Understanding The Child Adoption Process In Utah
Adoption is a major life-changing event. When you adopt a child, you are assuming all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. This is not something that can be done informally. Adoption in Utah requires a court order, not only to establish the adoptive parent’s new status but also to terminate any preexisting legal parent-child relationships.
Do You Have to Be Married to Adopt a Child in Utah?
The Utah Adoption Act permits both married and single adults to adopt minor children under certain circumstances. In the case of a married couple, both spouses must consent to the adoption. If the prospective adoptive parent is single, he or she may not be “cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage” under Utah law. In other words, a single person with a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend may not legally adopt a child.
Utah law further directs state agencies to prefer married couples when placing children for adoption. If there are “no qualified married couples” available, the state can still place the child with a relative, another person “who has already developed a substantial relationship with the child,” or an adult selected by the child’s parent or former parent.
How Do You Begin the Adoption Process in Utah?
In most cases, the adoption process begins with the adoptive parent filing a petition with a Utah district court. However, if the adoption also requires the termination of another person’s parental rights, the petition may have to be filed in a Utah juvenile court.
Who Must Consent to a Utah Adoption?
Once an adoption petition is filed, a number of persons must be notified of the proceedings. This includes:
- any parents listed on the child’s birth certificate
- anyone who has filed a paternity suit involving the child
- the child’s existing guardian or custodian
- the applicant’s spouse (if any)
- any other person who “lives with the child and acts like the child’s parent.”
As a general rule, any person who receives notice must also give written consent to the adoption. In addition, the child must also give consent if he or she is more than 12 years old and mentally competent. All written consents must be given before a judge or an adoption agency, and once made, consent may not be revoked.
Consent is not necessary from any person whose parental rights have already been terminated by court order. Consent is also not required from an “unmarried father” who has not legally established paternity. If the child’s biological father is unknown or cannot be found to give his consent, the persons seeking to adopt must file a notice with the Utah Department of Health certifying they made a “diligent” effort to locate the father.
How Long Does a Utah Adoption Take?
Any person required to give consent may contest the adoption in court. In all Utah adoption cases, the judge will hold a hearing where he may question the adoptive parents and any objectors. It should be noted that adoption is not an overnight process. Utah adoption law requires a child to live with an adoptive parent for at least six months (or one year in the case of a stepparent who wishes to adopt a spouse’s child).
Get Adoption Help in Salt Lake City
Adoption is a complex legal matter, which means you should not attempt it without competent assistance. A Salt Lake City family law firm can advise you at all steps of the adoption law process. Contact Jill Coil and the attorneys at CoilLaw, LLC, today at (801) 884-3775 if you need to speak with someone about your adoption case today.