Basics of Adoption Law in North Carolina

Adoption Law in North Carolina - Child holds a drawn house with family.

Adoption is the legal process of creating the relationship of parent and child between two people. North Carolina, like all other states, has specific laws governing adoptions in the state. Adoption law in North Carolina is complex. Each situation has unique circumstances, but there are general rules and processes that apply in all adoption cases.

What Is the Adoption Process?

There are a number of different types of adoption, and the process is not exactly the same for all of them. For some types of adoption, the process can be complex. Types of adoption include:

  • Foster care adoption
  • Agency adoption
  • Independent or private adoption
  • Relative placement and adoption
  • Step-parent adoption
  • Surrogacy adoption
  • Foreign adoption

Some types of adoption — such as agency adoption — require pre-placement procedures and assessments. Other type of adoption, including relative placement, may not require those procedures.

All adoptions require the necessary parental consents, as well as a petition for adoption to be filed with the district court. Depending on the type of adoption, various supporting documentation is required to be filed with the petition, in addition to the required parental consents.

If the petition is not opposed, generally a hearing will not be required. If the petition is opposed, the court will hold a hearing and determine whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child.

In most cases, the court will set a date for a hearing or disposition no later than 90 days after the petition has been filed. Under the adoption statute, the hearing or disposition must be no later than six months after the petition was filed, unless the court extends the time.

Who Can Adopt?

Any adult over the age of 18 may adopt another person, except that legally married spouses may not adopt each other. To file a petition for adoption, one of two conditions must be met:

  • The petitioner has lived in North Carolina for six consecutive months prior to filing the petition, or
  • The petitioner is domiciled in North Carolina and is adopting a child who has lived in the state from birth or for six consecutive months prior to the filing of the petition.

In most cases, spouses adopt jointly, but North Carolina does allow one spouse to adopt if the other spouse consents. If a person is unmarried, only that person may file the adoption petition.

Who Can Be Adopted?

Anyone of any age can be adopted. However, consent is required if the person being adopted is an adult or a child over the age of 12.

The process for adult adoptions is very different from adoption of a child. In cases of adult adoption, the county departments of social services have no statutory responsibilities.

Parental Consent to Adoption

Generally, consent of biological parents is required for an adoption, except that consent of a biological parent is not required if:

  • The parent’s rights have been terminated by a court;
  • A guardian has been appointed for the child;
  • The putative father has executed a notarized written affidavit denying paternity;
  • A guardian or placement agency determines that consent is being unreasonably withheld; or
  • The child is over 12 years of age, and there is a finding that it is not in the best interests of the child to require consent.

In addition, consent of the putative father of a non-marital child is not necessary, unless prior to filing of the petition, the putative father has:

  • Legitimated the child;
  • Acknowledged paternity and has a written agreement or is under court order to support the child;
  • Provided reasonable, consistent support of the mother or child and has visited or communicated with the mother, child, or both, or has attempted to do so;
  • Married the mother; or
  • Is living with the child.

If a biological parent does not respond after service of notice of the adoption proceeding in a timely manner after service, the court may waive the consent requirement.

The biological father may give written consent to adoption at any time before or after the child’s birth. However, the biological mother may not legally give consent until after the child’s birth. Biological parents under the age of 18 may give consent as if they were legally an adult with the capacity to enter into a contract.

Any parental written consent to adoption may be revoked by written notice. If the child over three months old, consent may be revoked within seven days of execution of the written consent. If the child is less than three months old, consent may be revoked within 21 days after the consent is signed.

Talk With Our Trusted North Carolina Adoption Attorneys

At The Twiford Law Firm, our trusted family and domestic law attorneys will answer all your questions about adoption and assist you throughout the adoption process, regardless of the type of adoption. Our experience includes working with clients on both domestic and international adoptions and assisting both single parents and married couples.

With offices in Elizabeth City and Moyock, The Twiford Law Firm serves clients throughout northeastern North Carolina. Call us at 252-338-4151 (Elizabeth City) or 252-435-2811 (Moyock) or complete our online form to schedule an initial consultation.

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