As an adoptive parent, you’ve most likely been looking forward to your adoption finalization hearing for a long time. It’s the day when a judge finally makes your child legally yours, and the adoption process is officially over. It’s a day to celebrate!
First, though, it helps if you understand exactly what will happen when you petition to the judge for a final decree of adoption. This process varies slightly in each state, so keep in mind that you will have to follow all laws specific to Arkansas. To help you prepare for the big day, we’ve outlined what you should expect to happen in an Arkansas adoption finalization hearing.
Between the day your child is placed with you and the day he or she becomes legally and irrevocably yours, a few conditions must be satisfied.
The Termination of Parental Rights. Before you can become your child’s legal guardians, his or her birth parents must terminate their parental rights. In Arkansas, birth parents can voluntarily consent to adoption at any point after the child is born. After consent is given, there will be a 10-day revocation period, during which they can legally withdraw consent. If the birth parents don’t voluntarily consent, there are instances in which the court may involuntarily terminate parental rights.
Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) Clearance. If you don’t reside in Arkansas but have traveled to the state to adopt your child, you will have to comply with ICPC regulations. ICPC serves as a checks and balances system between states to ensure that all adoptions are both ethical and legal.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Clearance. If your child has any Native American heritage, you will have to comply with ICWA regulations. ICWA was enacted to help preserve Indian tribes and families and requires additional steps of anyone adopting a Native American child.
Post-Placement Visits. Until the adoption is finalized by the court, the social worker who completed your home study will also complete post-placement visits. These are to ensure that the child is adjusting well in his or her new home.
Once all finalization requirements have been met, it’s time for the big day! Most finalization proceedings last around 30 to 60 minutes, so it’s safe to assume the hearing will be relatively brief. The hearing will take place in your county court, so feel free to invite family and close friends, and bring a camera if you want pictures to remember the day. Many judges will be happy to pose for a selfie or two!
Before photo ops, though, a few events will take place:
You and your spouse will stand in front of the judge with your child and your attorney. You will be sworn in.
Your attorney will ask you to introduce yourselves, and he or she will advise the judge that the adoption should take place. Testimony will be provided. If your child is old enough, he or she may also be asked to testify that the adoption should take place.
Your attorney will then have you verity for the judge that you intend to provide your child with a safe, loving home, and then the judge will sign the final decree of adoption!
After the finalization hearing, you’ll receive a new birth certificate for your child that lists you as the “natural parents.” Beyond that, your adoption is complete! However, remember that that applies only to the legal proceedings; adoption is really a lifelong process. After the adoption finalization hearing, remember that you still have a responsibility to talk about adoption with your child and to work on your relationship with his or her birth parents.
For more information about adoption in Arkansas, call 1-800-ADOPTION to speak with an adoption specialist.
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