How To Adopt A Child in South Carolina
Some of the happiest moments in South Carolina’s family courts take place when a judge finalizes an adoption. While some adoptions can be simple, such as when a stepparent or grandparent adopts their stepchild or grandchild and all parties consent, others are more complicated. When parental rights must be terminated, or there are matters involving out of state or international adoptions, it helps to know as much about South Carolina adoption law as possible.
Who Has Jurisdiction Over South Carolina Adoptions?
The laws related to South Carolina adoptions can be found in the South Carolina Code Title 63: Children’s Code, Chapter 9: Adoptions. An adoption case is heard in the state’s local family courts, but a state agency may also be involved, like the South Carolina Department of Social Services.
Who May Be Adopted in South Carolina?
Any child who is in the state of South Carolina at the time the petition for adoption is filed, regardless of where they were born, is eligible for adoption. If they are over the age of fourteen, they must consent to the adoption unless they don’t have the mental capacity to do so. Adults in the state are also eligible for adoption.
Who Can Adopt in South Carolina?
Any resident of South Carolina can petition the state’s family court to adopt. The state is strict about limiting adoptions to in-state residents unless certain conditions are met to allow an exception. These include:
- The adoptive parent is an out-of-state relative of the child
- The child has special needs
- At least one of the adoptive parents is an active-duty military member stationed in South Carolina
- The child has been in foster care for six or more months, is available for adoption, and no South Carolina resident is seeking to adopt
- Any other exceptional or unusual circumstances that prove an out-of-state placement is in the child’s best interests
Many families begin their adoption journey by first becoming a foster parent. If you wish to do this, you will need to meet some other requirements that include:
- Be 21 years old or older
- Apply to the regional office that serves your county
- Complete child abuse registry checks and fingerprinting for all household members ages 18 and over
- Attend preparatory training (14 hours)
- Complete home safety inspections, home visits, and interviews
- Provide three to four references
- Provide all required documentation
Other South Carolina Adoption Laws to Know
After stepparent and grandparent adoption, adopting through foster care is the most common way to adopt in the state. If you choose to adopt internationally, it will still be mandatory that you have your adoption approved by the state courts in a process called “domesticating a foreign adoption.” Otherwise, any domestic adoption that takes place in the state is subject to South Carolina law. Some of those rules include:
- Adoption cannot take place unless the rights of birth parents are terminated by law.
- Adoptive parents may pay for some of the birth parent’s expenses such as medical and legal costs, but payment to the birth parent is limited to certain expenses like these.
- A pre and post-placement home study evaluation is required of all prospective adoptive parents before the adoption process is completed (unless there is a blood or marriage relationship between the child and the prospective adoptive parents)
- Adoptive parents may advertise for birth parents, but must have completed their pre-placement investigation before doing so.
- An attorney, judge, or certified adoption investigator is required to witness any consents to adoption signed by a birth parent
- Consent to adoption by the birth parents becomes irrevocable immediately unless the parent can show that giving consent was involuntary or under duress and that revoking the consent would be in the child’s best interests.
- A Guardian ad Litem must be appointed for the child and complete an investigation before any adoption can be finalized
- Many of the requirements for private, non-relative adoptions are waived for stepparents, grandparents, or other prospective adoptive parents who are related to the child by blood or marriage
Speak with a Qualified South Carolina Adoption Attorney
If you are ready to begin the adoption process or are considering this for your family, you should contact an experienced South Carolina adoption lawyer for additional guidance and support. Not only are the state’s rules confusing, but one mistake in the process could jeopardize your chances of successfully adopting a child.
At The Cate Law Firm, we have successfully helped families throughout upstate South Carolina with a variety of family law needs including custody and adoption issues. We handle stepparent, grandparent, and other relative adoptions. We also handle directed placement adoptions (meaning the adoptive parents have already identified the child/ children they want to adopt, whether they are related to that child or not). We’d be happy to review your situation and thoroughly outline your options. Contact our Spartanburg office now at (864) 585-4226 or reach us online to schedule a consultation.