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What You Need to Know About Adopting a Family Member in NC

If you’re interested in a kinship adoption in North Carolina, you’ve come to the right place. Nowadays, it’s more common than ever for families to be made up of more than just parents and children; grandparents, aunts and uncles and even adult siblings can act as guardians for younger children.

However, if you’re currently the guardian of a child, there are some legal protections that you don’t have that a family adoption will ensure for you. And, fortunately, the relative adoption process in North Carolina is much easier to complete than a traditional infant adoption — but you’ll still need an adoption lawyer to walk you through the process.

That’s where Herring & Mills can help. As two of the most experienced adoption lawyers in North Carolina, we’ve worked with many families who are in the same position that you are.  We can help you collect the legal documents you need for a relative adoption in N.C., determine whether you need to complete any home studies or background screenings and finalize your adoption of a family member.

To learn more about how we can help in your individual situation, you can give us a call at 919-821-1860 or contact us online.

For more information about kinship adoption, read on for answers to some common questions about the process.

1. Can I adopt my brother, sister, niece, nephew or grandchild in N.C.?

Yes — a relative adoption is considered as any adoption where a minor child is placed with their grandparent, sibling, first cousin, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle or great-grandparent. As long as you are over the age of 18 and fit one of these categories, you can complete a family adoption in North Carolina.

2. Why do I need to complete a kinship adoption if I’m already that child’s guardian?

Even if this child already lives with you and you fulfill many parental duties, you need the legal protection provided by adopting. Adopting a family member gives you full parental rights to that child, which means you will be able to:

  • Make medical decisions and obtain medical records for the child
  • Ensure inheritance rights and insurance benefits for the child
  • More easily perform everyday tasks, like enrolling the child in school
  • Change the child’s name in the adoption process

In addition to the legal benefits of adopting a relative, the permanency of adoption can provide emotional benefits to the child you’re adopting. Taking this legal step proves your devotion to the child, and a legally solid family dynamic can positively impact your child’s self-esteem.

3. What are the requirements for adopting a relative in North Carolina?

Because you are related to the child you want to adopt, the laws regarding your adoption are much less strict than they are for unrelated adoptive parents. If the parent or guardian of the child places the child directly with you (rather than through the state foster care system, for example), you will not be required to complete a pre-placement assessment.

However, if you and the child you wish to adopt live in different states, you may have to complete a home study and other background screening for your kinship adoption. The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children  (ICPC) regulations will likely not apply to your relative adoption, but an attorney will need to check with the ICPC office to determine what is required.

If you work with us, we can determine if your adoption requires any pre-placement screening and, if so, help you collect all of the documentation you might need.

4. Who has to consent to a family adoption in Raleigh and N.C.?

In most cases, the only people who have to consent to the adoption will be the child’s legal parents — usually their biological mother and father. If the child is 12 or older, they will also have to give their consent for the adoption.

In many North Carolina relative adoption cases, the adopting relatives already have custody or guardianship of the child, so the consent of the parents may not be necessary or will have already been given. If the parents’ whereabouts are unknown, we have to make a diligent effort to locate them and give them notice of the adoption. If we cannot locate them after our efforts, the court may be able to continue with the adoption by involuntarily terminating their parental rights.

5. After the adoption is completed in court, is there anything else I have to do?

Before the family adoption in N.C. is finalized, you will have to complete a post-placement assessment and a report to the court. The county department of social services where you live will meet with you, prepare the post-placement assessment and report it to the court.

This is usually nothing to stress about; it’s just a way for the court to determine whether the adoption is truly in the best interests of the child. If you prefer, you have the option of using a private agency for the assessment instead. The assessment will involve two post-placement visits to your home, interviews with you and the adopted child and an observation of your relationship. The Department of Social Services also performs these assessments.

After the original adoption petition is filed, the adoption decree will usually be issued within six months. Remember, we will be available for you throughout this legal kinship adoption process.

If you’re interested in adopting a family member in North Carolina, we highly recommend you complete the process with an attorney, as the legalities are complex. If you work with us, we will answer your questions about the law and adoption process, help you assess risks involved, clarify your options and develop a legally secure plan for your adoption. Your kinship adoption will be a priority for us.

To get started with your kinship adoption in North Carolina today, give us a call at 919-821-1860.