Families in Arizona may have different reasons for choosing adoption, like infertility, a personal calling to adopt, or bonding with a child through family ties or foster care. Whichever type of adoption you pursue, it’s a life-changing step for your family and the child.
Before you embark on the adoption process in Arizona, we recommend consulting an adoption attorney in Phoenix. Find out what you need to know as a prospective adoptive parent in Arizona.
Adoption Options in Arizona
Adoption is a legal process that makes a child the permanent member of a family into which they weren’t born. When a family adopts a child, this child gains the same legal status as any biological children in the family, including the right to receive care and financial support until they reach adulthood and inheritance rights whenever the adoptive parents pass.
As a prospective adoptive parent, you may pursue different paths of bringing a child into your family. Common adoption options in Arizona include:
- Domestic infant adoption. Most people looking into adoption would prefer to adopt an infant. Domestic adoption is often logistically simpler, quicker, and sometimes less expensive than international adoption. In many private domestic adoptions, the prospective adoptive family works with an agency that connects them to a birth mother interested in placing her child up for adoption.
- International adoption. While domestic adoption usually focuses on infants, international adoption often involves both babies and older children. The process, costs, and requirements for international adoption vary widely depending on the country. Parents who adopt an older child from another country must prepare themselves for certain cultural challenges.
- Fostering to adopt. For some people, the journey toward adoption starts with becoming foster parents to a child who needs a stable home. Although the foster care system in Arizona prioritizes reuniting children with their birth families, some foster care children become eligible for adoption.
- Adopting a stepchild or family member. Many stepparents form a strong bond with their partner’s child and would like to give their relationship legal status. If the child’s other biological parent is absent, unfit to parent, or willing to relinquish their parental rights, the stepparent may be able to adopt their stepchild. In other cases, the child’s grandparents, aunts, or uncles may file for adoption.
The Steps of a Private Adoption in Arizona
Private adoption in Arizona is a structured process that may take six months or longer, depending on adoption opportunities and other circumstances. Let’s outline the steps of a typical private adoption.
1. Choosing an Adoption Pathway
The adoption services you use throughout the process will depend on the adoption route you pursue. If you’re interested in locating an infant who would be a suitable match for your family, you’ll need to connect with a national or local private adoption agency.
If you’re working toward an independent adoption—for example, if you wish to adopt your stepchild or any child already connected to you in some way—usually, you’ll only need to work with an attorney and a home study professional.
2. A Pre-approval Home Study
All families pursuing a private adoption in Arizona must undergo a home study by a licensed home study provider or social worker. Home studies evaluate the prospective adoptive parent’s ability to create a safe, stable, and loving home for a child.
A home study in Arizona involves:
- Submitting relevant documents, which include a criminal background check, up-to-date records of both prospective parents’ physical and mental health, and statements providing a clear picture of the family’s financial situation. You may also need to provide references from people who know you well but are unrelated to you, like your employer, congregation leader, or neighbors. Finally, you’ll need to include an autobiographical statement that details your journey and hopes of building a family through adoption.
- A home inspection. The home study provider will visit your home to ensure a suitable environment for a child. Prospective adoptive parents will get tips on making their home child-safe, like placing a fence around a swimming pool or baby-proofing a staircase.
- An interview. The visiting social worker or home study provider will interview you and any other household members to assess your family dynamics and ability to meet a child’s needs as an adoptive parent. The interview may include questions like, “Why did you choose to adopt?” and “How excited are you and/or your spouse about the prospective adoption?” The home study professional will usually ask questions about your background, career, traditions, and lifestyle.
Once the home study is complete, you’ll get approval as a prospective adoptive parent or family.
3. Finding a Match
Unless you’re working to adopt a specific child like your stepchild, grandchild, or nephew, you’ll need to wait for an adoption agency to match you with an expectant birth mother. This step is often the hardest for prospective adoptive parents since wait times can be unpredictable.
Expectant birth mothers who have chosen adoption will browse through files of potential adoptive parents and choose the family they consider the best fit for their child. Once a birth mother chooses you, the agency will contact you and notify you of the potential match.
In Arizona, the prospective adoptive family and the expectant birth mother may have different levels of contact before and after birth, ranging from open adoption (frequent contact) to closed adoption (no contact). The prospective adoptive parents usually pay for the expectant mother’s prenatal care, reasonable living expenses during the pregnancy (rent, utilities, groceries, etc.), and birth expenses.
4. Consent to Adoption and Placement
If you’re adopting an infant through an agency, you’ll get a call when the baby is about to arrive. Then, you can travel to the hospital and meet your baby for the first time.
In Arizona, 72 hours must pass after birth before the biological mother can sign her consent to adoption. This is often an emotionally loaded time for all parties involved. Prospective adoptive parents may fear that the birth mother will change her mind about adoption and decide to parent the baby, which she has the right to do at any point before she signs the consent form.
