, the biological mother may not legally give consent until after the child’s birth, whereas a man who is required to give consent may do so before or after birth. Biological parents under the age of 18 may give consent as if they were legally an adult with the capacity to enter into a contract. Still, parents may legally revoke their consent within 7 days of signing away parental rights.

Who can File for Adoption:

In North Carolina, any adult over the age of 18 may adopt another person. Nevertheless, they must have (1) lived in North Carolina for at least 6 consecutive months prior to filings or (2) they must be domiciled in North Carolina. In North Carolina, one spouse with the consent of the other may file for adoption. However, legally married spouses cannot adopt each other. If you are unmarried, only you may file the adoption papers.

By and large, when the biological parents give up or terminate their rights through adoption to other parents, the biological grandparents’ rights terminate along with the biological parents’ rights. Therefore, the grandparents no longer have any rights to visitation of the child. Prior to adoption, Grandparents may modify a custody order, so long as proper evidence is provided that the child’s home or school life has shifted, and the biological parents are no longer fit. Generally, biological grandparents have very little rights. The child’s biological parents, if competent, can limit or deny the grandparents visitation rights. However, if the child’s biological parents are not married, grandparents may be able to assert their rights through guardianship.

Adoptions can be tricky but we are here to help!

Adoption is a wonderful thing. The most important piece is making sure the best interests of the child are protected and carried out. We are here to answer any questions you may have regarding this family law matter.

About the Author.

Sarah Mills is a second-year law student

at Campbell University School of Law.

Sarah is a Peer Mentor for the incoming

1L class, the Pro Bono Teen Court Project

Managing Partner, a semi-finalist for the

1L Kilpatrick Mock trial Competition, and

winner of the best advocate award.


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