Learn more about the adoption process in Mississippi.
In this post, we will explain the legal requirements for adopting a child in Mississippi.
The simplest adoptions are “uncontested,” meaning both biological parents agree to the adoption. If both parents agree, then the adoption will require the following steps:
These are the requirements for “uncontested” adoptions where the biological parents agree to the adoption and sign a consent.
But it is quite common that a biological parent is out of the picture, so a consent form cannot be obtained. In that scenario, a few additional requirements apply in addition to the steps listed above.
First, if a parent does not consent, you must be able to prove at the court hearing that the parent has abandoned or deserted the child or is otherwise unfit.
Second, before the hearing, the court must appoint a “guardian ad litem” to meet with you and file a report making recommendations to the court. The guardian ad litem is an attorney. Essentially, he or she will perform a home study. In fact, a guardian ad litem’s report, if required, can serve as the home study. Generally, the guardian ad litem will meet with you and the child and come to your home to make sure it is a suitable environment for the child.
Third, you must serve the absent parent with process. If you know the parent’s identity and whereabouts, we would hire a process server to serve the parent with the petition and a summons for the court hearing. If the parent cannot be located after a diligent search, then we would serve the legally required notice by publishing a summons in the local newspaper for 3 consecutive weeks. Generally, the absent parent does not respond to the newspaper publication. Whether the absent parent responds or not, the newspaper publication provides the legally required notice for the adoption to proceed.
That’s essentially it. If your adoption is uncontested, typically the process can be completed within 3 months of filing your petition. If a home study is required (not applicable for stepparents or relatives), then this can add a little bit of time, but usually not more than an extra month or two. If you are unable to obtain consents from both parents, typically the process takes between 3 to 6 months.
The costs of the adoption will depend on the type of adoption. For all adoptions, we prefer to charge a fixed fee, meaning that we will tell you exactly how much the process will cost. For private adoptions that are uncontested, we usually charge between $1,500 and $2,500. For private adoptions that are contested (that is, consents cannot be obtained from the biological parents), the fee is usually between $2,500 and $4,000. For foster care adoptions, we typically charge between $1,500 and $2,000. Notably, for foster care adoptions, the State of Mississippi will usually reimburse part of the legal fees.
Please note that the legal fees do not include the cost of a home study or guardian ad litem (if applicable). So, in budgeting, make sure whether those requirements apply to your particular adoption. With the caveat that these are estimates only, usually a guardian ad litem or home study (whichever is applicable) can add about another $500 to $1,800 to the overall cost, depending on the fee charged by the agency or guardian ad litem.
If you’re interested in hiring us to handle your adoption matter, please call (601) 827-3031 for a consultation. We would love to be a part of this special event.