Family Law Adoption


At Schulz Stephenson Law, we find working with families in the Carteret, Craven, and Pamlico County NC communities of Morehead City, Beaufort, Newport, New Bern, and Bayboro on Adoption law to be very gratifying and rewarding since we are so accustomed to working with families on break ups and domestic disputes.

Adoptions In North Carolina

Legal adoption in North Carolina is governed by state statute and the statutory procedures set forth in Chapter 48 of the North Carolina General Statutes must be strictly adhered to in order to accomplish a legal adoption.

Chapter 48 covers adoptions of minors, adult adoptions, stepparent adoptions, and the re-adoptions of a child by his or her natural parent after a stepparent adoption. Step-parent adoption seems to be what we encounter more often.

In any adoption the statutory procedures are so stringent it is advisable you hire a family law attorney to handle your adoption.

The definition of adoption is: a method of establishing the legal relationship of a parent and child between persons who are not already related by blood. The principal objective of adoption is to promote the welfare of the child. Our state statutes governing adoption are written to protect the welfare of the child, not the family for whom is seeking adoption first and foremost.

At the same time that adoption creates the legal relationship of parent and child between two persons who are not related, it permanently severs the relationship between the adoptee-child and his or her natural, biological parents and their families. The final effect of a legal adoption is that the adoptive family is substituted into the place formerly held by the biological family. From the date the adoption decree is signed, the adoptee-child has the same legal status as a legitimate child born to the adoptive-parent and may inherit through his or her adoptive parents through intestate [not having a will] succession. At this time, the biological parents are relieved of all their legal rights and obligations toward the child. Neither the adoptee-child nor the biological parents may inherit by and through each other through intestate succession.

An exception to the above paragraph is in the case of a stepparent adoption, when a stepparent adopts his or her stepchild, the adoption does not terminate the relationship of the child with his or her natural, biological parent who is, of course, the spouse of the adopting stepparent.

As expressly stated in Chapter 48, the primary purpose of our adoption statutes are to “promote the integrity and finality of adoptions, to encourage prompt, conclusive disposition of adoption proceedings, and to structure services to adopted children, biological parents, and adoptive parents that will provide for the needs and protect the interests of all parties to an adoption, particularly adoptive minors.”

Secondary to the adoptee child, North Carolina statutes seek to protect biological parents from making hasty and ill-considered decisions to relinquish the child to an adoption agency or to consent to a private adoption. The adoptive parents are also protected under North Carolina statutes from adopting a child without knowledge of the child’s heredity and state of health. The privacy rights of all parties to an adoption are also protected under Chapter 48. Finally, our adoption statutes strongly discourage illegal trafficking in children for the purposes of adoption.

Any person over the age of 18 may adopt another individual, with the only caveat under Chapter 48 being that spouses may not adopt each other. The name of the adoptee person will be changed to the name designated in the adoption decree.

Private or direct adoption in Carteret, Craven, and Pamlico County NC

Biological parents either make private or direct adoptions through a non-licensed intermediary such as a physician, lawyer, relative, or friend. Agency placements are those made by a licensed private adoption agency or an official state bureau designated to make adoption placements. In an agency placement, the child is formally “surrendered” or “relinquished” by the biological parents to the agency, which then acts in place of the parents in seeking to bring about a desirable adoption. Agencies can receive children through judicial disposition in cases where the parental rights of the natural, biological parents have been terminated through a court proceeding and ruling.

The legal process for adoption begins when you file a Petition for Adoption. To complete a petition you must have the following documents to present:

  • The consents to adoption from the natural, biological parents;
  • The certified copy of the background information on the adoptee-child’s health, social, educational and genetic history which is provided by his or her biological parent(s) or by the adoption agency placing the child up for adoption;
  • The affidavit from the biological mother indicating the names, known addresses and marital status of the biological parents;
  • Your pre-placement assessment;
  • Any court order or pleading regarding the adoptee-child’s custody or visitation;
  • An affidavit accounting for any payment made in connection with the adoption;
  • The document identifying any individual whose consent to the adoption is required and had not been obtained at the time your petition for adoption was filed.

Upon filing of the Petition for Adoption, notice of its filing must be served on any individual whose consent is required by law and whose consent had not been obtained at the time your petition was filed. Chapter 48 details those individuals from whom consent to the adoption is required and the correct procedure by which these individuals can be legally served.

By statute, the court is required to set a hearing date on your adoption petition within 90 days after you file your petition for adoption. The hearing or disposition of your adoption petition must be within 6 months after the date you file the adoption petition. If your petition is unopposed, a hearing is not required. If you are found to be a fit adoptive parent and no one opposes the adoption, your petition for adoption will be granted. If a hearing is necessary, the court must find upon a preponderance of the evidence that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, that you are a suitable adoptive parent, and that all the statutory procedural requirements for adoption have been met.

For more information on adoption call Schulz Stephenson Law for a consultation at 252-728-7300, our lawyers serve clients considering adoption in the Morehead City, Beaufort, Newport, New Bern, and Bayboro communities of Carteret, Craven, and Pamlico County NC.

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