No matter what kind of adoption you complete in South Carolina, there will be legal matters involved. You’ll need a lawyer to help you complete the four main processes of a legal adoption in South Carolina: termination of parental rights, ICWA, ICPC and adoption finalization.
When you work with the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson, you can know you’re receiving the legal advice and services you need to successfully complete your adoption. We’ll help you understand each of these adoption processes, if they’re applicable to your situation and, if so, how your adoption will need to proceed.
To learn more about your individual adoption circumstances and the legalities involved, please call us today at 864-573-5533.
Below, read more on the different kinds of legal processes that might be involved in your South Carolina adoption.
Termination of Parental Rights in S.C.
When you adopt a child in South Carolina, the biological parents’ rights must be terminated before you can legally become the child’s parents. In many private domestic adoptions, prospective birth parents make an adoption plan and consent to a voluntary termination of parental rights once the child is born. Typically, when you complete a private domestic adoption, the process for terminating parental rights will have already been discussed with the prospective birth parents and explained to you before the baby is born (though the actual termination of parental rights must take place after the baby’s birth).
In South Carolina, consent to terminate parental rights can be given any time after the child is born — with no necessary waiting period as required in some other states. As a matter of best practice, most South Carolina attorneys and agencies wait a minimum of 24 hours post-birth before allowing a birth parent to sign a consent for adoption. Once given, this adoption consent is irrevocable; there is no period of time where the parent can change his or her mind.
In some cases, an involuntary termination of parental rights is needed, including certain foster care adoption situations.
Usually, it will be up to a court to decide if a biological parent’s rights can be terminated involuntarily, but some of the grounds for doing so include:
- Severe or chronic abuse or neglect
- Sexual abuse
- Long-term mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse
- Failure to support the child or maintain a relationship with the child
- Failure to remedy the cause for the child coming into foster care
Dealing with a contested adoption or involuntary termination of parental rights can be stressful for prospective adoptive parents, but you can be reassured in knowing that attorney Jim Thompson will do all he can to ensure the success of your adoption in these kinds of situations. Each situation will vary, so it’s important that you work with our trusted law firm to protect your rights as a prospective adoptive family.
Interstate Contact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)
At the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson, we work with prospective adoptive families who live in South Carolina and in other states. If you live out of state, your adoption will likely need to comply with ICPC regulations and rules.
ICPC ensures that all adoptions taking place across state lines are completed safely and legally to protect all members of the adoption triad. Therefore, instead of just complying with one set of state adoption laws, an interstate adoption needs approval by both the state where the prospective birth mother lives and where the prospective adoptive family lives.
ICPC rules require you follow strict guidelines when it comes to taking your child home from their birth state. It’s important that you work with an experienced attorney like Jim Thompson to ensure you’re following these rules exactly, reducing the risk of compromising your adoption and consequently increasing the time you have to wait to take your baby home. An ICPC adoption can be complicated, but when you work with the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson, you can know your adoption will be completed efficiently and legally.
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
Another federal adoption law to be aware of is the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. This act protects adopted children of Native American ancestry.
If the child you wish to adopt has any Native American heritage, you may need to comply with ICWA law. ICWA regulations give Native American tribes legal authority and a voice in child welfare cases to make sure that any adoption placement of a Native American child is in their best interest. In some cases, this means giving preference to the child’s relatives or tribe for adoption before considering prospective adoptive families without Native American heritage.
However, not every adoption of a child with Native American ancestry will qualify as an ICWA adoption, as there are certain requirements that have to be met. If you think your adopted child may be subject to ICWA requirements, or if you’re not quite sure, contact the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson to learn more.
Adoption Finalization and Post-Placement Assessments
We know the adoption process can be complicated, and you’ll likely be relieved when you finally have your adopted child placed into your arms. However, the legal adoption process does not end once your child’s birth parents sign their consent. There will be a couple more steps to make your adoption final in South Carolina.
All adoptions, whether through the foster system or through a private agency or attorney, must be finalized with a meeting in court (known as an adoption finalization hearing). This can take place anywhere from a couple of months to a year after your adopted child has been placed with you, as you may need to wait for a post-placement assessment to be completed before you can legally complete your adoption.
Whether or not you need to complete a post-placement assessment in South Carolina will vary based on your individual situation, but many adoption finalizations in South Carolina do require a follow-up assessment with a social worker after the adopted child has been placed with his or her new family. This is not as extensive as the pre-adoption home study; it’s simply a way for the social worker to ensure that the adopted child and the adoptive family are adjusting well to their new lives together. The findings of their report will be filed with the final adoption petition at the adoption finalization hearing.
After this assessment is completed, you will need to be present in court for your adoption finalization. This is the last step to a legally completed adoption. A judge will check to make sure appropriate adoption rules in South Carolina and any other applicable state were followed, termination of parental rights has been taken care of and any other ICPC adoption and Native American adoption regulations have been addressed. You may be asked to answer some questions about your adoption; attorney Jim Thompson will help you prepare and be there during the court hearing, as well. After the judge has determined that you completed a legal adoption in South Carolina, the final adoption decree will be signed and your adoption process will be finalized.
Each adoption will be unique, so the adoption rules to be familiar with will vary based on your situation. We can help prepare you for the legal adoption steps mentioned above, as well as inform you of any other adoption rights and regulations you need to be aware of.
To learn more about your particular adoption situation and what adoption legalities may apply to you, please contact our offices today at 864-573-5533.