THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - PROVIDING COMPASSIONATE RELATIVE ADOPTION SERVICES FOR CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC
WHAT EXACTLY IS A RELATIVE ADOPTION?
Simply put, under South Carolina law, a "relative adoption" is any adoption of a child by a person who is related by blood or marriage. Over the last 40 years, the traditional family unit of the mother and the father has gradually given way to more "non-traditional" home settings. It is now common to see children that are being raised, for one reason or another, by grandparents, or aunts and uncles, or even older siblings. Along with more "non-traditional" households, the number of relative adoptions have also gradually increased over the years to the point where they are actually very common now.
Relative adoptions are now a common process used by family members to primarily achieve two goals. First of all, adopting a minor child that is a family member provides legal protection and legal classification for adoptive relatives that can clean up the legal web created by shifting custody. Secondly, and probably most importantly, a relative adoption can bring the psychological benefit of providing a sense of permanency for a minor relative.
THE PROCESS FOR A RELATIVE ADOPTION IN SOUTH CAROLINA
As with any regular adoption by a non-relative (foster parents, etc.), a relative adoption is initiated by filing a Summons and Complaint in Family Court.
- Now, it is important to note at this point that a child can not be adopted in South Carolina until the parental rights of the biological parents are terminated. Often when I am consulting potential clients, they confuse the concept of custody with termination of parental rights. Many relative adoptions involve relative guardians and custodians who have had the child in their home for an extended period of time. In many cases, the relative guardians may already have a court order granting them custody of the child. However, this is not enough! The parental rights of the biological parents have to be terminated by the Family Court. This is generally accomplished in two ways:
- By getting the consent of the parents to have their rights terminated and they consent to the adoption (voluntary); or
- Pleading for the termination of parental rights in your Summons and Complaint for adoption and asking the Family Court to issue and Order terminating parental rights (parents will not consent - involuntary).
In many cases, the request to Terminate Parental Rights of the biological parents (if they do not consent) is filed in the same Complaint as the Petition for Adoption. I can't stress enough how important it is to have the assistance of an attorney in any TPR and/or Adoption complaint. First of all, there are very specific timing elements and service requirements (especially if suing to terminate parental rights) that have to absolutely be met and satisfied. Any failure on this end is fatal to the case. Second, the Adoption petition specifically must contain certain information or, again, the suit faces possible dismissal for failure to met the requirements of the statute. Please see S.C. Code Ann. Sec. 63-9-710 through Sec. 63-9-750, and S.C. Code Ann. Sec. 63-9-1110
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO A RELATIVE ADOPTION VERSUS TRADITIONAL ADOPTION?
Many of the requirements to execute a valid relative adoption are the same as those required in traditional adoptions. However, South Carolina law does provide for what I would call some "shortcuts" that allow parties to a relative adoption to avoid some of the reporting requirements of the traditional adoption statute. Some of the differences in the legal process and reporting requirements include:
- A HOME STUDY IS NOT REQUIRED: traditional non-relative adoptions require both a pre-placement and post-placement home study to be performed by an approved agency. Relative adoptions do not require a home study unless otherwise ordered by the Court.
- THERE IS NO ACCOUNTING OR REPORTING OF FINANCIALS REQUIRED: traditional non-relative adoptions in South Carolina require that an accounting / expense report be filed prior to finalization of the adoption. These are normally required so that any costs paid by adoptive parents for the medical expenses of a birth mother or any fees paid to an adoption agency can be disclosed. This of course is not necessary in a relative adoption.
- DO NOT HAVE TO SEEK A CHILD OR WAIT FOR A PLACEMENT BY AN AGENCY: This is common sense I know but with relative adoptions, the child usually has been living with the relative for an extended period of time prior to the adoption being initiated.
- RELATIVE ADOPTIONS GET FINALIZED FASTER: Most non-relative South Carolina adoptions require to adoptive parents to wait a minimum of 90 days after filing the adoption petition before a final hearing to approve the Adoption can be scheduled. However, this requirement does not exist for relative adoptions and a final hearing approving the adoption can be had within weeks of filing if all the paperwork and disclosures are in order.
Since South Carolina law treats relative adoptions with the specific intent to make these types of adoptions "easier and faster," it is easy to see that relative adoptions are finalized a lot quicker than traditional adoptions and usually at reduced financial commitment than those needed in a traditional adoption.
THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - YOUR CHARLESTON, SC AND SUMMERVILLE, SC RELATIVE ADOPTION ATTORNEY
Seeking to adopt a child is a very emotional and legally nuanced event in Family Law that someone should not attempt to navigate without legal counsel by their side. A lack of understanding of the underlying law and necessary evidence to support your case can have tremendous ramifications on your future financial and emotional health. If you need immediate relief from the Family Court or need answers from a Charleston and Summerville Family Law Attorney, please call us immediately!!
If you live in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, North Charleston, Moncks Corner, James Island, West Ashley, Folly Beach, Johns Island, Walterboro, or any of the other fine communities of the South Carolina Low Country, do not wait another moment. Act now!! Contact The McMillian Law Firm at 843-900-1306 or email us at [email protected] and scheduled your free Family Law consultation today.