Providing a safe and loving home to a child in need can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. But even if you have a caring family and beautiful place for the child to come home to, the adoption process can be a bit overwhelming. We are here to help. At Grant Legal Group PA, our Jackson-area adoption attorneys want to make your dream a reality by supporting and guiding you through the steps of the adoption process. We can establish whether you are a good candidate for adoption and advise you on the best way to proceed.
If you are trying to adopt a child in the state of Mississippi or you are simply wanting to educate yourself on your options, speaking to a Jackson adoption lawyer is in your best interest. With more than 60 years of collective experience in the field of family law, we have helped numerous individuals, couples, and families navigate the adoption process. Our goal is to ensure your experience is as smooth as possible with as little stress as possible.
We offer support and representation for many types of adoption, including:
Generally, all Mississippi adoptions require the following: (1) a sworn petition filed with the court; (2) a certification as to what property the child owns (generally the answer is none); (3) an affidavit from a physician attesting to the child’s good health, (4) a certificate attesting the child is not of Native American ancestry (if the child is, different laws apply), (5) consents to the adoption signed by both biological parents, (6) a hearing before a judge, and (7) a final judgment or decree signed by the judge granting the adoption. Additionally, in some cases, there may be other requirements that come into play for a home study and guardian ad litem, which will be explained further below.
Before you can adopt a child, the biological parents’ parental rights must be terminated. This is often done in an uncontested manner, such as when a new parent intentionally puts their child up for adoption to find them a good home. For these “uncontested” adoptions, both biological parents will need to sign a consent to the adoption and waiver of their parental rights. In this consent/waiver, the biological parents will basically give up all legal rights they have to the child. This does not mean, however, that adopting parents cannot voluntarily continue to include the biological parents in the child’s life after the adoption. It only means the adopting parents would not be legally required to do so after the adoption is finalized. In other words, further contact with the biological parents would be in the adopting parents’ discretion, as they deem appropriate.
But some adoptions are more complex, such as when a biological parent contests the adoption. The biological parent might contest the adoption, for example, by refusing to sign a consent and waiver. In this situation, the adopting petitioners must ask the court to terminate the objecting parent’s rights. This process is more involved than an uncontested proceeding where the parents voluntarily surrender their rights.
In a contested adoption, a formal hearing must be held in which the adopting petitioners must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the biological parents have abandoned or deserted the child or that the parents are otherwise unfit to raise the child. This can be established by showing past or present conduct of the biological parent that demonstrates a substantial risk of endangering the child’s safety or welfare. The adopting petitioners must also show “reunification between the parent and child is not desirable toward obtaining a satisfactory permanency outcome.” All of these requirements are found in Mississippi Code section 93-15-119.
Another common situation is that the biological father cannot be found. Sometimes the biological mother does not know who he is or where to find him. If this happens, the adopting petitioners must run a publication in the local newspaper for 3 consecutive weeks to give the legally required notice to the biological father.
Very attentive, great work
Posted by Lindsey, April 2, 2019
“John handled my family’s adoption and he did a great job! He was very attentive to detail and made sure everything was lined up for adoption day. We have recommended him to friends who are adopting. John was a pleasure to work with!”
Yes. Under Mississippi Code section 93-17-3, the adopting petitioners and the child to be adopted must have been Mississippi residents for 6 consecutive months before filing for adoption. If the child is not yet 6 months old, then the child must have been in Mississippi “from soon after birth.”
The relevant law, Mississippi Code section 93-17-3, allows a child to be adopted by any adult whether married or not. If the adopting petitioner is married, however, his or her spouse must also adopt the child. There is an exception to this rule if two spouses are separated, in which case the law allows adoption by only one spouse.
The adoption statute, Mississippi Code section 93-17-3, allows an adoption to be filed in any of the following counties: (1) where the adopting petitioners reside, (2) where the child was born, (3) if the child was abandoned, the county where the child “was found,” or (4) where the home to which the child was surrendered is located. Thus, there are potentially multiple venues where the case could be properly filed. All adoption cases are filed in the Chancery Court of the appropriate county.
