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Adoption in North Carolina

About

What is an adoption?

Adoption is a legal proceeding that creates a parent and child relationship between the adoptee and petitioner.  After a decree of adoption is entered, an adoptee has the same legal status, including all legal rights and obligations, as if the adoptee were the biological child of the adoptive parent.

Who is an adoptee? Who is the petitioner?

An adoptee is the person who is being adopted. The petitioner is the person who files a petition to adopt the adoptee.

Who can adopt in North Carolina?

A married couple or an individual may file a petition to adopt in North Carolina. If a married individual files a petition to adopt, that person’s spouse must join the petition unless the petitioner files a motion to waive the requirement for cause and the clerk enters an order to waive the requirement.

Who can be adopted?

A child or adult can be adopted. But, spouses may not adopt each other. An adult adoptee must consent to the adoption. A child age 12 or older must consent to the adoption unless the petitioner files a motion to waive the requirement for cause and the clerk enters an order to waive the requirement.

Who is considered an adult for the purpose of adult adoption?

An adult is anyone at least 18 years of age, or anyone under the age of 18 who is married or has been legally emancipated.

What are the different types of adoptions?

There are several types of adoptions:

  • Agency adoption. An agency, either a county department of social services or a licensed child-placing agency places a child with the petitioner for the purpose of adoption and consents to the adoption.
  • Independent adoption. A child’s parent or guardian directly places the child with the petitioner for the purpose of adoption and consents to the adoption.
  • Relative adoption. A parent or guardian directly places the child with a relative for the purpose of adoption and consents to the adoption. For the purpose of an adoption, a relative is a grandparent, full or half sibling, first cousin, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle, or great-grandparent of the child. If the relationship between the child and petitioner is one other than those listed, the adoption is classified as an independent adoption.
  • Foreign adoption. There are two types of foreign adoptions.
    • Re-adoption of a child who was adopted in a foreign country by the same petitioner.
    • Adoption of a child when an adoption is not finalized in a foreign country.
  • Stepparent adoption. A stepparent petitions to adopt his or her stepchild.
  • Adult adoption. An adult petitions to adopt another adult. A spouse may not adopt his or her spouse.

If I re-adopt a child in North Carolina after adopting the child in a foreign country, is the child automatically a U.S. citizen?

A North Carolina adoption has no automatic effect on the adoptee’s immigration status, which is determined by federal law. An attorney should be consulted if there are citizenship concerns.

Filing for Adoption

What is the process for filing to adopt someone?

An adoption requires the filing of a “special proceeding.” A special proceeding is a court case decided by the clerk of superior court or an assistant clerk of superior court. An adoption case begins when a petition for adoption is filed in the county where the petitioner or adoptee lives. If the adoption is an agency adoption, the petition may be filed in the county where the agency has an office.

Are there forms that can be used when filing for adoption?

Yes, adoption forms may be obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Do I have to pay to file for adoption?

There is a fee for filing a petition to adopt. The clerk of court where you plan to file a petition will assess the fee. If you are not able to pay the fee, you can ask the clerk of court in the county where you plan to file a petition to waive the fee after you complete this form.

What is a “preplacement assessment” or “home study”?

In certain types of adoptions, a preplacement assessment must be filed with the clerk of superior court. A preplacement assessment, sometimes referred to as a home study, is an evaluation of the person or persons seeking to adopt to determine whether the individual or individuals are suitable adoptive parents. A preplacement assessment is prepared by a county department of social services or a licensed child placing agency.  Preplacement assessments are not prepared in adult adoptions. You can read more about preplacement assessments here.

What is a report on proposed adoption?

In certain types of adoptions, a report on proposed adoption must be filed with the clerk of superior court. A report on proposed adoption, sometimes referred to as the report to court, is prepared by a county department of social services or a licensed child placing agency. The report to court provides a recommendation to the clerk of superior court to assist in determining whether the adoption is in the best interest of the minor adoptee. Reports to court are not prepared for adult adoptions.

Are documents filed in an adoption case available to the public?

Only the adoption decree is a public record. Other documents filed in the case are not available to the public. An order of the court is required to access an adoption file.

Who must be served with notice of the case?

You may review the relevant law regarding who is entitled to notice here.

Court Process

Will there be a hearing or trial to determine whether an adoption decree will be granted?

Prior to entering a final adoption decree in an adult adoption, the clerk of superior court must have a hearing. If the adoptee is a minor, a hearing may or may not be held before a final adoption decree is entered. The clerk will determine if a hearing is necessary.

How do I get a new birth certificate after the clerk enters the adoption decree?

After the clerk of superior court enters the adoption decree, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will send the new adoptive parent a letter with an explanation of how to obtain a new birth certificate for the adoptee. A fee and application submitted directly to N.C. Vital Statistics, often referred to as Vital Records, are required to obtain the new birth certificate. You must submit the fee and application to North Carolina Vital Records for a new birth certificate.

Do I need an attorney to file for adoption?

An attorney is not required to initiate or finalize an adoption. A person who represents himself or herself will be held to the same standard as a licensed attorney. Adoption proceedings can be complicated. Court officials, including the clerks of court, cannot provide legal advice to individuals concerning the individual’s rights and obligations or the likely outcome of an adoption case. Only an attorney can provide legal advice.

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