Once the birth mother completes and signs the consent form, she irrevocably gives up her parental rights. Two people 18 or older must witness the consent form signing.
If the baby you’re planning to adopt is born outside Arizona, the birth state may have other specific regulations. You’ll need to follow ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) guidelines. Stay in touch with your attorney for advice on complying with ICPC requirements.
5. Post-placement Visits
After you come home with your new baby, you can expect a post-placement visit from your Arizona home study provider or social worker. The visit will usually take place within a week to a month of placement. Then, the home study professional will conduct two or three more visits before the court finalizes your adoption, usually about six months after the child’s birth.
The purpose of post-placement visits is to ensure that the adoptive parents and the baby are adjusting and bonding properly as a new family. The social worker may ask questions about the child’s medical condition, wellness check-ups, and developmental milestones.
Each post-placement visit will give the home study provider material for a report, which will play an important role in your final adoption hearing.
6. Finalization of Adoption
Once the post-placement stage is complete, your adoption lawyer will arrange for an adoption finalization hearing at the Arizona Superior Court. Your lawyer will also help you prepare for the hearing and ensure all necessary paperwork is in place.
During the hearing, the judge will review your adoption process and the home study reports. If there’s no unexpected legal complication, at the end of the hearing, the judge will sign the adoption decree and grant you permanent and legal parental rights.
A typical adoption finalization hearing in Arizona lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. The judge will confirm your identity and usually ask questions about your motivation to adopt, your process of adjusting to life after placement, and your plans for the future as a family. The judge will also check your adoption details and make sure you’ve complied with all the requirements of ICPC if you’re adopting a child from outside Arizona, and with the Indian Child Welfare Act if the child was born to an indigenous tribe.
The finalization hearing is a nerve-racking experience for many adoptive parents, but in almost all cases, the court will approve the adoption.
7. After Adoption
Congratulations—your child is now an official part of your family, legally and irrevocably. Now that you’ve completed the adoption process in Arizona, it’s time to update your child’s birth certificate to include their new surname. You’ll also need to file for a new Social Security Number for your child.
You may have to decide how much contact, if any, you want to maintain with your child’s birth mother in the future. Some families stay in touch throughout the years, while others are more comfortable with little to no contact.
Contested vs. Uncontested Adoptions
In most adoptions, the birth parent voluntarily signs away their parental rights. However, some adoptions are contested, meaning that the biological parent won’t give up their custodial rights and decides to fight the adoption process. Often, this happens when a stepparent is interested in adopting their stepchild.
Consider the following scenario: You have developed a close parent-like bond with your spouse’s child from a previous relationship and would like to adopt the child. The child’s other biological parent has been largely absent for years, assumes no financial responsibility for the child, and has a history of child neglect and/or abuse. Yet, they still oppose your wishes to adopt the child.
Contested adoptions are always more complicated than voluntary adoptions, so it’s important to work with an experienced adoption attorney to assess your legal options. If you can provide convincing evidence of the biological parent’s neglect, abuse, or inability to function as a parent, the court may strip them of their parental rights and approve the adoption process regardless of their consent.
How an Adoption Attorney Can Smooth the Adoption Process in Arizona
An unexpected snag in the adoption process is a major concern for many people looking to adopt. Prospective parents become emotionally invested in adoption, and a sudden legal complication can be extremely disheartening, especially if you’ve already found a possible match.
Working with an experienced and reliable adoption lawyer in Arizona can help you navigate the adoption process with more security, confidence, and efficiency. In some cases, a skilled adoption lawyer can even speed up the legal process of adoption. Specifically, your adoption attorney may:
- Help you understand the relevant state, federal, or international adoption regulations
- Source, prepare, review, and file adoption-related paperwork
- Handle communication with the adoption agency
- Counsel you on preparing for your background check and home study
- Arrange reimbursement for the birth mother (for living costs during pregnancy, birth expenses, etc.)
- Resolve any conflicts or legal disputes that may arise during adoption
- Help you in cases of contested adoption
- Prepare you for the adoption finalization hearing and attend the hearing with you
A dedicated attorney is indispensable in almost every adoption process in Arizona. To avoid legal pitfalls, we recommend that you start working with a competent lawyer as early as possible, preferably as soon as you decide that adoption is the right choice for your family.
Schedule a Consultation With Lincoln & Wenk, Adoption Lawyers in Arizona
Adopting a child is a deeply rewarding act, but the process of adoption in Arizona may involve major emotional, mental, and practical challenges. During this crucial period, you and your family need reliable legal guidance and support.
At Lincoln & Wenk, we help families navigate the adoption process in Arizona. Call (623) 201-8849 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. We have offices in Phoenix, Goodyear, and