Most of the adoptions we handle are in the tri-county greater-Jackson area, but we can perform adoption services elsewhere throughout all areas of Mississippi. Note, also, that many adoptions can be filed in the Jackson area even if you reside in another area of Mississippi (see previous section), which can reduce the cost to hire us.
We will fill out all the necessary paperwork for you. Generally, we set up an initial meeting with you to obtain all the necessary information. When you come to the initial meeting, we ask that you bring the child’s birth certificate if you have it. Also, if the adoption is a foster-care adoption, you will need to bring all the paperwork Child Protection Services has given you. Other than that, we can take care of the rest of the necessary paperwork.
After our initial meeting, we will normally send you home with some paperwork to get the biological parents to sign, as well as a physician’s affidavit to have the child’s pediatrician to sign. After we’ve gotten the signed paperwork back from you, we will file your adoption petition and schedule a hearing with the court to wrap everything up.
Under Mississippi Code section 93-17-8, the court is required to appoint a “guardian ad litem” when either (1) the adoption is contested or (2) when the child was abandoned by a parent. The guardian ad litem’s role is to interview the interested parties, and to make a report to the court. If the guardian ad litem finds adoption is in the child’s best interest, then he or she will recommend for the court to allow the adoption to proceed. Usually, the court will accept the guardian ad litem’s recommendation.
Under Mississippi Code section 93-17-11, the court is required to order a home study for any adoptions except stepparent adoptions or other adoptions by a relative. So if the adoption is filed by a stepparent or relative of the child, no home study is required. In all other cases, a home study is required. The home study must be performed by either the Department of Human Services or a licensed adoption agency.
Essentially, the home study is a report that DHS or the adoption agency will prepare after interviewing the adopting petitioners and visiting their home. Often, the home study takes longer than anything else in the adoption process, but it usually can be done within several months.
Under Mississippi Code section 93-17-13, there is a 6 month waiting period for most adoptions. BUT the statute give the court authority to waive the waiting period if the court finds the “waiting period is not necessary or required for the benefit of the court, the petitioners or the child to be adopted.” And from our experience, judges almost always will waive the 6 month waiting period when asked to do so. You can be assured that we will make every effort to get the adoption completed as soon as possible, and generally we can perform adoptions from start to finish within only a few months.
In stepparent adoptions or other adoptions by a relative, the 6 month waiting period does not apply. Also, if the child has been residing in the home of the petitioners, then the statute specifically grants the court authority to reduce the 6-month waiting period by the amount of time the child has resided in the petitioners’ home.
Yes, if a name change is desired. When we perform an adoption, we will ask you what you would like the child’s legal name to be following the adoption. We will then have the judge decree that the child’s name be changed to reflect the desired name, and that the child’s birth certificate be changed to reflect the child’s new name. Once the adoption is finalized, we will give you a packet to fill out and give to the Mississippi Department of Vital Statistics, for purposes of obtaining an updated birth certificate reflecting the child’s new name.
The adoption process is fairly straightforward, but not all adoption cases are the same. It will vary depending on if (1) the adoption is contested or uncontested, (2) the adoption is private or through foster care, or (3) you are related to the child or a stepparent, versus having no prior relationship with the child.
First, the difference between contested versus uncontested adoptions was touched on above. In a nutshell, a contested adoption means one or both biological parents won’t agree to waive their parental rights, and the adopting petitioners must then prove the biological parents’ abandonment, neglect, or unfitness. An uncontested adoption, on the other hand, generally means both parents will sign consents to the adoption. So, it comes as no surprise that an uncontested adoption is simpler and less costly than a contested adoption.
Second, there are slight differences between foster care and non-foster care adoptions. The requirements are mostly the same, but there is a little more red tape involved with foster care adoptions. We are experienced with both types and can guide you through either.
