DIFFICULTY: Legal assistance may be required
Initial Filing Fee: $150
Michigan provides one of the most innovative adoption processes in the country, and unlike many other states you do not need to go through an adoption agency in order to being the process. This does not mean, however, that adoption agencies are not a viable resource for any parties looking to adopt one or more children. One of the things that set Michigan apart from other states is that a child may be placed in a adoptive family’s home before the rights of the biological parents have been terminated, as long as it is right after birth. This is referred to as a temporary placement, and it is part of the state’s ongoing goal to place children as quickly as possible. Additionally, biological parents are able to make a direct placement of their child, meaning that they can personally select the adopting parent and consent to the adoption by a relative, an unrelated individual, or a couple. These parents have the option to enlist an adoption facilitator, such as an attorney or an agency, but they are not required to do so by law. Thus, adoption in Michigan is quite straightforward, governed in full by the Family Court, and always places the best interest of a child first. In cases where an adoptee’s parents, or father, do not wish for the child to be adopted, however, it is advisable to contact an attorney to guide you through the process.
Step 1: Identify a Child to Adopt
Once you have made the decision that you would like to adopt a child, the first step is to locate and identify a child you would like to welcome into your family. There are several options for doing this. You may work with parents directly, including those that you are unrelated to, to place the child in your care; work with an adoption agency in the state to find a child within the state; work with parents and an attorney to adopt a child from another state or country; or adopt an consenting adult to make them your legal heir. Once you select a child or children you would like to adopt, you may move forward with the official processes. Keep in mind, however, that many agencies can and will conduct a thorough check of your parental qualifications, including home visits, background checks, and financial investigations. Individual agencies can tell you more about their processes, but be prepared for a significant number of questions, forms, and tests just to get to a point where you can begin the legal adoption process.
Step 2: Petition the Court
Once you select who you would like to adopt, you need to petition the court. This petition must be filed in the Family Court of the county where the child is found or where you, the adoptive parents, reside. There may be additional forms necessary, depending on the specific case, at which point the clerk of the court or a judge will direct you towards the appropriate forms you need to fill out in addition to the petition.
Step 3: Consent to the Adoption
Along with the petition, prospective adoptive parents will also have to submit a consent form signed by the parent, guardian, child placing agency, a court of the DHS, or the adoptee them self in the case of adult adoption. The decision on which form to use depends on who possess legal rights and custody of the child or children in question.
Step 4: Court Investigation
Following the submission of the petition and consent forms, the court will order an investigation to assure that the best interest of the adoptee will be protected in the adoption. The investigation will vary from case to case, depending on the situation, but overall will mirror the sort of investigation conducted by a placement agency. Once the investigation is complete, the investigator will issue a report and an order terminating the right of the parent, child placement agency, court, or the Department of Human Services. The adoptee then becomes a ward of the court and is released into the custody of the adopting party.
Step 5: Supervision and Monitoring
During the first six months of the placement, either a child placement agency or an agent of the Family Court or Department of Human Services will meet with the adoptive family and the adoptee to see how they are all fitting in to their new situation. They will conduct home visits as well as question all parties involved from time to time to see if the child’s best interest are maintained. If they find that the child’s best interests are upheld in their new placement, then after that six month period they will move forward with the adoption.
Step 6: Conclude Adoption
Once the investigating agent finds that the child’s best interests are upheld in their adoptive home, the court will enter and order of adoption and a new birth certificate will be issued for the adoptee if necessary. At this point, the process is concluded and the adoptive party receives full custody and rights in relation to the adoptee.