Adoption Law

The latest statistics say 437,283 children are currently part of the foster care system. These young lives are in need of families, which is why adoption is such a powerful act of kindness provided by our legal system.

However, the adoption process in Salt Lake City, UT, can be complicated, depending on the type of adoption you choose.

And the recent South Jordan prosecution of a fraudulent adoption agency proves that it’s more important than ever to protect your family and the rights of birth parents with the right legal representation in Salt Lake City, UT.

What are the Requirements to Adopt in Utah?

As any Utah adoption attorney will tell you, the state has specific requirements over who can adopt.

Before you research the costs associated with adoption, a law firm for representation, or the types of adoption options open to you in Salt Lake City, UT, you must legally, emotionally, financially, and medically qualify.

Legal Requirements for Adopting in Utah

A Salt Lake City, UT law firm with practice areas in adoption rights will first make sure that you and your family, by law, meet the basic residential and personal profile of a valid adopter:

  • Adoptive parents must be 21 or over (the Birth parents may also have a preference).
  • At least one of the potential parents needs to be at least 10 years older than the child they’re adopting.
  • Children older than 12 have rights — they must give their consent to being adopted by the potential family if they’re older than 12 years of age.
  • Couples that are common law are not allowed to adopt
  • Potential parents also need to establish residency in the state of Utah, which can last anywhere from 60 days to one year. This might differ if parents are adopting a child with special needs, or if one of the spouses is a member of the military.

Financial Requirements to Successfully Adopt a Child in Utah

To make sure you can provide for your child, you’ll also need to submit a financial assessment.

This includes:

  • Your income
  • Your assets
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • Proof of funds available for adoption expenses (professional service fees, travel, and incidentals of Birth Mother, if applicable)

There’s no specific limit or amount, but, for obvious reasons, your resources should be enough to adequately provide for a child’s total needs.

Emotional and Physical Health Requirements for Adopting in Utah

Stable emotional health is a significant factor in being ready to raise a child.

The state takes this part very seriously, so your family will undergo an evaluation of psychological and emotional stability.

  • If one or both parents have a current psychiatric illness or a history of illness, a doctor’s statement will need to vouch for your emotional stability.
  • If you or your spouse are using an ongoing medication, you’ll also need a doctor’s statement indicating your ability to parent in lieu of this.
  • If one or both of the parents have a serious illness, a note from your primary care physician should state they’re both able to parent until the child turns at least 16 years old.
  • If there’s a history of substance abuse, you may need proof of rehabilitation before you’re allowed to proceed.

Note: Criminal history and child abuse have their own procedure. You should use an adoption lawyer in Salt Lake City, UT to walk you through what you’ll need.

Generally speaking, the process works like this:

  • Household members over the age of 18 will need to undergo the child abuse process of every U.S. state. Anything found mitigates adoption.
  • If you have an arrest history — usually uncovered after an adoption home study and both state and FBI clearances for criminal history — you’ll have to provide personal statements. You may also need rehabilitation. A lawyer will advise you that certain criminal charges are a no-go.

Home Requirements for Potential Parents Adopting Children in Utah

Your home environment is a big factor in making sure your family is the right fit for children. That’s why agencies conduct home studies. Your lawyer can walk you through how to prepare for this.

  • Families may need to provide references for their interpersonal relationships and their interactions with children.
  • A caseworker will sit down with the family to get more information and evaluate the home’s preparedness and safety.
  • Potential parents may be asked questions including, how they plan to raise their children, handle issues, and more.
  • The caseworker may also evaluate the neighborhood area.

What are the Types of Adoptions in Utah?

Adoption attorneys will advise you about the details of the process, which differs based on the types of adoptive situations.

1) Adopting Through Agencies

The most familiar kind of adoptive situations are those conducted through an agency. These are either:

  • Public — Agencies that are home to minors, which have come into the custody of the state (such as loss of both parents, abandonment, abuse). Includes domestic infant adoptions and foster care adoptions
  • Private — These are organized by private institutions such as churches or non-profits. Don’t confuse these with private or independent adoptions.

2) Independent Adoptions

Without agency involvement, you’re looking at an independent adoption. These are much more high-contact and directly involve the birth mother (or birth parents). They’re also much more expensive, and they involve an intermediary such as an adoption attorney.

