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5 Things You Need to Know about North Dakota Adoption Law

You’ve finally decided.  Now is the time.

It’s time to adopt a child. Your home has been missing something, and you know that the joy of a new child in your family is exactly what you need. The idea of loving a child, raising them, and giving them a safe and loving home brings you joy.

The adoption process is a celebrated event in courts across the country. It’s a welcomed break from the hard cases judges see throughout their days.  A successful adoption is also a joyful juncture in the lives of adopting families, every bit as joyous as when a child arrives by natural birth.

As joyous as the adoption process is, it is also a legal process and you will want to know about the applicable law…before you embark on the adoption journey.

These laws address:

  • The Important Terms Related to Adoption
  • How to Petition for Adoption
  • Who is Required to Consent for Adoption.
  • Adoption Investigation and Hearing.
  • Required Residence after Adoption.

Be sure to consult a qualified and experienced family law attorney before taking the next step in the adoption process. While knowing about the laws mentioned here is beneficial, nothing compares to the experiential wisdom and expertise of a family law attorney.

#1: North Dakota’s adoption terms

Each state has its own adoption law and policies and maintains their own definitions of important terms. Here are seven important terms and definitions to know in the state of North Dakota.

We have edited these terms slightly from their official definitions to highlight the important things to know and make them easier to understand.

“Abandon” - A parent without custody has “abandoned” a child when they fail to communicate with the child or provide the care and support required by the law.

“Agency” – A licensed entity that places minors for adoption.

 “Child” – a son or daughter, whether by birth or adoption.  

“Genetic parent”- The biological mother or the “adjudicated mother” (the mother as determined by a court) of the adopted child or the presumed father or “adjudicated father” fo the adopted child.

“Genetic Sibling”- This is an individual with a genetic relationship with the child as a brother, sister, half-brother, or half-sister.

“Investigation” - Information about the child’s history, a pre-placement adoption assessment of the prospective adoptive family, and an evaluation of the child’s placement in the adoptive home.

“Identify vs Non-Identifying Adoption Information” - These terms refer to what information can be shared with the adopting family and adopted child regarding the child’s biological parents. Any information that will not contribute to learning the specific identity of the genetic parents may be shared with the child and the adoptive parents.

#2 How to petition for adoption

A petition for adoption must be signed and verified by the person or person’s adopting a child.  The petition must be filed with the court, and must include this information:

  • The date and place of birth of the child (if known).
  • The child’s new name.
  • The date the petitioner(s) acquired custody (or when the child was placed with them).
  • The full name, age, place, and duration of residence of the petitioner(s).
  • The marital status of the petitioner(s) including the date and place of marriage (if applicable).
  • A statement that the petitioner has the facilities and resources suitable to provide for the care of the child and that it is the desire of the petitioner to establish the relation of parent and child with the individual to be adopted.
  • A statement that the petitioner's expenses related to the adoption were reasonable as verified by the courts.
  • A certified copy of the birth certificate or verified birth record of the child (if available) as well as any adoption consents necessary.

#3 Who must consent to the adoption?

A petition for adoption of a minor may only be granted if written consent has been given by the mother, the father, any individual with lawful custody, the court (if the legal guardian or custodian is not able to consent), and the child (if more than ten years old). Other stipulations apply for adults who would like to be adopted.

Consent is not required for the following people:

  • A parent who has deserted a child without providing a way to be identified or has abandoned a child.
  • A parent who has not had custody of the child for at least one year and during that time failed to communicate with the child or provide for the care and support of the child as required by law.
  • A parent who has relinquished their right to consent.
  • A parent whose parental rights have been terminated by the court.
  • A parent who has legally been declared incompetent.
  • A parent of an adult.
  • A parent or legal guardian who has not responded in writing to the request for consent for a period of 60 days.
  • A parent of the child, if the failure to consent is excused by the court in the best interest of the child due to prolonged, unexplained absence, unavailability, incapacity , or significant failure without justifiable cause to establish a substantial relationship with the child or demonstrate a significant parental interest in them.

#4 Adoption investigation and hearing

In most adoptions, an investigation by a licensed child-placing agency must be made. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether the adoptive home provides a suitable environment for the minor and whether the proposed adoption is really in the best interest of the minor.

No investigation or report is required when a step-parent is the petitioner or an adult child is being adopted.  In other cases, where the petitioners are family members, the investigation requirement can be waived.

While an adoption investigation may sound intimidating, you can find comfort knowing that the court is determined to providing safe and loving homes like yours for adoptive children.

Next, a written report of this investigation is filed with the court by the investigator before the court date. The report includes:

  • A review of the child’s history
  • A pre-placement adoption assessment of the adopting family (including the adopting parents’ criminal history)
  • A post-placement evaluation
  • A recommendation from the investigator as to whether the court should grant the adoption.

#5 Required residence

In non-step-parent adoptions, a final decree of adoption may not be issued until the child to be adopted has lived in the adoptive home for six months following:

  • Placement by an agency.
  • Placement by a parent.
  • Placement as a foster child.
  • Observation or investigation by the court of the adoptive home.

Conclusion

When you’ve decided that adopting a child is the best decision for you and your family, please let us know.  We’d love to help you through this process. We find joy, too, in bringing families together.  It’s our pleasure and honor to make the process as smooth, efficient, and problem-free as possible.

Please reach out to us when you ready to start.

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Kari A. Losee

Kari joined Gjesdahl Law, P.C. in 2016.  She is dedicated to helping families resolve their issues and address their changing needs.  Her practice primarily involves divorces,…
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