Through the process of adoption, a child becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents. Once the adoption is completed, there is no legal distinction between a birth child and an adopted child. The child becomes an heir of the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents assume all legal and financial responsibility for the child until the child is 18 years of age.
While the birth parent knows in their heart that they gave birth and life to the child, through the process of adoption, all of their rights and responsibilities for the child are ended.
Either a single person or a married couple may adopt in Michigan. The married couple may be a heterosexual or same sex couple. The married couple must have proof of marriage.
Even if the birth mother is a minor under 18 years of age, in Michigan, she must consent to the adoption. However, her parent or legal guardian must co-sign all of the documents.
A home study is a comprehensive study of the prospective adoptive couple to determine their ability to adopt a child. In a direct placement adoption, this assessment must be done by a licensed adoption agency. In a relative adoption or a step-parent adoption, this assessment may be completed by the court.
The elements of the preplacement assessment are detailed in the adoption statute and administrative rules. The licensed adoption agency or the court must review the prospective adoptive parents’ suitability to adopt, including review of such things as their home, health, employment, finances, and beliefs about discipline and parenting. It will also include a criminal background check and history of domestic violence and child abuse. They ask about family and social supports, religion and the like. Fingerprints are done and a there is a check of criminal records and past child protective proceedings reports. Certain offenses prohibit the placement of a child with a prospective adoptive parent. Please ask if there are concerns regarding this.
Even if there is an element in your past about which you are not proud, be honest about it and show what has been done to address the situation.
A home study is good for one year and may be updated annually after the initial study is done.
Once an adoption is completed in Michigan, a new birth certificate is issued which shows the adoptive parents as the parents of the child. There is no indication on the certificate that the child was adopted.
All adoption files in Michigan are confidential. Once the adoptee becomes 18 years of age, he or she may request access to information. The birth parent may keep their current contact information available in the Central Adoption Registry so that if the child searches, he or she may find the parent. Conversely, if the birth parent does not want to be contacted, they may note that as well.
Direct placement adoptions may be as open or as closed as the parties agree. I have done adoptions where all information about the parties was kept as absolutely confidential as it could be. I have also done them where all information was shared. It is up to the parties to determine the amount of information shared before and after the adoption.
One thing I tell all adoptive parents whom I represent—and that I ask of adoptive parents when I represent the birth mother—is to please not promise the birth mother anything that you do not intend to do.
There is no one right answer here. Once the birth mother chooses the adoptive parents, they may decide with their respective attorneys how open or how closed to make the adoption. Topics include:
If the birth mother is going to do an out-of-court consent, she may do that after a 72 hour waiting period.
If the birth mother is going to give her consent in court, it may be given whenever the hearing may be scheduled on the judge’s court docket. Is should be noted that, while adoptions are to have the highest priority on the court docket, the hearing may take a short while to schedule.
If the birth mother has given an out-of-court consent, she may request a revocation within 5 working days (excluding weekends and holidays). The court is not required to grant the request for revocation. If the court does schedule a hearing, they may ask questions to determine if the consent was voluntarily given, and, if it was, determine what is in the best interest of the child. Many factors are outlined in the statute for the court to consider if they grant the hearing.
Whether an in-court or out of court consent was given, the parent has 21 days after termination of parental rights to file an appeal.
The Michigan Adoption Code defines those who are related within the “fifth degree of consanguinity” as relatives. Many charts have been prepared to determine this relationship, but they are often difficult to interpret. I am happy to answer your questions to determine the relationship between the expected child and the prospective adoptive parents.