The United States Census Bureau reports that over 2.4 million grandparents across the country are responsible for raising their grandchildren. If you are a grandparent who has become the primary caregiver to your grandchild, your family may benefit from the adoption process. Ultimately, the longer you fulfill the parental role and dedicate your time and resources to raising your grandchild, the more advantageous it may become for you to pursue adoption. If you are wondering “how can I adopt my grandchild in Arizona?” – the Law Office of Justin Fernstrom PLLC can help.
What Is a Relative Adoption?
A relative adoption refers to the process in which a child is permanently placed with relatives, including aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and grandparents. Relative adoptions are typically seen as the preferred option when children cannot safely remain in their parents’ home or be reunited with them. For children that qualify under the Indian Child Welfare Act, grandparents are given placement preference for their grandchild. Adoption is the most permanent legal relationship option, creating forever grandfamilies across Arizona, but it is important to fully understand the legal complexities of this choice before pursuing adoption.
How Does a Relative Adoption Work?
Before a grandparent can adopt their grandchild, the child must be considered “free for adoption,” which is satisfied through one of the following avenues:
- The child’s parents have given written consent to the adoption; or
- Parental rights have been terminated.
Once one of these requirements has been satisfied and the child is free for adoption, you may file the adoption petition to initiate the process. A range of information must be included in the petition according to Arizona Revised Statutes § 8-109, and even the most minor missteps during this stage can negatively impact the outcome of your case. For this reason, seeking legal assistance at this phase may be beneficial to avoiding the common pitfalls grandparents encounter when pursuing adoption.
Do I Need an Adoption Certification to Adopt My Grandchild?
Arizona law generally requires individuals or couples to obtain a certification to adopt, but this is not the case for grandparents. Arizona Revised Statutes § 8-105 states that if the adoption is a relative adoption, certification is not necessary. It should be noted that you will still be required to submit to both federal and state criminal records check, as well as a Department of Child Safety central registry check, as part of your petition to the court.
How to Terminate Parental Rights in Arizona?
Under Arizona law, parents can either choose to have their parental rights terminated or be forced to do so through a court order. Courts will only terminate parental rights when it is in the best interest of the child. According to Arizona Revised Statutes § 8-533, there are eleven grounds for terminating parental rights, including abuse, neglect, and abandonment.
To obtain a court order to permanently terminate the legal rights, duties, and obligations of your grandchild’s parents, you may file a Petition for the Termination of Parent-Child Relationship with the Superior Court in your county. This form will initiate the process, but you must still provide compelling evidence to support your claim that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate the parent-child relationship.
What Is the Adoption Process for Arizona Grandparents?
While the adoption journey can seem daunting at first glance, it becomes much more manageable when broken down into distinct stages:
- File the petition for adoption to begin the process.
- Complete a home study to determine your readiness to adopt.
- Obtain a fingerprint clearance card.
- Attend the court hearing, where a judge will review your case and make a determination regarding the placement of your grandchild.
If the judge ultimately approves the adoption, you will gain full legal custody of your grandchild and be granted the rights and responsibilities of a natural parent. Adoption marks a major shift in the relationship between you and your grandchild, and understanding these changes can help you and your family better navigate the process and its aftermath.
What Are the Benefits of Adopting a Grandchild?
Adoption can be an emotional journey for all involved, and it is natural to wonder “how will my family be impacted if I adopt my grandchild?” Our clients have reported the following benefits of adopting a grandchild and uniting their family under one roof:
- Greater stability in the family unit. Moving back into the home of a biological parent can be jarring for children who have lived with their grandparents for years. This is a very real possibility unless you pursue adoption to formalize your relationship with your grandchild. The stability provided by adoption provides an incredible sense of peace and security.
- Increased access to support. With so many grandparents raising their grandchildren across Arizona, key programs have been created to help support these arrangements. To access forms of state aid, for instance, grandparents are often required to adopt their grandchildren.
- New sense of family. A child who has lost their parents to extenuating circumstances like abandonment, addiction, imprisonment, or death may have a difficult time understanding where they belong. Adoption clarifies the sense of family for children, helping them understand where they belong, both now and in the future.
Adoption is more than a legal process; it is a journey of love and dedication, culminating in the creation of a forever family. The benefits of adopting a grandchild vary from family to family, but regardless of the circumstances, the families we work with report feeling a sense of togetherness and unity once the process is complete.
Let Us Help Guide You Through the Adoption Process in Arizona
The adoption process is complex and challenging, and it is essential to have knowledgeable and experienced legal representation on your side. With an in-depth understanding of the rights of grandparents and relative adoptions in Arizona, we can guide you through this complicated legal process.
With the proper support and guidance, you can rest assured that you will be able to provide a stable, secure, and loving home for your grandchild. If you are stuck wondering “how can I adopt my grandchild in Arizona?” the Law Office of Justin Fernstrom PLLC can provide the guidance and support to help you navigate this complex process. Consider scheduling a consultation with our team at (602) 560-7494 today to learn more.