Adoption in Arizona

Adoption in Arizona

Choosing to welcome a child into a family is a beautiful experience with life-long rewards to both family and child. The adoption process in Arizona is worthwhile but comes with significant legal challenges requiring meticulous attention to detail. Adopting a child is one of the most important decisions a family can make, and so is choosing the right legal representation for the adoption process.

Although every child’s story is unique and the adoption process involves a personalized strategy specific to each case, understanding Arizona’s adoption laws and process is an important first step toward the smoothest Phoenix family lawsuit process.

Children walking to school.

Arizona’s Requirements for Child Adoption

In Arizona, married, unmarried, and same-sex spouses may petition the courts to adopt a child as long as they meet the following requirements:

  • They must be an Arizona resident over the age of 18 (or 21 for fostering to adopt)
  • The adopting adult(s) and anyone living in the home must pass an FBI background check and obtain a Level-one fingerprint clearance card from the Department of Public Safety
  • They must own or rent a home or apartment
  • They must be lawfully living in the United States

Meeting the above eligibility requirements allows prospective adopting adults to become certified as licensed to adopt by the Arizona court of their jurisdiction.

A non-Arizona resident may also adopt a child in Arizona if the child is under Arizona court supervision and the child lives in the home of the adult petitioning for adoption or was placed there by the Department of Child Safety (DCS) and the Department recommends the adoption.

Types of Adoption in Arizona

Most Arizona adoptions fall into one of four primary categories, foster care adoption, private domestic adoption, international adoption, and stepparent adoption. Each has a specific process prospective parents must carefully follow.

Foster Care Adoption in Arizona

Fostering to adopt is a common practice for families in Arizona seeking to add a child to their home through adoption. Although the primary goal in foster care situations is to reunite the child with their family, that’s not always possible or advisable, leaving thousands of children available for adoption each year. If an Arizona foster child becomes available for adoption, the child’s foster parents are eligible to adopt the child.

Foster parents who have fostered the eligible child for at least six months must pass the criminal records check and complete checks with Arizona’s child abuse registry, and then pass the state’s DCS home review process, ensuring that the home is a good fit for the child’s permanent adoption. Twice monthly child welfare checks continue in the home until the finalization of the adoption.

Arizona Private Domestic Adoption

Private domestic adoptions in Arizona take place through private agencies or law firms that work to match prospective adoptive parents to expectant mothers seeking to give up their child for adoption at birth. Private domestic adoptions are popular for parents seeking to adopt an infant. They are also beneficial for the birth mother who can select the family they wish to place their child with and complete the process before the birth so the adoptive parents can immediately welcome their child into their family.

International Adoption in Arizona

The process for adopting a child born in a foreign country depends on the adoption laws and process of the other country. Several government agencies are also involved in the process. Prospective parents must apply for an international adoption, complete an international home evaluation, file appropriate paperwork to ensure the child is available for adoption, and apply for a travel visa. Once the child is in their possession in Arizona, they must complete the Arizona adoption process.

Stepparent Adoption in Arizona

Some adoptions in Arizona occur when a stepparent wishes to legalize their relationship as their spouse’s child’s other parent. Before the process can begin, the child’s other biological parent must voluntarily or involuntarily terminate their parental rights unless they are deceased. The stepparent must have been married to the child’s mother for at least a year before they may file for a stepparent adoption.

Stepparent adoption does not require a home study or certification process but the adopting stepparent must obtain a fingerprint clearance card.

How Do Parents Become Certified to Adopt By the Arizona Department of Child Safety? 

Arizona’s Department of Child Safety must complete a home evaluation and assessment of the parents’ fitness before issuing a certification to adopt. After the parent(s) submits their written application along with health assessments by their physician showing that they are in good physical health to care for children and financial statements, DCS, or a service under contract with DCS, performs a home study. The following elements are included in a home study:

  • Fingerprint checks cleared for everyone in the household
  • A social history and references
  • Assessments of each parent’s moral fitness and religious background
  • Evaluation of the family’s financial fitness to care for the child

Once complete, DCS files its assessment report with the court in the jurisdiction of the adoption.

Termination of the Birth Parents’ Parental Rights

For a child to be eligible for adoption, the biological parents must terminate their rights. This may occur voluntarily or involuntarily. In some adoptions, both the mother and father surrender their parental rights. This is most common in young, unmarried birth parents. In other cases, the court terminates parental rights due to abuse, neglect, chronic addiction, or long-term incarceration. Most commonly, parents surrender their rights voluntarily. To surrender parental rights, the father must first establish paternity through a court-approved test if he was not married to the child’s mother at the time of the birth.

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help?

All adoptions require an attorney to facilitate the complex, multi-faceted process. The family law attorneys at Stewart Law Group have helped many clients grow their families through the Arizona adoption process. All adoption attorneys are state-regulated and required to remain up to date on the state’s adoption laws. Your attorney from Stewart Law Group can serve as the primary facilitator in your adoption process for all types of child adoption in Arizona. We understand how critical it is to get this right throughout every stage of the adoption. Contact Stewart Law Group today to set up a consultation so we can help you grow your family.