Can I Adopt My Grandchild(ren) or Close Relative in Florida Affordably Without an Attorney?
Most likely, yes! Your reasons for adopting your grandchild(ren) or relative are varied, but your situation is all too common across Florida.
It is estimated that almost a half-million children in Florida live in homes with their grandparents or other close relatives acting as parents, and the biological parents of these children are absent in almost 50% of these situations.
Reasons vary, but common themes with grandparents raising grandchildren seem to be:
- Unexpected pregnancy, often due to promiscuous behavior, and often involving more than one father;
- Opioid abuse and/or addiction to other drugs;
- Problems with the law, incarceration;
- Economic challenges; and
- Abuse or neglect.
Grandparents often research their relative adoption options in Florida, because the biological parents are simply unable to properly parent the child(ren). Some birth parents have come to this determination on their own and support the grandparents adopting their children, while others simply disappear leaving the grandparents to care for the emotional, mental, physical, and economic needs of their child(ren).
If you’ve read this far, you probably have a close family member or relative, usually a grandson or granddaughter, living with you (or you and your spouse), and you have been acting as the children’s de-facto parents. The grandchild(ren) or close relative has been living with you for an extended period, perhaps since birth, and they have already identified with you as their parent(s). The birth mother, birth father, or both have been largely absent from the child(ren)’s lives, and you know that challenges and complications are going to arise sooner or later unless you take steps to formalize, through grandparent or relative adoption, the loving parent-child relationship you already enjoy.
Common Reasons for Adopting Grandchildren and Relatives in Florida
Even though you are acting as the child’s parents, filing forms for a Florida grandparent or relative adoption, sometimes called a Florida kinship adoption, is an important step to ensure the legal security of your grandson, granddaughter, or close relative.
Although you may be doing a great job as the child(ren)’s parents, and you are the only parents that the child(ren) have ever known, you do not possess the legal rights of biological parents. Adopting your grandchild(ren) or relative may help alleviate concerns that you have, such as:
- Desire to give the child(ren) stability and permanency;
- Not being able to give the child(ren) benefits, like social security, that they would be entitled to if they were adopted;
- Fear of an absent biological parent with lifestyle challenges, i.e. substance and/or alcohol abuse, an extensive history of serious criminal behavior, aggravated mental illness, just to name a few, suddenly appearing and taking the child(ren);
- Not being able to make proper healthcare decisions for your grandchild(ren) due to legal reasons;
- Difficulty enrolling your grandchild(ren) or relative in schools or extra-curricular activities;
- Eliminating the anxiety or confusion that some children feel because they do not share your name; and
- Concerns about grandchildren not being able to inherit the grandparent’s estate, and any number of other legal matters.
Why Aren’t More Grandparents Adopting their Grandchildren?
Reasons vary, but we believe it’s directly related to two factors:
Money and misinformation.
Let’s start with misinformation. Potential adoptive families often get confused by misinformation as soon as they start researching how to adopt their grandchildren or close relatives. It often starts at the courthouse with untrained clerks of court trying to be helpful, but unfortunately, licensed family law attorneys are also an ever-increasing source of discouragement for families as many are not familiar with Florida’s private adoption laws and they give families incorrect and sometimes outlandish information.
I have many examples, but the most recent one that comes to mind was just last week when a grandmother, literally crying, called our office for document preparation help. During the conversation she indicated that a generic family law attorney in the Florida Panhandle told her that he could help her with the private adoption of her two grandchildren, but he would have to call DCF to foster the children until the case was complete, and that it could take up to two years to finalize. This woman had no DCF involvement with her grandchildren, one parent was consenting, and the other was deceased. A case such as hers finalizes usually within 90 days of filing.
Everyone knows that hiring an attorney can be expensive, but I analogize attorneys and adoptions with going to an event planner and telling them you’re getting married. The price suddenly triples for everything.
Adopting a newborn or a non-relative in Florida requires an attorney or a licensed adoption agency to be involved. This is the law. The legal and miscellaneous fees associated with this type of adoption can be anywhere from $30,000.00 to $45,000.00 and sometimes even more.
Often the same attorneys that provide legal services for newborn adoptions also advertise for grandparent adoption and relative adoption. Unfortunately, an increasing number of lawyers in Florida fail to inform these families inquiring about grandparent and relative adoption that an attorney is usually not required to successfully file and finalize a grandparent, relative, stepparent, or adult adoption in Florida. Attorneys are ethically required to provide “all legal options” to their potential clients, but many don’t. This leaves grandparents and relatives considering adoption to believe that the high legal fees quoted are their only options. Most families who inquire about grandparent and relative adoption are in a tight financial situation to begin with, so their dream of adopting their grandchildren or other family member usually ends right there as they hang up the phone. At Florida Family Adoptions, it’s not uncommon for our customers to tell us that they were quoted from $10,000 to $18,000 PER CHILD by an attorney.
Sometimes You Need a Lawyer
The services of a document preparation service, even one like Florida Family Adoptions that specializes in relative, grandparent, stepparent and adult adoptions, is not a substitute for the advice of a knowledgeable attorney. If your case is complicated and/or you need legal advice and representation, you should consult with an attorney. But please consider a Florida Board Certified Adoption Attorney. Private family adoption in Florida under FS Chapter 63 is a highly specialized and nuanced area of Florida adoption law. Like I mentioned earlier, the number of generic family law attorneys that pollute the minds of Florida families in need with bizarre legal advice about grandparent and relative adoptions is sobering.
If You’d Like to Handle your Adoption Pro se (Self-Represented without An Attorney)
We’d be delighted and happy to help. We offer a fixed price solution for grandparent and relative adoption document preparation and ongoing clerical support. No one does what we do. No one. We don’t sell blank forms, and we meet with each family in person to sign and notarize their adoption documents.
We are accredited, A+ rated, and 5-star reviewed by the Florida Better Business Bureau (BBB). Use the form below to contact us or call 800-255-5287 to speak with us about your adoption goals.
Here are some helpful links to other pages and articles on our website:
Florida Family Adoptions – Our Main Family Adoption Web Page
Myths and Realities – Florida Pro Se Step-Parent, Relative, and Adult Adoptions
Florida Pro Se Family Adoptions and Unlocated Birth Parents
Relative and Step Parent Adoptions and the Florida Putative Father Registry (PFR)
Nonlawyer Relative Adoptions and the Florida DCF (Department of Children and Families)
Court Access in Florida: The View from Two Perspectives
Grandparent Adoption, Step Parent Adoption and Relative Adoption in Florida – The Advantages of Becoming ONE Family
A Customer’s Visit to the Law Library for Relative Adoption Forms