Adoption Attorney Lake Charles

Adoption is one of the most exciting and joyful events in any family, whether it’s done through an adoption agency, the Louisiana foster care system, internationally, or within the family. Approximately 900 foster children are adopted every year in Louisiana, with 4,000 kids still living in the foster care system. 

According to one study, the fastest-growing group of foster children being adopted is teenagers. About 30% of adoptive parents in Louisiana also took in more than one child, usually siblings. 

No matter what avenue you take to grow your family, an experienced adoption lawyer in Lake Charles can help you overcome the legal hurdles and navigate the complex legal landscape to ensure the adoption goes as smoothly and efficiently as possible. 

Who Can Legally Adopt a Child in Louisiana?

Louisiana has specific adoption qualifications that prospective parents must meet: 

  • Single people who are at least 18
  • Married couples who petition for a joint adoption
  • Stepparents, grandparents, great-grandparents, step-grandparents, and other relatives who are related to the child, are at least 18 (or married), and have had custody for at least six months. 

If you want to foster a child and adopt through Louisiana’s foster care system, you must meet additional requirements: 

  • No more than five children under 18
  • Sufficient bedroom space for a child
  • Has a safe home with smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher
  • Medical statements that you are healthy enough to support and raise a child
  • Proof of income that you can support another child

Anyone who wants to adopt in Louisiana must complete a home study. This home study includes documentation about social ties, relationships, family background and customs, and mental and physical health. It’s followed by a home visit and interview with each member of the family about goals, feelings, and daily routines. 

The Rights of Biological Fathers in Louisiana

The father’s inherent rights as a parent must be addressed before a child is legally available for adoption. Both parents must surrender their rights through a voluntary Act of Surrender or a Termination of Parental Rights through the court. 

To oppose an adoption, the father must do several things, including acknowledging his status, indicating he’s willing to accept custody and responsibility, and proving fitness to the court.

The father must register with the Louisiana putative father registry. This allows a man to file an acknowledgment of paternity. An alleged father and a mother may file together once a notary informs them of their right to a genetic test. A putative father can also consult with a family law lawyer before acknowledging paternity, and a mother can file a paternity lawsuit. 

Once an acknowledgment is signed, the father has the right to petition for custody. He may be required to support the child financially. 

Types of Adoptions in Louisiana

Adoption comes in many forms in Louisiana. The following are the most common ways to grow your family through adoption. 

  • Intrafamily or stepparent adoption

In Louisiana, intrafamily adoptions are widespread and involve one parent remarrying and the new stepparent formally adopting the child. This type of adoption requires getting the consent of both biological parents or terminating parental rights, a complicated legal process. 

  • Relative or kinship adoptions

When someone cannot care for their child, a relative adoption may happen if a member of the family legally adopts the child and becomes responsible for their care. In these cases, the biological parents lose parental rights. These adoptions tend to be more comfortable than adopting a non-relative and often involve mental health issues, imprisonment, drug or alcohol abuse, or death of the biological parents. 

  • Private agency adoption

Many families who want to adopt an infant do so through a private adoption agency licensed by the state. A private agency may be a social service organization, charity, or religious organization that places children brought to the agency by parents who want to give up their child for adoption. 

  • Foster care adoption

Every year, hundreds of families in Louisiana grow by adopting children from foster care. Kids in foster care have biological parents who cannot care for them and, if they are eligible for adoption, parents whose parental rights have been terminated by the state. 

  • International adoption

The most complex type of adoption is an international adoption, or adopting a child from a foreign country. These adoptions require meeting strict laws in Louisiana as well as the host country. Parents will need to obtain an immigrant visa for the child who will become a U.S. citizen once they enter the country. The U.S. State Department must certify agencies that assist with international adoptions, and the Hague Adoption Convention will regulate the adoption. An experienced adoption lawyer in Lake Charles, LA, will be invaluable in helping with a complicated international adoption. 

  • Independent adoption

This type of adoption involves a direct arrangement between a family and a birth mother, with or without a go-between. It’s always recommended to use a family law attorney in Lake Charles for these types of adoptions to oversee the legal steps necessary to complete the arrangement. 

At The Johnson Firm, we handle all types of adoption cases, not just situations in which a mother has chosen to give up her child for adoption. We also handle adoptions involving stepparents, grandparents, and cases involving challenges to a request to terminate parental rights. 

The Louisiana Adoption Process

The precise adoption process in Louisiana can vary depending on the type of adoption. Still, there are general steps that must be completed to establish the legally recognized and permanent relationship between the adoptive parent(s) and the child. 

When adoption is done through a licensed agency, the birth parents can consent to an adoption three days after the child’s birth. For private adoptions, the birth parents must wait five days. Birth fathers who are adjudicated or alleged fathers can give irrevocable consent any time before or after birth. 

Birth parents must also complete two counseling sessions before consenting to the adoption. If they are under 18, they must be joined by a tutor or parent to surrender custody unless it is done through a licensed agency. 

To complete the adoption, a final hearing must also take place in a courthouse in your parish. A judge must review your adoption to make sure it’s ethical and legal before a final decree is issued. 

Once the adoption is finalized, Louisiana Vital Records completes and issues a new birth certificate with the city of birth, parish, date of birth, and adoptive parents’ names. Louisiana has sealed, confidential adoption records. Once the adoption is complete, Vital Records seals the original birth certificate and evidentiary documents like the court order. 

Contact a Lake Charles Adoption Attorney

Adoption is an exciting time, but it can also be nerve-wracking and complicated. If you are going forward with an independent adoption or adoption with any complication, including terminating parental rights, international or out-of-state adoption, a family law attorney in Lake Charles can help you navigate the legal landscape to speed up and simplify your adoption process. 

Contact The Johnson Firm today to schedule a consultation with a Louisiana adoption attorney to get started on the first steps toward expanding your family! 

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You’ll want a partner and advocate who can confidently maneuver the emotional and financial intricacies of any family law matter. From custody, child support, and community property, to adoption and prenuptial agreements, we’re committed to protecting you and the best interests of your family.