Skip to Main Content

Adoption in North Dakota

Judges and lawyers love adoptions. The courthouse is usually an unhappy place, so adoptions are a welcome change of pace that involve the better side of the human condition. An adoption hearing is a time to celebrate, and your judge will share that spirit. Bring your camera to the final hearing:  be ready to smile and to shed some happy tears.

During the adoption process, for all legal purposes, adoptive parents are substituted into the place of the biological parents. The adoptive parents then become legally responsible for the child and, after an adoption decree is signed, the child's birth certificate is changed. The biological parents’ names are removed and the adoptive parents’ names take their place.

In North Dakota, step-parent adoptions are usually quite simple. The process involves gathering necessary documents, serving papers to biological parents and the State of North Dakota, and a brief hearing before a judge.

Compared with other kinds of legal work, step-parent adoptions are relatively inexpensive. That’s because they are usually unopposed. When a biological parent can’t be found, opposes the adoption, or presents other difficulties, legal fees will increase, sometimes considerably.

In North Dakota, adoptions by step-parents and biological relatives do not involve adoption agencies and home studies. This helps reduce cost and make the process unfold faster.

Step-parent adoptions are the most common adoptions we handle. Other common scenarios we address include:

  • Adoptions involving same-sex partners
  • Adoptions through licensed adoption agencies
  • Adoptions as part of a Social Services proceeding
  • International adoptions
  • Adult adoptions

Some states require biological parents’ rights to be terminated in one action, and the adoption in a second, separate, action. In North Dakota, termination of biological parents’ rights and granting the adoption are all handled within the adoption action.

Common Questions About North Dakota Adoption Laws

What types of adoptions are available for North Dakota families?

North Dakota allows for agency adoptions, identified adoptions, step-parent adoptions, and adult adoptions.

An identified adoption involves biological parents personally choosing specific adoptive parents for their child. During this process, an adoption attorney is needed to help guide both parties through the legal process specifically laid out for relinquishing parental rights.

During adoptions an experienced adoption attorney can ensure that all necessary paperwork is completed and can help gain the correct legal guardianship rights you need.

Do I need my child’s biological parent to agree to the adoption?

In most cases, the consent of a biological, non-custodial parent is needed for an adoption to be finalized.

Different types of adoptions have their own requirements for who needs to give consent.

  • In identified and step-parent adoptions, the biological parents must consent to the adoption.
  • In adult adoptions, the spouse of the adult must consent.
  • In agency adoptions, parental rights are terminated separately and the entity with custody of the child (i.e. the State) must consent.

A minor over the age of 10 may also need to consent, unless the Court waives that need after considering the child’s best interests.

Can same-sex couples adopt in North Dakota?

Even though North Dakota law reads “husbands and wives,” same-sex marriages are recognized in North Dakota and same-sex couples may adopt.

Currently, single adoption, joint adoption, and second parent adoptions are all available to same sex couples.

Additional North Dakota Adoption Questions & Answers

Any person, regardless of age, may be adopted in North Dakota.

Generally, a husband and wife, unmarried adult, the unmarried father or mother of the person to be adopted, and the stepparent of a child may petition a court to adopt.

In identified and stepparent adoptions, the biological parents must consent to the adoption.  In adult adoptions, the spouse of the adult must consent.  In agency adoptions, parental rights are terminated separately and the entity with custody of the child (i.e. the State) must consent. A minor over the age of 10 may also need to consent, unless the Court waives that need after considering the child’s best interests.

North Dakota allows adoptions to be entered if there is clear and convincing evidence of abandonment.  Each case is different and there are various options where consent is not required.  It is best to discuss individual facts with the attorney.

The rights of the biological parent that consents to an adoption are terminated.  In stepparent adoption cases, the termination relates only to the noncustodial parent.

A consent can only be withdrawn if it is found to be in the child’s best interests after a hearing.  No consent may be withdrawn after the decree is entered.

A licensed adoption agency is necessary for identified and agency adoptions. The adoption agency must provide various reports to the court.  Adoption agencies are not required for stepparent and most intrafamily adoptions.

This is an identified adoption.  A pre-adoptive placement study is the first step, followed by a relinquishment of custody and placement of the child prior to the adoption. After a time, normally six months, the Adoption Petition will be filed and heard by a court. 

Gjesdahl Law handles these agency adoptions on a regular basis and works with the various agencies in the area to ensure that the process moves along smoothly for your new family.

ICWA is a federal law that gives a placement preference to the various Native American tribes if the child to be adopted is eligible for enrollment with a tribe. 

If a child is eligible to be adopted, based upon the tribe’s eligibility requirements, the tribe may intervene and request placement with a tribal member or member of the child’s family. ICWA applies to all agency and identified adoptions.  It may apply in some stepparent adoptions as well if one of the biological parents is a Native American and fits in the ICWA definitions for consideration.

Some states have a registry that allows a possible father interested in a minor child who is or is expected to adopted to register a receive notice of the adoption before it can be granted.

No, North Dakota does not have an Adoptive or Putative Father’s Registry.

A hearing is held before the district court judge to finalize the adoption.  This is normally a joyous occasion and we encourage friends and families to attend.  You may also bring a camera to take pictures.  Once the Adoption Decree is entered and signed, you will receive a certified copy of the Decree and a new birth certificate will be issued to you by the proper state.