Nevada Adoption: Tips, Tricks & Advice For A Flawless Adoption
(A Step-By-Step Guide From The Experts 2019)
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Adoption is generally a good thing and usually a very happy day for most families. But…the adoption process can seem daunting and confusing.
Let’s face it . . .
There’s a lot of paperwork and hoops to jump through in order to finalize an adoption. And finding an adoption attorney experienced with both private adoptions and CPS/DFS adoptions can be critical to having a smooth and successful adoption.
In this Step-By-Step Guide we take the guesswork out of the adoption process so that your adoption can proceed quickly and smoothly.
In this article you will learn:
- What requirements you need to meet to file for adoption in Nevada
- How the adoption process works
- What rights biological parents still have after the adoption is final
- Key components of the Open Adoption Agreement
- Why hiring an Experienced Adoption Attorney is critical for the best possible outcome in your case
So let’s get to it!
What Is Adoption?
Adoption is process whereby the legal rights and responsibilities for the person being adopted is transferred to the person adopting.
Essentially, a legal adoption ends the biological parents’ legal rights and responsibilities for the person being adopted and makes the person adopting legally responsible.
Adoption is intended to be permanent. This means that once the adoption is complete the person being adopted will have the same legal rights as a child born to the person adopting. This includes the right of inheritance.
Likewise, the person adopting is responsible for maintaining the health, safety and welfare of the person being adopted. This includes providing the adopted person with financial support and stability.
Adoption can occur in many different ways.
A person can adopt a step-child or a relative.
There are international adoptions where a person can adopt from another country.
Adoptions can also occur through the foster care system where a placement for a child ultimately adopts the child giving that child a permanent home.
Finally, a domestic adoption can occur where a family adopts a child born in the United States.
Why Do People Adopt Children?
There are many reasons why people choose to adopt.
Some people are not able to have children and want to start a family of their own.
Other adoptive parents were previously foster parents to children in the foster care system and want to provide those children with permanency and a stable home.
Still other adoptive parents are relatives or fictive kin of the biological parents and are raising someone else’s children already.
In order to make their relationship permanent and legal, adoption is the only way.
What Other Options Are There Besides Adoption?
Adoption may not always be possible. For a child to be adopted, the rights of the biological parents must end.
Ending a biological parent’s rights can be done through the Court system. This process is known as termination of parental rights.
In other cases, a biological parent passes away but adoption may not be possible or even ideal for the child.
For example, if a child is receiving benefits from a deceased parent, it might not be ideal for a caregiver to terminate rights as it may cut-off the child’s benefits. In this case, other options for permanency should be considered.
Likewise, the child at issue may not agree to be adopted by their caregiver. If the child is over the age of 14 and does not agree, the Court will not force the adoption and the adoption will fail.
In cases where adoption is not possible or ideal, for whatever reason, a caregiver has two other options besides adoption to give permanency to the child.
The first option is to file for guardianship.
The second option is to file for third party custody and/or visitation rights.
We have published articles on both guardianship and third party custody/visitation on our website. Check them out for more information.
To learn more about Nevada adoptions keep reading.
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Does My Case Qualify For A Nevada Adoption?
Adoptions can be tricky especially in Nevada.
Many people spend a lot of time, money and effort going through the adoption process only to find out that they are unable to adopt because their case does not qualify for a Nevada adoption.
Before you start the adoption process, it is important to understand what kind of hurdles you need to jump over and decide whether or not your case will even qualify for a Nevada adoption.
Some of the things you need to think about include:
It is important to keep in mind that if your adoption case doesn’t check all of the boxes, your adoption might fail.
Let’s take a deeper look at each requirement for a Nevada adoption case to be successful.
You Must Meet The Jurisdiction And Residency Requirements To Adopt
Before you start the adoption process you must meet two requirements for your case to even be considered by a Nevada court: Jurisdiction and Residency.
To begin, Nevada must have original jurisdiction over the child.
What does this mean in non-lawyer speak?
In order to file your adoption case in Nevada, the child must live in Nevada for six months before filing your adoption case.
For example, if the child being adopted was born in California but moved to Nevada a year ago, then you can file your case in Nevada because the child has lived in Nevada for at least six months before the filing of the adoption.
Now…you might be asking, “what if the child I want to adopt isn’t over 6 months old?“
If the child being adopted is not over six months old, you can file in Nevada, if the child has lived in Nevada continuously since birth.
