There are two types of adoptions in Family Court: "private placement" and "agency". It should be noted that adoption petitions are sometimes filed and heard in the Surrogate Court, depending upon each county’s practice.

There are no filing fees in Family Court.


What Is an Adoption?

When a child's parents have died, when the parents cannot continue to provide for the care or custody of their child, or when the parents' right to continue having responsibility for the care and custody of their child has been terminated (ended) by the court, the child may be "adopted". In an adoption, the natural parents' rights are ended, and the court gives permanent legal responsibility for the child to other persons who then become the child's parents. A child fourteen years of age or older must approve of his or her own adoption.


What Is a "Private Placement Adoption"?

In a private placement adoption, in most cases, an agreement is reached between the child's natural parents and the person(s) who wishes to adopt the child. The adoptive parent or parents may be required to be "pre-certified" (approved) to take temporary custody of the child while the court decides if he or she is a suitable parent(s). A home study will be ordered by the Court after the filing of all required documents.

The court requires the adoptive parent(s) to submit a number of documents, including an adoption petition, marriage records, if any, and a report following an investigation of the adoptive parents' home. The court requires proof that the natural parents are voluntarily giving up their rights to the child. The court may require that adoptive parent(s) submit fingerprints.

If the court finds that the adoptive parent or parents are able to provide for the child's proper care and support, the court approves the adoption.


What Is an "Agency Adoption"?

When a court has already given responsibility for a child's care and custody to an agency, and the child is residing with foster parents, the agency may file a petition to terminate (end) the parents' rights to the child. A child whose parents' rights have been terminated is then ready for adoption. Persons who are interested in adopting a child may apply to adopt through an agency. The agency conducts an investigation of the adoptive parent or parents' home and background to see if it is a suitable home for the child.

A petition and other documents are then submitted to the court for its approval. If the court finds that the adoptive parent or parents are able to provide proper care and support for the child, the court approves the adoption. (Sometimes, money may be available through the agency to help support the child, called an "adoption subsidy".)

The court may approve of a post adoption contact agreement at the time of a conditional judicial surrender. This agreement allows parent to visit with child after adoption.


Do the Parties Need Lawyers?

The adoptive parent or parents should be represented by attorneys.


What Is the Legal Effect of an Adoption?

Once an adoption is approved by the court, the adoptive parent or parents are considered to be the child's legal parents, with all of the rights and obligations of natural parents.