DIFFICULTY: Legal help required
Initial Filing Fee: $442 (variation by county)
In the state of Florida, adoption is legal for any capable adult of good character, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status.
There are four types of adoption in Florida: entity adoption (an agency or intermediary facilitated adoption), step-parent adoption, close relative adoption, and adult adoption. Each type of adoption has a unique procedure, and all require the payment of a filing fee of $442. Entity adoption is the only variety in which prospective adoptees cannot be adopted immediately upon the birth parent’s consent. In all cases, adoption requires that the birth parents give up claim to the child, either willingly or via court order, with Form 12.981(a)(1).
Step 1: File Petition for Adoption
File a petition for adoption with the county clerk, in the county where you and the child live and pay your filing fee. If you are unsure which county to file in, ask the clerk for clarification. Florida does not provide free legal forms for all adoption processes, because most are complicated enough to require the use of a lawyer or adoption agency. However, for stepparent adoptions, there are free forms the Florida courts provide fill out to begin the adoption process. The petition to file for step-parent adoption is below. For other types of adoption, file your petition through your lawyer or adoption agency.
Step 2: Prepare For Your Court Hearing
Review the requirements you must meet for you type of adoption before attending your adoption court hearing, assigned by the county clerk. For step-parent, close relative, and adult adoption, this will include proper filing of your petition and ensuring that you have proof of the biologic parent’s consent to abandon their parental rights. For entity adoptions, you will need to complete one of two state-required adoption training courses, Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) or Parents’ Resources for Information Development Education (PRIDE). Entity adoptions also require that a social worker conducts a home study, to determine whether your house is a suitable environment for your adopted child. Your adoption agency or lawyer will help you schedule and complete these entity adoption requirements. Step-parent, close relative, and adult adoption proceedings do not require completion of the home study or adoption training courses.
Step 3: Court Hearing
Attend your assigned court hearing with necessary paperwork and parties present. In Florida, that paperwork will include written consent from the birth mother and birth father, written consent from the adoptee if they are older than 12 years old, and, when required, written proof that the adoptive parent(s) have successfully completed a home study and parental training course. At this time, the judge will make a decision regarding the adoption. If the biologic parent(s) have not yet signed a consent to termination of parental rights, they can do so with Form 12.981(a)(1) Stepparent Adoption: Consent and Waiver by Parent. You can find the link for Form 12.981(a)(1) below.