Think of it this way: If the child was born in Arizona, but you took the child from Arizona at 3 days old and the child has lived with you in Nevada for the last four months, you can file your adoption case in Nevada because the child is not over 6 months old and has lived in Nevada since just after birth.
In addition to the jurisdiction requirements, Nevada also has a residency requirement.
This means that the child has lived in your home for at least thirty (30) days before filing for adoption.
Let’s look at it this way…the child being adopted was born in Idaho. The child moved with your sister to Nevada eight months ago. Your sister fell ill and asked you to take the child just three weeks ago. Even though Nevada will have jurisdiction, your case does not meet the residency requirement because the child has not lived in your home for the last 30 days. You would need to wait another few weeks before filing to meet the residency requirement for a Nevada adoption.
You Must Meet The Two Age Requirements For Adopting In Nevada
Nevada has two age limitations for adoption.
First, if the child is over 14 the child must consent to being adopted. Our recommendation is that before you hire a lawyer or fill out adoption paperwork, you make sure that if you are adopting a child over the age of 14, the child is in agreement to be adopted. If the child is over 14 and does not agree to be adopted, the adoption might fail.
Second, you must be 10 years older than the child being adopted.
That being said, if the child is over 14 and does not agree or if you are not at least 10 years older than the child, you might still be able to adopt the child on two conditions:
1. You need to be a relative of the child as follows: a step-parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or first cousin and
2. The Court must make a finding that it is in the child’s best interest and in the interest of public policy for you to adopt.
The Child You Want To Adopt Must “Be Free For Adoption”
In order to adopt a child in the State of Nevada, the child must be free for adoption.
There are a couple of ways a child can be determined to be “free for adoption.”
If the parental rights of the child’s biological parents have been terminated, the child will be considered “free for adoption.”
If a biological parent has passed away, the child may also be considered free for adoption.
Finally, a biological parent can consent to their child being adopted which is the most certain way to know the child is free for adoption.
Children Of An Indian Nation May Be Subject To Additional Requirements
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What is the process for adopting in Nevada?
BEFORE YOU BEGIN: The information provided in this section applies to private adoptions only. This part of our guide does not cover agency adoptions, State adoptions or international adoptions. For more information about those types of adoptions, it is best to call us at (702) 433-2889 or contact us by filling out our on-line form.
However, many clients find the adoption process difficult and overwhelming.
But don’t worry . . .
We explain the process for obtaining a Nevada Adoption step by step.
Preparing And Filing Your Adoption Petition
The first step in the adoption process is to fill out a Petition for Adoption.
The Petition for Adoption tells the Judge about the child being adopted as well as the parties wishing to adopt the child.
You can obtain a Petition for Adoption by clicking the link or physically going to the Self Help Center at the Family Court.
In addition to completing the Petition for Adoption, you will also need to complete a Family Court Cover Sheet. The cover sheet asks for basic information about the parties wishing to adopt as well as the child.
Once you have completed the Petition for Adoption and the Family Court Cover Sheet, you are ready to file your case. Make sure you bring the filing fee to the Court along with your initial documents to start the adoption process.
Preparing And Filing Additional Documentation To Support Your Petition
In Nevada, the Court cannot grant your adoption with just the Petition and Cover Sheet. There are a number of additional documents that must accompany your Adoption Petition.
If you are related to the child you are adoption, you will want to complete and file an Ex Parte Request Waiving The Child Welfare Investigation & Affidavit Of Fees. This document explains to the judge that you are related to the child being adopted, and therefore, there is no need for a home study in your case. Once you have completed the Ex Parte Request above, you will need to file it into your case.
You will then need to complete an order for the judge to sign that actually waives the home study and fee affidavit. Make sure you deliver a copy of the order and a copy of the filed ex parte request to the judge. You can do this by taking the documents to the third floor of the Family Court and leaving them in the judge’s box. If the judge agrees to waive the home study and affidavit requirement, the judge’s clerk or assistant will call you and notify you that the order has been signed by the judge and can be filed into your case.
NOTE: Don’t forget to file the signed order with the Court.
If you are not related to the child, you will need to complete a home study and have that paperwork filed with the Court before your adoption can be complete. For more information about home studies, read the frequently asked questions section below.
