Massachusetts adoptions are very complicated and, of course, very important. The information here is to help you understand the process of adopting a child and what it entails.
Who can adopt?
In order to adopt, you must be at least 18 years old. You or the child must be a resident of Massachusetts. If you’re married, both spouses must be a part of the adoption (except in very rare circumstances.) Single people and unmarried couples may also adopt.
Who can be adopted?
You can adopt anyone who’s younger than you are, as long as they aren’t your spouse, sibling, uncle, or aunt.
If you want to adopt a child under 14, they must have lived with you for at least 6 months. However, the court can waive this requirement in some cases.
In Massachusetts, private adoption — where the birth mother makes an arrangement with the adoptive parents — isn’t allowed. Instead, the adoption needs to meet one of these conditions:
- The child has been placed with you through the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or a licensed adoption agency.
- The child is your blood relative.
- The child is your step-child.
- You were nominated in the will of the child’s dead parent to be the child’s guardian or adoptive parent.
- DCF or an agency they authorize has approved the adoption petition in writing.
Consent, or agreeing to the adoption, is an important part of the adoption process.
“Consent” is an agreement to the adoption. All consents must be in writing and filed with the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The following people must agree to the adoption:
- A child over 12 must consent to their own adoption.
- If the child is married, their spouse must also consent.
- If the child is under 18, the child’s parents must consent, or their legal rights must have been ended by a court.
- If a child is born to an unmarried woman, the mother must consent, and the court will want to find the father and have him agree as well. The father may have filed a claim with DCF saying that he is willing to accept responsibility if the mother can’t take care of the child (an admission of paternity.) A court may have declared him to be the father (a paternity adjudication.) If neither of those are true, the court will still try to notify the father. The birth mother will be asked for the name and address of the father, or people who might be the father if she isn’t sure. If the father gets notice and doesn’t do anything, he won’t be sent any more notices and the child is free for adoption.
There is a 4-day waiting period after the child’s date of birth for biological parents to sign a written consent/voluntary surrender of the child for adoption.
If the surrender of a child for adoption happens outside of Massachusetts, it’s valid in Massachusetts if it was valid in the state or country where the surrender happened.
What you need
The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court strongly recommend you find a lawyer to help you with the adoption process. How long the process will take varies, and depends on issues such as whether surrenders are filed, notice needs to be given, or a home study needs to be completed.
To begin the process, you’ll need to submit numerous forms.
Fees for File for adoption
There is no filing fee for an adoption. However, you will need to pay the sheriff or constable for providing notice. These costs will vary.
Access to adoption records
All of the court’s adoption paperwork is not available to the public unless a judge orders it to be. An adopted person can’t see their adoption court files about their biological parents unless they prove to the court that there is a good reason to do so.
Should you be considering adopting a child in Massachusetts, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.