Third, adoptions are a bit simpler if the petitioners are related to the child or are a stepparent of the child, versus having no prior relationship with the child. The main reason relative and stepparent adoptions are simpler is because no home study is required. This usually allows the adoption to get finalized quicker. (But not to worry if you are not a relative or stepparent. The additional requirements are not all that cumbersome, and should not delay the finalization by more than a few months at most.)
You might have a foreign adoption judgment or decree that you need registered in Mississippi. We can guide you through those requirements. See Mississippi Code section 93-17-305. A foreign adoption decree, however, may only be registered in Mississippi if it hasn’t been previously registered in any other state in the United States.
Adopting hearings are “sealed” from the public. This means there will not be other people coming and going in the courtroom during the adoption hearing. The environment for adoption hearings is usually more relaxed and comfortable than most other types of court proceedings. Also, we will be sure to schedule your adoption hearing at a time when we will not have to wait around for other cases to conclude. Usually the hearing does not last more than about 15 minutes.
Note, however, if the adoption is “contested,” then the termination of parental rights hearing will be separated from the adoption hearing and will be more lengthy than the adoption hearing. The TPR hearing, unlike the adoption hearing, will be a public hearing just like any other court hearing.
Once the adoption is finalized, often the judges will allow you to take pictures in the courtroom with your family. This is something unique to adoption cases. Because adoption cases are usually happy events for everyone involved (unlike divorce and other matters the judges hear regularly), the judges usually enjoy presiding over adoptions. Often, they will even take part in the photo session. Let us know ahead of time if you are interested in taking pictures after the adoption hearing.
There are many excellent adoption agencies in Mississippi. Because John Grant with our firm works with Catholic Charities on a regular basis, this is the adoption agency we would specifically recommend. Catholic Charities performs a variety of services including matching children with adoptive parents. They also perform home studies, which are required for Mississippi adoptions, except for stepparent adoptions or adoptions by a relative (which do not require home studies). Note: you do not need to be Catholic to use Catholic Charities’ adoption services. Catholic Charities may be contacted by calling (601) 355-8634.
Posted by Kassandra – June 16, 2019
“I am very pleased with the service that I received from John Grant and Shows Law firm in the adoption of my son. I had no ideal what to expect or the processes regarding adoption but Mr Grant made sure I got all the information I needed and that I knew how to handle each situation that would arise. He was patient and explained everything to me. The office staff was so nice and they show a genuine interest in my adoption process. The process was very smooth and was cost friendly. I was able to get everything finalized in a short amount of time and I am extremely grateful for their assistance in making my dreams a reality. All I have ever wanted to be was a mom and John Grant and Shows Law firm made that legally possible and I am so thankful and grateful. I would recommend them in a heart beat. thanks so much”
John Grant without our firm is an approved attorney to handle adoptions for the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. This is important because adoptions involving foster care are a bit different than other adoptions. Also, for foster-care adoptions, the State of Mississippi will reimburse you up to $600 per child for your attorney fees. Further, if you have a heart for adopting through the foster care system, this is something you can mention to your adoption agency when you are seeking placement with a child.
In Mississippi, you may be entitled to a subsidy if you adopt through foster care, if you adopt a child who is at least 6 years old, if you adopt siblings, or if you adopt a disabled child. This is something you could discuss with your adoption agency if you use one.
Our firm is unique in that we offer flat-fee pricing for most adoptions. That means we will tell you exactly how much you will spend from start to finish. The reason we are able to price the cases so precisely is that we handle many adoption cases and know exactly the amount of work involved. Call 601-664-0044 and ask to speak to John Grant, and he can provide a free quote over the phone within a few minutes of discussing your adoption case.
Whatever the situation may be in your adoption case, we are here to guide you through the legal obstacles.
You can rely on us to provide you with advocacy throughout the entire process. Contact our office now at (601) 827-3031 for a consultation.