File Your Consents
If the biological parents agree to you adopting the child, you should get the agreement in writing. This is known as a consent.
You will want to have the biological parent sign the consent form and file it into your case. The consent must be notarized and must be witnessed by two people who are not involved in the adoption case. The witnesses can be friends, family members or other individuals who are not parties to the adoption.
NOTE: If the biological parent is deceased, you will not need the consent. Instead you should file a certified death certificate into the adoption case proving the biological parent is deceased.
If the biological parent does not agree to give up their parental rights or cannot be found, you will need to file a separate case to terminate the biological parent’s rights.
If the child you are adopting is over the age of 14, you will also need to have the child agree, in writing, to be adopted. This is the child’s consent to adoption. Again this document must be witnessed by two neutral individuals and filed into your adoption case.
After all of the required paperwork has been filed, you will need to schedule your adoption for a hearing in front of your family court judge.You can do this by filling out the hearing setting slip and filing it into your adoption case.
Be sure to attend your hearing on the date and time on your setting slip.
Adoptions are happy occasions in family court. You will want to be sure the child you are adopting attends with you. You might also want to invite other family members, friends and other individuals to your adoption hearing. Many people also bring professional photographers to capture the memories of this special day.
In addition to attending the hearing, you will want to bring aDecree of Adoption for the judge to sign. This document is the final document needed to make your adoption official. If you plan to change the child’s name, be sure to include it in the adoption decree along with instructions to the Nevada Department of Vital Statistics for a new birth certificate to be issued showing you are now the parent of the child and reflecting the child’s new name.
Congratulations! At this point, your adoption is now official and final.
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Here Are Some Answers To Your Most Frequently Asked Questions About Nevada Adoption
As you can see adoptions aren’t easy.
Qualifying for a Nevada adoption and completing the necessary paperwork is just the beginning.
Many people adopting in Nevada still have lots of questions about the process and other matters that are not addressed above.
While we cant answer every question that accompanies an adoption, we have taken this opportunity to answer some of your most frequently asked questions about Nevada adoptions.
Will I have to complete a home study in order to adopt?
A home study is required for couples adopting a child that is not related to either adoptive parent or for an individual adopting a child not related to them.
The home study is considered both a screening tool and an educational tool. First, it is intended for the social worker working with the adoptive family to get to know you and your family better. Second, those undergoing a home study are encouraged to have questions and concerns about adoption answered before the adoption process is complete.
A home study can be completed by a state or county agency that provides child welfare services. In Las Vegas, this could be the Department of Family Services.
It can also be complete by a private, licensed child-placing agency. Some agencies that complete home studies include Adoption Choices of Nevada, Premier Adoptions, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, and Open Arms Adoption Agency.
It generally takes about 90 days to complete the home study once the application has been submitted. The cost of the home study depends on the agency conducting the home study.
Can biological parents get their children back once adoption has occurred?
It is very difficult for a biological parent to get their child back once an adoption is complete.
For the most part, a parent who relinquishes their parental rights or who consents to their child being adopted will have an extremely difficult time getting their children back.
However, there are some circumstances where a court might restore parental rights to a biological parent.
This could include terminating parental rights by fraud or duress. Again, this occurs in very rare circumstances.
To seek reinstatement of parental rights, a biological parent would need to file a lawsuit against the adoptive parent asking to have their parental rights restored. This could be done by asking the Court to set aside the adoption consent or a relinquishment. It could also be accomplished by asking the court to reverse an order terminating parental rights.
Even if the biological parents’ rights are restored, or a consent or relinquishment is set aside, there is still a presumption in Nevada that it is best for the child to remain in the home of the adoptive parent once the adoption has been granted.
CAUTION: Reinstating a biological parent’s parental rights is incredibly difficult and should only be pursued with the assistance of an experienced adoption attorney.
What if the child I am adopting has siblings being adopted by another family?
It is not unusual that a biological parent has multiple children adopted by different families.
In most cases, Nevada judges prefer that siblings maintain their bond and have some connection with each other once the adoption is complete.
This is known as a sibling contact order.
Specifically, the law for cases where children are in the care of the Department of Family Services, prefers that adoptive parents agree to sibling contact order to ensure that siblings maintain contact with each other even after an adoption has occurred.
A sibling contact order could include such things as in person visits between siblings or regular communication through phone or other electronic means between siblings.
