In Utah, like most states, the process for the adoption of a child by a relative or stepparent can, in some ways, be simpler than other adoptions. Often, relatives will start out as extended babysitters for a grandchild, niece or nephew, or maybe get guardianship over a relative child. It is common for the family member to then want to formally adoption the child.
In Utah, one of the most significant differences between a relative adoption and a typical private adoption is that an adoption pre-placement home study is not required for the person(s) adopting the child if the prospective adoptive parent is related to either one of the biological parents or the child as a step-parent, sibling (half or whole), grandparent, aunt, uncle, or first cousin. This can save prospective adoptive parents hundreds of dollars.
Similarly, most relative adoptions are not subject to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). The definition of “relative” may be different between different states and the ICPC. Unlike Utah’s home study relative exemption law where you look at the relation to either the biological parent or the child, the ICPC relative exemption only applies to cases where the child is sent from one state by a parent, step-parent, grandparent, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or his guardian, to another state to live with any such relative.
Another way that step-parent adoptions are different from regular adoption is the waiting period to finalize the adoption. Normally, a couple adopting a child must have the child in their home for at least six months before they may go to court and finalize the adoption. A step-parent that wants to adopt his spouse’s child, must live together with the child for one year before finalizing the step-parent adoption.
Besides these exceptions, relative and step-parent adoptions follow the same procedural process as regular adoptions. The rights of the biological parents must be addressed either through signed consents and relinquishment of their parental rights, determination that they do not have rights to notice or consent, or by waiver of their rights following notice. Each case should be discussed with a qualified adoption attorney to make sure that the rights of the biological parents are properly addressed.