Legal Requirements to Finalize an Adoption in North Carolina

For adoptive families, finalization is the long-awaited finish line of the legal adoption process. The finalization process awards you permanent legal custody of your child and ensures all state laws and legal requirements have been followed.

In North Carolina, finalization takes place after a post-placement study, which includes two visits with a social worker and the court’s review of all of your adoption paperwork. Once the adoption has been approved, the Clerk of Court will issue the final adoption decree, and you will officially become your child’s legal parents.

Learn more about the requirements and process to finalize an adoption in North Carolina below.

Legal Adoption Requirements in North Carolina

Before you receive the final adoption decree, the court will review all of your adoption paperwork to ensure all North Carolina adoption laws were followed. In addition, the clerk will review the adoption to make sure the following requirements are met:

Termination of Parental Rights

Before a child can be legally adopted by new parents, both biological parents must have their parental rights terminated. This may be done in one of two ways: voluntary termination of parental rights (consent to the adoption in independent adoptions or relinquishment in agency adoptions), or involuntary termination of parental rights by the court.

At A Child’s Hope, our adoptions typically involve voluntarily terminating parental rights because the expectant mother is making an adoption plan for her baby, and she legally consents to have her rights terminated after the baby is born. Since the birthfathers are often located in state, the agency is fortunate to be able to locate most of the biological fathers.

Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

ICWA is a federal law that governs foster and adoptive placements of American Indian children in order to help preserve Native American tribes, families and cultures. ICWA law was enacted in 1978, at a time when a disproportionate number of children were being removed from their Native American homes in federally recognized tribes and placed with non-Native families.

If you are adopting a child of Native American heritage, you will need to ensure your adoption meets all ICWA requirements prior to finalization. A Child’s Hope will help you safely and legally complete your ICWA adoption.

Post-Placement Study

After obtaining consents from your child’s biological parents, your baby will be placed in your physical custody and a petition for adoption will be filed with the court. After the petition is filed and before the adoption is finalized, you must have two postplacement visits from an agency social worker.

The post-placement visits take about an hour for each visit, and the adoption counselor comes to your home and observes you with the child. In North Carolina, the study includes two visits with your adoption counselor, who will observe you and your child and verify the information included in the petition for adoption.

Some adoptive families are nervous about the post-placement study, but remember that your adoption counselor is there to help you. Answer his or her questions honestly, and don’t be afraid to ask questions of your own. Your adoption counselor can help you find any post-placement resources or services your family may need. It’s important to provide a copy of the notes from visits to your pediatrician.

Following your post-placement visits, the counselor will write a report determining whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child. The report will be filed with the court along with the other paperwork necessary to finalize the adoption.

The Adoption Finalization Process

When you are ready to finalize your adoption in North Carolina, you will work closely with our agency and an adoption attorney to legally complete the adoption process. Whether you work with our agency for placement or pursue an independent adoption outside of A Child’s Hope, our North Carolina adoption attorney can help you complete the necessary steps of the legal adoption process.

While exact finalization timelines and procedures may vary based on individual circumstances, the process to finalize an adoption in North Carolina generally includes the following steps:

  • After the birth parents sign relinquishments to the adoption agency and the seven-day revocation period has passed, you and your baby will attend placement day at our office to execute the necessary legal documents. This is where you will sign the adoption petition, placement agreement and communication agreement and receive copies of your baby’s medical records.
  • An adoption counselor will be assigned to complete your post-placement visits. This is often the same counselor who completed your adoption home study.
  • Your attorney will submit your adoption petitions, your home study, the relinquishments of the birth parents and the post-placement study report, expense affidavits, and other required paperwork to the court for review.
  • The court will review your adoption file and issue the final adoption decree, legally completing the adoption process and naming you as your child’s legal parents.

Once you are awarded the final adoption decree, you are officially recognized as a permanent, legal family. You will have full parental rights, and your adoption attorney can help you apply for a new birth certificate and social security number for your child.

To learn more about legal adoption requirements or to finalize your adoption in North Carolina, contact A Child’s Hope to speak with an adoption counselor.

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