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Who Can Adopt a Child?

People regularly call and ask whether they can adopt a child. As with many legal matters, "it depends" because the devil is in the details.

  1. For example, Jane is a divorced mother with two kids. Jane has recently married a man name Robert, who is now a stepfather to Jane's children. Jane and Robert want to know if Robert can adopt Jane's two children.

    1. Answer: Assuming the biological father consents or has his rights terminated, the answer is, "Probably yes. Robert can adopt if his background checks are okay (See Utah Code 78B-6-117(5)) and he has lived with the children for at least one year." This one-year rule can be overruled if the judge finds "good cause." The main concern the judge will likely have is family bonding.

  2. Next example: A teenage girl wants her parents to adopt her soon-to-be-born child. Can the child's grandparents adopt?

    1. Answer: Maybe. Grandparents often adopt their grandchild, but it depends on what happens with the birth father and his rights to the child. If he abandons the child or consents to the adoption, the answer is, "Probably yes. The grandparents can adopt if their background checks are okay and they have lived with the child for at least six months." But the child's father has constitutional rights that must be addressed.

  3. Next example: An unmarried couple want to adopt a child in a private adoption. Must you be married to adopt?

    1. Answer: Usually. A cohabitating person may not adopt; he or she must get married. Married couples may adopt, and single individuals (not cohabitating) may adopt under Utah Code 78B-6-117.

  4. Next example: Can someone from another state adopt a Utah-born child, or can a child born outside Utah be adopted inside Utah?

    1. Answer: Generally, yes. Interstate adoptions are quite common, though they may require some extra work to comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). At the Utah Adoption Law Center, we love answering people's questions on adoption and paternity. For a free telephone consultation today with a Utah Adoption attorney, call 385.200.1972 or 435.592.1235. We also have some very helpful Youtube videos.


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