The sibling contact order should be attached to an Decree of Adoption and your adoption judge should be notified of the existence of a sibling contact order before the adoption is finalized.
If I am an adult do I have to get my biological parent’s consent to be adopted?
The short answer is “no!” You do not need your biological parents’ consent to be adopted if you are an adult.
To be adopted as an adult you must meet three requirements.
First, the person adopting you must be older than you.
Second, one of you, either the person adopting you or you, must live in Nevada.
Third, if you, or the person adopting you, are married, your spouse will need to consent to the adoption.
You must also notify your biological parents of the adoption proceedings and attend a hearing where the judge may ask you questions about the adoption.
What do I need to know about having an open adoption agreement?
An open adoption is an adoption where the biological parents continue to maintain contact with the child after the adoption is complete.
Parties involved in an open adoption usually create a written agreement that describes the type of contact the biological parents can have with the child after the adoption is complete. This is known as the Open Adoption Agreement or contract.
Generally, the contract is between the adoptive parents and the biological parent. Sometimes a State Agency like the Department of Family Services, may need to review the contract and agree that the contact between the biological parent and the child is in the child’s best interest.
For example, if an Open Adoption Agreement between a biological parent convicted of murder and the child allowed the biological parent to have access to the child 24 hours a day 7 days a week, chances are the State Agency will say this is not in the child’s best interests.
Usually, the Open Adoption Agreement will provide for the type of contact allowed between the biological parent and the child. Sometimes these agreements are very limited and only allow for the biological parent to receive an update and photograph of the child once a year. Other times an Open Adoption Agreement will allow for in person contact between the biological parent and the child.
In addition to the type of contact allowed, the Open Adoption Agreement should specify the frequency, duration and any other rules governing the contact between the biological parent and the child once the adoption is complete.
For example, an Open Adoption Agreement may allow for three in person visits a year between the biological parent and child. The visits may have to take place in a community setting like a park or mall. The biological parent may be prohibited from bringing any third party to the visit like a significant other or another family member. The biological parent may be required to submit to a drug test prior to the visit. Or the biological parent may be required to contact the adoptive parents at least five days before the visit is to occur to confirm the visit will go forward.
Open Adoption Agreements can be changed as long as the child is under the age of 18. There are many reasons to change an Open Adoption Agreement. Sometimes the agreements are modified because young children may have different needs for contact with their biological parent than an older child. It might also be modified because a biological parent’s circumstances change or the adoptive parents relocate.
It is important to note that an Open Adoption Agreement does not affect the legal rights of the adoptive parents. This means that the adoption still goes forward and the adoptive parents are still legally the parents of the child.
Likewise, a breach or violation of the Open Adoption Agreement by the adoptive parents does not mean that the biological parent’s parental rights are restored. Instead, a biological parent can sue the adoptive parents to enforce the Open Adoption Agreement.
If you are considering adopting with an Open Adoption Agreement, it is strongly recommended that you consult an attorney who is skilled at negotiating and drafting Open Adoption Agreements.
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How Much Does An Adoption Cost In Las Vegas?
The costs for an adoption largely depend on the type of adoption.
If you are adopting a child through an agency, there may be fees and costs associated with hiring the agency as well as fees and costs associated with the home study. These fees and costs could be in addition to hiring a lawyer and filing the paperwork for your adoption.
Likewise, if you are completing an international adoption, there may be fees and costs associated with travel and immigration paperwork in addition to agency fees, home study fees and the legal fees associated with your adoption.
Adoptions through the Department of Family Services rarely cost money. For the most part, if you are a relative adopting a child through a CPS case, the Department of Family Services will conduct the home study and prepare the court paperwork for your adoption. This is generally done for little to no cost to the adoptive parents.
If your adoption is a private adoption of a child, step-child or an adult, again the costs may vary. Costs can largely depend on whether or not you need to terminate parental rights and whether or not the biological parents consent to the adoption.
You should keep in mind that just to file the petition for adoption in Nevada the filing fee alone is $238 unless you are adopting a child with documented special needs. Yes that’s $238 just to file the petition.
In addition to filing the adoption petition, you may need to pay another filing fee if you have to terminate parental rights. The filing fee for a termination of parental rights petition is $270.
The bottom line?
