Adoption in Arizona

Family Law Practice Arizona

Who may adopt?

Any adult resident of Arizona, whether married, unmarried or legally separated is eligible to qualify to adopt children. Only Arizona residents may adopt in Arizona. If a person is a non-relative to the child, then he or she will need to be certified to adopt. If the person adopting is a relative to the child, then it is possible that they may not need to be certified.

Who may be adopted?

A child under the age of 18, who is not an illegal alien and is present in the state at the time the petition to adopt is filed. The child must be legally free for adoption. “Legally free” means that the birth parents of the child have signed consents to the adoption, or they have had their parental rights terminated by court order or by being served a Notice to Potential Birth Father, or they are deceased.

How do I qualify to adopt?

Before any prospective adoptive parent who is not related to a child (i.e. step parent, uncle, aunt, adult sibling, grandparent or great-grandparent) may petition to adopt a child the person shall be certified by the court as acceptable to adopt children.

A certification study, often referred to as a “home study” is conducted by a licensed adoption agency, an officer of the court or the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

The certification study is required to address:

  • A complete social history
  • The financial condition of the applicant
  • The moral fitness of the applicant
  • The religious background of the applicant
  • The physical and mental health condition of the applicants
  • Any court action for or adjudication of child abuse, abandonment of children, dependency or termination of parent-child relationship in which the applicant had control, care or custody of the child who was the subject of the action
  • All other facts bearing on the issue of the fitness of the prospective adoptive parents that the court, agency or division may deem relevant

The certification study, along with the recommendation of the agency preparing the study, is filed with the court in the county in which the adoptive parents reside. If the court certifies the prospective adoptive parents as acceptable to adopt, that certification is good for 18 months. If no adoption petition has been filed within that time, certification can be extended for one year periods if the court determines that there have been no material changes in circumstances that would adversely affect the acceptability of the prospective parents to adopt.

What is an Agency Adoption?

An agency adoption is one in which the birth parents of the child relinquish their parental rights to a licensed adoption agency. The agency becomes the legal custodian of the child, has the right to place the child for adoption and consent to the adoption. Many agencies allow birth parents to chose an adoptive family from the prospective adoptive clients of the agency.

What is a Private or Direct Placement Adoption?

A private or direct placement adoption is one in which the birth parents give their consent to adopt directly to the family that they have chosen as adoptive parents. In these adoptions, the child is usually discharged from the hospital directly into the custody of the adoptive parents.

What is an Open Adoption?

Most birth parents considering an adoption plan request an open adoption. There is no set definition of an open adoption, and openness can vary from meeting the adopting parents prior to the birth of the child to wanting ongoing communication and visitation after the adoption. Arizona law allows the birth parents and adoptive parents to enter into a written agreement regarding contact and communication after the adoption.

When can consents to adoption be signed?

Birth parents cannot sign consents to adopt until 72 hours after the birth of the child. Consents once given are irrevocable unless obtained by fraud duress or undue influence.

Does Arizona law allow payment of a birth parents living expenses?

Yes, Arizona allows adopting parents to assist a birth parent with her living expenses. A court order is required to pay living expenses exceeding $1,000.00.

How are Birth Fathers dealt with under Arizona law?

If the birth mother is married, her husband’s consent to the adoption is necessary, even if he is not the biological father. If DNA evidence of paternity rules out the husband as the father of the child, his consent may not be necessary. For fathers who are not married to the mother, a notice must be served on them advising them of the mother’s adoption plan. The father has 30 days from the date the notice is served upon him to file a paternity action in the Superior Court and to have the mother served with a copy of the paternity paperwork. If he does not file the paternity action and serve the mother within 30 days, his parental rights are terminated.

What is the Putative Father Registry?

The Arizona putative father registry is for fathers, who may have conceived a child, to file a claim of paternity. By filing with the registry, the father is entitled to notice of a mother’s adoption plan. A father can register at any time during the pregnancy and up to 30 days after the birth of the child. A father who fails to register within 30 days after the child’s birth waives his right to notification of any adoption proceeding involving the child, and his consent to the adoption is not required. Lack of knowledge of the pregnancy is no excuse for failing to register. The fact that the father had sexual intercourse with the mother is deemed to be notice to him of the pregnancy.

What is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children?

The compact is an agreement between the 50 states to ensure that a child moving from one state to another to be adopted is being placed into a suitable home with adoptive parents who are qualified to adopt. Administrators of the compact in both the sending state, where the child was born or is currently residing, and the receiving state, where the adoptive parents reside, review the adoption paperwork, including the homestudy, before granting approval for the child to leave the sending state and travel to the receiving state. In Arizona, adoptive parents cannot get approval to bring a child home from another state unless they are currently certified by the Superior Court as acceptable adoptive parents or are licensed foster parents. The compact does not apply to a parent, step-parent, grandparent, adult sibling, aunt, uncle or guardian.

What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?

The Indian Child Welfare Act, usually referred to as ICWA, is federal law that protects an Indian Tribe’s right to be involved with children who are members of the tribe or eligible for membership. A birth mother who is a member of a tribe, but who does not live on the reservation may make a voluntary adoption plan for her child. Consents to the adoption of an Indian child cannot be given until 10 days after the birth of the child. The consent to adopt can be withdrawn by the Indian parent at anytime and for any reason, up until a final decree of termination or adoption is entered.

What is the federal adoption tax credit?

The federal government has provided for a tax credit to assist adoptive parents with the expenses of an adoption. In 2014, the credit allowed for adoption related expenses is $13,190.00 The credit begins to phase out if you have modified adjusted gross income of $197,880.00 or more and is completely phased out if you have modified adjusted gross income of $237,880.00 or more. You can take the credit in the year the adoption is finalized. You will need to check with your own tax preparer to be certain that you qualify for and receive all of the benefits of this credit.

If the child being adopted qualifies for the adoption subsidy program, the child is deemed “special needs” by the IRS and the full amount of the tax credit is available regardless of whether or not any expenses were incurred in the adoption.  Special needs children are usually those who are placed in the adoptive home by the Department of Child Safety.

Does Arizona permit adult adoptions?

Yes, any adult person may adopt either another adult person who is at least eighteen years of age and not more than twenty-one years of age and who consents to the adoption or another adult person who is a stepchild, niece, nephew, cousin or grandchild of the adopting person. A foster parent may adopt an adult who was placed in the foster parent’s care when the adult was a juvenile if the foster parent has maintained a continuous familial relationship with that person for five or more years.