The choice to adopt a child is made from the heart. The adoption process can be difficult, riddled with unexpected challenges and questions. At the Law Office of Justin Fernstrom PLLC, we will help you navigate the requirements to adopt a child in Arizona and effectively use the law to achieve a smooth transition for your family.
Who Can Adopt a Child in Arizona?
Before beginning the adoption process in Arizona, it is important to confirm that you are legally eligible to do so. Arizona law sets forth some basic requirements for families looking to adopt a child, with the primary goal of ensuring that the child is going to a safe, stable, and loving home. To become an adoptive parent in Arizona, you must meet first these general eligibility requirements:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Own or rent your home
- Pass an FBI and local criminal background check
- Have a Level 1 Fingerprint Clearance Card
- Reside in the United States
Nonresidents of Arizona are permitted to adopt a child in the state if the child currently resides in the home of the hopeful adoptive parent(s), is a dependent and under the jurisdiction of the Arizona juvenile court. The adoption must also be recommended by the Department of Child Safety.
Can Unmarried Individuals Adopt a Child?
Any adult, regardless of marital status, is legally permitted to adopt a child in Arizona. It is important to note, however, that Arizona Revised Statutes § 8-103(D) states that if all factors are equal and the choice is between a married couple and a single adult, preference will be given to the married couple. If you are not married, this should not dissuade you. Children are regularly placed with single adoptive mothers and fathers, especially if the relationship is already established.
Is There a Minimum or Maximum Age Requirement to Adopt?
While there is no legal stipulation regarding the age of prospective adoptive parents, adoptive agencies may consider this factor when placing a child. As long as you are 18 years of age, you are legally eligible to adopt a child in the state of Arizona. At the Law Office of Justin Fernstrom PLLC, we have helped individuals and couples of all ages grow their families through the process of adoption.
What Certifications Are Needed to Adopt in Arizona?
Before you can adopt a child in Arizona, you may need to obtain a pre-adoption certification. For many adoptive parents, certification is a necessary requirement to adopt a child, confirming that you are able and ready to adopt in Arizona. While the certification process can be time-consuming and complex, once you are certified you may freely move forward with the adoption.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Yes, there are exceptions to the pre-adoption certification. Whether or not you need to obtain a pre-adoption certification depends largely on the relationship you have with the child. Formal certification is not required if you are:
- The child’s grandparent, stepparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, or other relative. Relative (or familial) adoptions bypass the certification process.
- A licensed foster parent.
- The spouse of the deceased parent and the child has lived with you for at least two years before your spouse’s death.
What Is the Pre-Adoption Certification Process?
To initiate the adoption certification process, you must first submit the Application for Certification to Adopt, which asks for basic personal information and details of individuals currently living in your home. Once this form is received by the court, an investigation will be conducted by an officer of the court, by an agency, or by an entity associated with the Department of Child Safety (Arizona Revised Statutes § 8-105(A)).
During the investigation phase, the following will be considered to evaluate your fitness to adopt a child:
- Social history and references
- Financial stability and finances
- Moral fitness
- Physical, emotional, and mental health
- Previous court actions regarding child abuse
- The ability of all adult members of your household to pass a fingerprint-based background check
- Other relevant information
The individual or organization conducting the investigation will then submit a report to the court outlining their findings and recommendations as to whether or not you should be certified as an acceptable adoptive parent. Based on this report, the court will determine whether or not you will receive your pre-adoption certification. At the Law Office of Justin Fernstrom PLLC, we regularly guide adoptive families through the requirements to adopt a child, including successfully obtaining a pre-adoption certification.
How Long Is the Pre-Adoption Certification Good For?
After your pre-adoption certification is approved, you will be issued an adoption certification number and be permitted to file a petition to adopt. According to Arizona Revised Statutes § 8-105(I), certification is valid for a period of 18 months, and can be renewed in one-year increments, assuming there have been no major changes in circumstances.
To extend the certification, you must contact either the adoption agency, DCS, or the court. It is important to note that a follow-up home study will be conducted to ensure that there have been no changes in circumstances that would impact your certification.
What Happens if My Certification Is Denied?
If you are deemed non-acceptable, you may request that the Superior Court reviews your application. You must submit this request within 30 days of receiving your decision. The court will then hold a hearing to uphold or reverse the decision. If the decision is upheld, you have to wait one year before reapplying for your certification.
How Can the Law Office of Justin Fernstrom PLLC Help Navigate the Requirements to Adopt a Child in Arizona?
With all the complexities associated with adopting a child in Arizona, it is important to have the support of one of Arizona’s top adoption law firms. At the Law Office of Justin Fernstrom PLLC, we provide comprehensive and compassionate legal guidance to adoptive parents trying to navigate the stringent requirements to adopt a child in Arizona. Adoption law is complex and challenging, and the dedication of an experienced legal team can make all the difference. To learn more about how we can help, consider scheduling a consultation with us at (602) 560-7494 today.