You should expect to pay at least $238-$500 just to file your case depending on the type of adoption proceeding you file and whether or not you will need to terminate the rights of the biological parent. There may be additional fees for notary services and court runner fees if you are doing an the adoption yourself. Also if you need to publish your termination of parental rights petition, you will incur additional fees for publication costs.
Beware of anyone telling you they can do an adoption for $500 or less. This usually means you are paying a notary or paralegal NOT a lawyer. It is highly likely that this does not include filing fees, process server fees and publication costs. For $500 or less you might find yourself do most, if not ALL of the work to get your adoption done.
If you hire an attorney, usually the total fees include the costs for filing the paperwork, process server fees, notary fees and the publication costs. Keep in mind though that fees and costs vary from law firm to law firm depending on how complicated your case is.
At our firm, our fees begin anywhere from $650 to $5,000 which includes the filing fees, service of process fees, notary fees, publication costs and court runner fees. The total amount of attorney’s fees and costs depend on the complexity of the case, the number of filings needed and whether or not a court appearance is required, among other things.
For more information about our fees and costs for an adoption call us at (702) 433-2889 or fill out our on-line form.
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How Much Does An Adoption Cost In Las Vegas?
And let’s face it! There are lawyers practically everywhere in Las Vegas, but not all lawyers are created equal especially when it comes to family law.
Just because you find a family law attorney to help doesn’t mean that the lawyer is skilled at adoption law.
Simply, if you considering hiring an attorney for your adoption, we strongly recommend that you find an experienced adoption attorney.
There are just too many things that can go wrong with an adoption. Hiring a lawyer who has never completed an adoption or worse, hiring your friend who does DUI law, can lead to significantly increased expenses, delays and the possibility that your adoption will fail.
Believe us. . .
It is important to find an experienced adoption attorney who can best represent your interests from the beginning of your case.
So how do you find the right adoption lawyer? Here are a few ways:
✔ Online Research
✔ Ask Family and Friends Or Even Your DFS Case Worker
✔ Interview Potential Lawyers
For more information keep reading . . .
There are lots of websites devoted to finding attorneys.
Avvo, Findlaw and even Yelp have a plethora of lawyer listings.
It’s important to remember that when you research lawyers online, the internet isn’t always 100% accurate in depicting a lawyer’s knowledge or capabilities.
If you begin your search by looking online for a family law attorney, be sure the lawyer has experience handling adoptions.
In addition to websites specifically devoted to finding lawyers, you may also want to research adoption sites that recommend attorneys.
Finally, there are a number of social media groups devoted to adoption. It doesn’t hurt to make a post in a group chat to ask if anyone has experience with an adoption attorney.
Again, it is important to keep in mind that online research is just the beginning of your search for an adoption attorney.
Once you have found the names a few lawyers you might be interested in using, you should still do more research to determine whether or not the attorney has experience in handling adoption cases.
Ask Family And Friends And Even DFS
Because adoption is such an important decision, you might want to ask your family and friends for recommendations.
When asking friends and family for references, be specific. Tell them you need an attorney with experience in adoptions. Also if you are negotiating an Open Adoption Agreement, you may want to ask if they know of any lawyers with experience writing and negotiating open adoption agreements.
If your family and friends don’t know of any adoption attorneys, and you are adopting through the foster care system, you may want to ask your Department of Family Services caseworker. Most experienced case workers will know of at least a few attorneys that handle adoptions.
Once you’ve identified a few family law attorneys, call their office and schedule an appointment to ask questions about your case.
Again, make sure your potential lawyer has experience with adoptions and open adoption agreements.
Interview Potential Lawyers
Before you give any lawyer a dollar, make sure you talk to them about your adoption.
Don’t be afraid to ask the lawyer questions about how much they charge, how long they think the process will take, how quickly they can get your paperwork filed and how practical it is for your case to go smoothly.
Be sure the lawyer explains things in a way you understand and that you feel confident after speaking with the lawyer than they can handle your adoption case.
Finally, be sure to discuss legal fees with the attorney. After all finding a lawyer that’s a great fit won’t work if you cant afford the legal fees.
If you have the lawyer that fits, that you trust and like and that fits in your budget, move forward and get your adoption completed!For more information about our fees, our experience with adoption and termination of parental rights and how we can help you, call us at (702) 433-2889 or fill out our on-line form.