November 8, 2022

Celebrating National Adoption Month and Day in North Carolina

As the first and only law firm in southeastern North Carolina to focus on Adoption and Collaborative Family Law services, Michael & Russell, PLLC is highlighting the importance of November as National Adoption Month and November 19, 2022 as National Adoption Day.

The awareness campaign was created by the Children’s Bureau to increase national awareness of adoption issues, bring attention to the need for adoptive families for teens in the foster care system, and emphasize the value of youth engagement. It is also acknowledged and celebrated annually by North Carolina’s Judicial Branch, Department of Health and Human Services, and Governor’s Office. This awareness effort is important to our law firm as we are committed to providing important information to our clients as they embark on the journey of adoption.

In North Carolina, there are various types of adoptions and different processes for each. Our attorneys and co-owners, Ashley Michael and Ashley-Nicole Russell, are well-informed and educated about the various adoption practices and laws for each classification of adoptions. They have a combined 25 years of experience handling these cases with care and compassion. Ashley and Ashley-Nicole believe that adoption can be one of the most rewarding aspects of family law and they are proud to serve families every year through adoption services at Michael & Russell.

Types of Adoptions in North Carolina

As we celebrate the significance of National Adoption Month and Day, we want to share information about the types of adoptions in North Carolina. As recognized by the North Carolina Judicial Branch, there are various types of adoptions in our state that are classified by either public or private processes:

1. Agency Adoption
This is a public adoption where an agency, either a county department of social services or a licensed child-placing agency, places a child with the Adoptive Family, known also as a petitioner, for the purpose of adoption and consents to the adoption. This type of adoption happens most often with children who are in foster care and are adopted by an individual or family.

2. Independent Adoption
Also known as direct placement, this private type of adoption is when a child’s parent or guardian directly places a child with the petitioner for the purpose of adoption and consents to the adoption. A common occurrence of this is when the birth parents choose a family for their unborn child and transfer custody to them upon birth or shortly after birth. These adoptions become quite complex if one parent is not listed on the child’s birth certificate, there is an unknown father, or one parent would like to adopt and the other would not.  If/when this occurs the adoption might be paused to pursue a Termination of Parental Rights in Juvenile Court to clear the child for adoption, then the matter may resume in Superior Court with the Clerk.

3. Relative Adoption
In this private process, a parent or guardian directly places their child with a relative for the purpose of adoption and consents to the adoption. For the purpose of an adoption in North Carolina, a relative is considered a grandparent, full or half sibling, first cousin, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle, or great-grandparent of the child. If the relationship between the child and petitioner is one other than those listed, the adoption is classified as an independent adoption.

4. Interstate Adoption
Also known as Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) or state-to-state, this type of adoption is federally regulated. ICPC occurs when a child is born or resides in one state but is adopted by an individual or family in another state. Since the adoption would cross state lines and involve different state laws, there has to be legal transport of the child to the new state. This is the most complex of adoption law involving federal law and the law of the originating/adopting state and eventual home state of the family.

5. Foreign Adoption
When a family adopts a child from another country, it falls under one of two types of international adoptions. One process is the re-adoption of a child which is when the child was adopted in the other country through that country’s process and is now needing to be registered in North Carolina. Essentially this enables a birth certificate to be issued for the adoptive parents and adoptee in our state. The other type of foreign adoption is when an adoption of a child is not finalized in the other country and the child needs to be transported to North Carolina where the process is completed.

6. Stepparent Adoption
This type of private adoption process allows a stepparent to adopt their stepchild if the biological parent and stepparent have been married for at least six months. If the other biological parent is still living, they must consent to their parental rights being terminated for this adoption to occur. If the other biological parent is absent and has abandoned the child, there are exceptions to this requirement.

7. Adult Adoption
While many think of adoption as only concerning a child, there are some circumstances when an adult may petition to adopt someone over the age of 18. These cases are often more complex due to estate laws and court’s discretion for the basis of the adoption.  These types of adoptions also might involve a Guardian ad Litem if the Adoptee is incompetent. It’s important to note that a spouse may not adopt his or her spouse.

All adoptions in North Carolina must go through the local county and state court systems for approval. The adoption file will also go to the Adoption Division of the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office for a final audit and approval before heading to the State’s Registrar for a regeneration of a new birth certificate. When this happens, the child’s original birth certificate is sealed and removed from public records. There is often another layer of complexity when it comes to name changes which is why many families find it beneficial to work with an attorney to handle this process.

When to Work with an Attorney During an Adoption

With so many types of adoptions and the various laws, regulations, and processes surrounding each, it is beneficial – and sometimes advised – to work with an attorney. When looking to grow or create the family you imagine, the process doesn’t need to include additional stress. Hiring an attorney to handle the complex process and overwhelming paperwork will make the adoption as smooth as possible. This is especially true in cases that involve the adoption of an adult, an adoption that crosses state lines or country borders, or any adoption that may be contested or require a Termination of Parental Rights Order from Juvenile Court In addition, if an adoption requires a parent to terminate their parental rights in order to clear the path to adoption, it is essential to hire an attorney with proficiency in that complicated yet delicate process.

Michael & Russell managing attorney Ashley Michael is one of few attorneys in the region with focused experience in local, state, ICPC, and foreign adoptions as well as all types of child and adult adoptions. She is knowledgeable and skilled in the processes concerning federal law for ICPC cases as well as international adoptions where there may be involvement from embassies. Foreign adoptions often involve interpretation of foreign adoption forms, having documents notarized, and obtaining valid United States passports and/or Green Cards. These types of adoption cases benefit greatly from the expertise and guidance of an attorney with extensive experience in adoption law.

Ashley is not only experienced with ICPC and foreign adoptions, but she is also widely recognized for her work. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA) and has received extensive training through the organization. (To learn more about our legal services concerning ART, click here.) In addition, Ashley is a Board-Certified Legal Specialist in Family Law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization and was chosen as a 2022 North Carolina Leader in the Law by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.

Throughout her 16 years of practice in family law, Ashley has built strong and consistent relationships with local courts, hospitals, and medical providers as well as the Adoption and Child Protective Services divisions of the Department of Social Services in New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick and Onslow counties. When you work with Michael & Russell for your adoption needs, you can expect the support of an attorney who is prepared and proficient in meeting the goals of a successful adoption and physical transfer of the adoptee.  

We’re Focused on You and Your Family

If you are considering adoption to create or grow your family, Michael & Russell, PLLC can help you every step of the way. You can trust that our attorneys and legal team are committed to serving you and your family. Through our New Hanover County office, we are able to provide family law services in person to all of southeastern North Carolina as well as handle adoption matters across the state and on a national and international scale. If you’d like to read more about National Adoption Month, click here.

Please reach out to our Wilmington-based office at 910-255-5722 to learn more about working with us for your Adoption or Collaborative Family Law needs. To prepare for your initial consultation, Michael & Russell recommends reading this article on our website.