Adoption Lawyers In Kalamazoo & Grand Rapids
Need Help Adopting a Child in West Michigan?
Adoption is one of the most beautiful displays of love and generosity one can witness in this world today. At Willis Law, we have experience with all types of adoptions and are prepared to assist adoptive parents, birth parents or agency representatives.
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Direct Placement Adoption
Michigan direct placement adoption permits the temporary placement of a child in the home of prospective adoptive parents while the legal process is completed. Direct placement can occur anytime, not just with newborns.
This placement can occur immediately following birth or anytime thereafter. The biological parent or guardian transfers physical custody of the child to the prospective adoptive parent. The child goes home from the hospital with the prospective adoptive parents. Under direct placement, the biological parents may personally select the adoptive parents and consent to the adoption of the child by an unrelated individual or couple.
Once one parent consents to an adoption, the other parent's parental rights must be voluntarily terminated under a consent to adopt, be voluntarily terminated under the Juvenile Code or be involuntarily terminated. If necessary, a child's mother may petition the court to identify a putative father.
A Michigan stepparent adoption occurs when the custodial parent marries and his or her spouse petitions the court to adopt the custodial parent's child and terminate the noncustodial parent's parental rights. The unique nature of a stepparent adoption requires different procedures for the adoption process.
The noncustodial parent may be a divorced parent, a father who has acknowledged paternity, or a putative father who has an established custodial relationship with the child or has provided regular support or care to the mother or child. The noncustodial parent may consent and voluntarily relinquish his or her rights to the child. The noncustodial parent may also withdraw his or her consent up until the rights are terminated, or he or she files a petition for rehearing, which must occur within 21 days of entry of the termination order.
When a noncustodial parent does not consent to the stepparent adoption, the court may involuntarily terminate the rights if it is found that the noncustodial parent has failed to provide support and maintain contact. Generally speaking, if more than a period of two years has lapsed since any support was provided or contact made, the noncustodial parent may have difficulty succeeding with his or her objection to the stepparent adoption.
A Michigan formal placement is an adoptive placement approved by the court. It is the selection and transfer of physical custody of a child to prospective adoptive parents. Although formal placement need not be preceded by a temporary placement, a temporary placement becomes a formal placement once the parental rights have been terminated and the court approves placement. The only parties who may make a formal placement are a biological parent or guardian with legal and physical custody, a court with legal and physical custody of a child under the Juvenile Code, and a child-placing agency or the Department of Human Services with legal and physical custody.
The unique nature of a Michigan relative adoption requires different procedures for the adoption process. A biological parent or guardian with legal custody may make a formal placement with a relative. A relative is defined as "an individual who is related to the child within the fifth degree by marriage, blood or adoption."
Legal Risk Adoption
A Michigan legal risk adoption is when the court enters an order for termination of parental rights and places the child for adoption before the 21-day period for a party petitioning for a rehearing, the filing of an appeal, pending a decision on a rehearing, or when an appeal is pending. When this occurs, the court informs the prospective adoptive parent that the adoption petition will not be granted until the petition for rehearing is granted, the petition for rehearing is denied and the appeal period has expired, or there is a decision affirming the order terminating parental rights. These actions do not prevent a child residing in a licensed foster home from being adopted by the foster parent.
Foster Care and Adoption
Michigan foster care is a temporary place. Foster parents are expected to work with the agency and birth parents in the hopes that the family will be reunited. Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to become a foster parent with the expectation that you will always be able to adopt a child placed in your care. If parental rights are terminated, relatives and then foster parents are considered first for the formal adoption.
Foster care licensure is governed by the state of Michigan. Generally speaking, you do not have to be married to a foster parent or adopt a child or children; you do not need to own your own home as long as there is adequate space for the child and the home is free from health, fire or safety hazards; and you do not need to be rich to adopt or be a foster parent, as there is financial assistance available. In certain circumstances, the Department of Human Services is permitted to pay a subsidy to adoptive parents of eligible children, the purpose of which is to encourage the adoption of children who are in foster care by relieving the financial burden of adoption. There are three basic adoption subsidy programs ─ support subsidies, medical subsidies and nonrecurring adoption expenses subsidies.
Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights
A parent may voluntarily relinquish his or her Michigan parental rights by the following:
- Releasing parental rights to the Department of Human Services or a child-placing agency
- During the course of a child protective proceeding by releasing and terminating his or her parental rights or admitting to grounds for termination, or a no-contest plea pursuant to the Juvenile Code
- By consenting to a child's adoption to a direct placement adoption as follows
- The parent selects an adoptive parent and transfers physical custody to the prospective adoptive parent
- In a stepparent adoption, the noncustodial parent terminates his or her parental rights and consents to the adoption
- A relative adoption (formal placement of the child with a relative)
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
The court in Michigan may involuntarily terminate a parent's rights as follows under the Adoption Code:
- As it relates to uninterested putative* fathers
- As it relates to interested putative fathers
- As it relates to a stepparent adoption
*Putative father means a man who is alleged to be the biological father of a child who has no legal father. A putative father has a due process right to notice and a hearing before his parental rights are terminated.
The court may also involuntarily terminate a parent's rights as a result of child protective proceedings under the Juvenile Code.
If a parent is incarcerated under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections, specific requirements must be met in order to provide proper notice to the party.
Legal Michigan Guardianship
In some cases, you may find that you want guardianship rather than to formally adopt a child. This occurs frequently in family situations where a parent might be incarcerated or need temporary help with regard to his or her child. There is a separate process for filing a petition for guardianship.
Michigan Grandparent Rights
While a stepparent adoption is pending, the parent of a biological parent (the grandparent of the child) may seek an order for visitation with the adoptee. The court may also enter an order for grandparenting time. Circumstances under which a child's grandparent may seek grandparenting time include:
- The child's parents filed for divorce, separation or an annulment that is pending
- The child's parents are divorced, legally separated or the marriage was annulled
- The child's parent is deceased and it is the decedent's parent seeking the order
- The child's parents never married, but paternity was established
- The child does not reside with his or her biological parent or parents nor do they have custody over the child (it is important to note that ordinarily a child's pre-adoption placement or adoption terminates a grandparent's right to seek grandparenting time)
- The child lived with the grandparent for at least one year
- In a stepparent adoption, a deceased parent's parent may seek grandparenting time
If an Indian child is involved, the court must follow the mandates of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Michigan Illegal Placement
A person who places a child for adoption without the authority to do so is guilty of a misdemeanor (for a first violation), which is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days, a fine of not more than $100 or both, and if more than one violation, a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than four years, a fine of not more than $2,000 or both for each subsequent violation.
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