Stepparent adoptions are fairly straightforward, yet sometimes families want an attorney to handle it for them. (What is easy for someone who’s been through the process many times appears daunting to someone unfamiliar with the ins and outs. Like me trying to replace the brake pads on my car–I hire it out.) The Utah Courts website www.utcourts.gov has a handy checklist to guide parents through the process and lots of information about stepparent adoption. Read through this checklist first to get an idea of what will be involved in the case.
In this blog, I will presume that the petitioner is the child’s stepfather. Here are the primary requirements/steps in a stepparent adoption case:
1. Determine if the child is an “Indian Child.” If the child is a registered member of a federally-recognized tribe, then I recommend contacting an attorney because you’ll need to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
2. Determine whether the child’s biological father is willing to relinquish his parental rights and consent to his child being adopted by the child’s stepfather. The typical case involves a biological father who has shown little or no interest in caring for his child.
3. Have the biological father sign a Waiver and Consent before a notary. He should send it back to you so you can file it as an exhibit in the case.
4. Get a background check done by the Division of Child & Family Services (DCFS) by submitting a Utah Child Abuse Central Registry Request to DCFS. (Instructions are on the form.) This request is free, and usually DCFS responds within a few days. Submit this completed form as an exhibit in the case.
5. If the child’s biological father is not on the birth certificate or is unknown, have a paternity search done. Follow the steps on the Utah Vital Records website. Submit the paternity search report as an exhibit in the adoption case.
Obtain a Utah Criminal History Report from the Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and submit it as an exhibit in the case. You do this by filling out an Application for Criminal History Record form and taking it to your local police department or Sheriffs office for fingerprinting. The BCI fee is $15 plus the fingerprinting fee. BCI usually takes 2-3 weeks to send you the criminal background record which you will then submit as an exhibit in the case.
6. Prepare the following documents: (a) verified petition, (b) motion for termination of parental rights, (c) proposed findings of fact, (d) and the proposed decree of adoption. Have the petition notarized.
7. Prepare the Report of Adoption form which is available on the Utah Vital Records webpage. Submit this document to the court when you pay your filing fee.
8. Prepare the Application for New Birth Certificate form which you will use after the adoption hearing to obtain a birth certificate showing the stepfather’s name as the father.
9. Prepare a Cover Sheet for Probate Action which you can get on the Utah Court website.
10. If the child is 12 years of age or older, prepare an Adoptee’s Consent to Adoption and Waiver of Rights, available on the Utah Courts webpage.
11. Review the checklist again to make sure you have everything needed, and then file all the documents with your local district court. The current filing fee is $360 plus $8 per child. This $8 fee is called the Report of Adoption fee because the court clerk will fill out the bottom of the form and mail it to Utah Vital Records.
12. When you file the case, the clerk will assign a case number. Write that case number on all the documents.
13. Ask the court clerk for a hearing date.
14. Show up at the hearing and testify under oath.
15. Once the judge signs the decree of adoption, you can get a certified copy for $5 from the court clerk. Then you can make copies of that certified copy and take it to the school district, health insurance, etc.
16. Follow the instructions on the Vital Records website to get the new birth certificate.
17. Go to the Social Security Administration website to get information about getting a new Social Security card issued (and probably a new social security number since the biological father does not need to know the child’s sensitive info any longer).
At Tim Daniels Law Services, we love handling all types of adoptions. If you would like us to handle your adoption, call with any questions and we will give you a quote for the fee.