Adoption attorneys in Utah can help you draw up the details of a contract that are legal, lasting, and which protects everyone’s priorities.

3) Open Adoptions

As an adoption attorney will tell you, open adoptions are independent except for the fact that the birth parents can maintain contact with the child even after adoption.

4) Identified Adoptions

In identified adoptions, both the adoptive parents and the birth parents each find each other outside of an agency. They then approach an agency for the filing process, which makes them a “hybrid.”

5) International Adoptions

International adoptions, especially by U.S. citizens from China, are very popular. However, they’re vastly more complicated and more expensive.

In international situations, U.S. parents have to go through the added stage of obtaining a visa for their new minor. There are also a number of changes to the law and federal restrictions recently put in place, so you’ll need to make sure you have an adoption lawyer on retainer.

6) Stepparent Adoptions

When a stepparent wants to legally adopt the children of their spouse, an adoption lawyer will help them through the process. As long as both biological parents agree, this is usually quite simple.

However, if one of the child’s parents disagrees or can’t be found, having a law firm involved will be more important than ever.

7) Same-Sex Adoptions

In Utah, same-sex couples are absolutely allowed to use a Utah adoption attorney to adopt. However, same-sex couples must be married to legally adopt, since adoption by common law couples is not allowed.

8) Relative or Kinship Adoption

Step-parents are one type of adoption that families seek. But, in Salt Lake City, Utah, many individuals qualify for relative adoption. In fact, it’s the second most common form of adoption.

When a person can’t look after their own child adequately, and for a sustained period of time, a kinship or relative adoption allows for a relative to legally adopt and take over a child, as guardian, in cases of:

  • Death
  • Mental health issues
  • Imprisonment
  • Drug abuse

Note: Surrogacy is not adoption and they’re not covered by the same laws in Utah.

Surrogacy is its own contract, and in Utah, an adoption lawyer will tell you that they require you to show you can’t carry a pregnancy or give birth.

Why You May Need an Attorney When Adopting a Child in Utah

There are reasons why so many families in Salt Lake City, Utah turn to a law firm with practice areas in adoption.

An adoption lawyer acts as more than an intermediary or someone who knows the law, who can also represent your interests. During the adoption process, a lot can happen that the law can’t specifically address. That’s when lawyers become necessary.

Often, a situation involving birth mothers and fathers can become even more delicate than other areas of family law, like divorce.

Everyone’s rights must be protected, of course, but only an adoption attorney can truly respond to unique situations using the law, as they arise.

Here are just some of the ways retaining a law firm or an adoption attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah could help streamline the adoption experience.

  • Birth Fathers — Did you know that unwed birth fathers must establish paternity before they consent to the adoption? If the father doesn’t consent to adoption, you’ll need a consultation with an experienced adoption lawyer.
  • Birth Parent Expenses — If you’re opting for an independent adoption in Salt Lake City, UT, you may need to pay for adoption-related expenses like legal, medical, counseling, travel, temporary living expenses, etc.
  • Multi-State Adoptions — You’ll need an adoption lawyer to help you if you adopt out-of-state. An adoption attorney in Salt Lake City can help you gain ICPC approval, which you need if you want to take your little one back home.
  • Relinquishments — Relinquishment is tricky because a birth mother must sign a relinquishment document in court at least 24 hours after the birth. If she changes her mind or the adoptive parents do, a lot can happen that only an adoption lawyer can help wade through.
  • Native American Heritage — The Indian Child Welfare Act applies if the birth mother or children are part of a tribe. This act overrides the state adoption law in Salt Lake City, UT, so an experienced lawyer can help you find out if there’s any Native American heritage.


At Schmidt Law Firm in Salt Lake City, UT, our team of attorneys and legal specialists can help you make adopting your newest family member, a smooth and stress-free experience. Our law offices work with you throughout the process, from the moment you contact us, to the search for an agency or birth family, to assist you with the paperwork, application, and more.

When you’re ready to consider adoption, look for a lawyer with a proven track record for helping families. To the Schmidt Law Firm team, you’re more than just a client. Call us today at 801-990-6390, and we can schedule a 30-minute consultation at our office to learn more about helping your family grow.

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