By Steve Harton
An adoption creates a new parent-child relationship between the adoptive parents and the adopted person. An adoption bestows upon the adopting parent the same rights and privileges as the natural parents of the adopted person, and entitles the adopted person the same rights of person and property as children and heirs at law of the persons who adopted them.
Who can be adopted?
The adopted person is usually a child, but also could be an adult. The adoption processes for a child or an adult are similar, but not the same.
Who can adopt?
In Wyoming, a Petition for Adoption may be filed by any single adult, or jointly by a husband and wife (or same sex legally married couple) who maintain their home together, or by either the husband or wife if the other spouse is a parent of the child.
Wyoming Adoption Procedure
All adoptions, whether contested or uncontested, must go through the Court, and must be approved by a District Court Judge. The adoptive parents file a Petition to adopt, and then then there will be a court hearing, where the Judge will decide whether or not to grant the adoption.
The Petition to Adopt a Child
The Petition to Adopt usually contains the following information:
- The names of the adoptive parents, along with their dates of birth and their places of birth,
- The name, date and place of birth of the child ,
- The names, dates and places of birth of the natural parents,
- The names of all persons and/or agencies whose consent is required,
- The relationship of the petitioners to the child,
- A statement that the adoption is in the best interest of the child, and
- A request to change the name of the child, if desired
The Petition must also contain the following documents:
- A report of a medical examination of the child, unless exempted,
- An affidavit from each petitioner, setting out certain information about any psychiatric conditions, previous criminal convictions, and their current parole or probation status. (This information can also be included in the body of a verified petition), and
- Any Consents to the adoption.
In Wyoming, certain people that must consent to an adoption, and their written consent to the adoption must be filed with the Petition to Adopt. These people are:
- The natural parents of the child, if living; or
- The mother and the putative father of the child; or
- The mother alone, if she does not know the name of the putative father; or
- The legal guardian of the child, if neither parent is living, or if the parent’s rights have been terminated, or
- The head of the agency where the child was placed for adoption, or
- The legal guardian of any parent or putative father who has been adjudged mentally incompetent.
- The child to be adopted him or herself, if they are fourteen (14) years old, or older.
If any of these people did not execute a written relinquishment and consent, then the adoption becomes contested and they must be served with the Petition and Notice of Adoption Hearing.
The Petition is filed with the Court, along with a request for setting the adoption hearing.
The Adoption Hearing
Every adoption in Wyoming will have and adoption hearing. However, the hearing for a contested adoption is very different than that for an uncontested one.
Uncontested Adoption Hearing
If the adoption is uncontested, the adoption hearing is a straightforward, easy, and generally pleasant event.
Adoptive parents, and usually the adoptive child, will appear before the Judge. The Judge will review the petition, and usually ask a few questions, just to make sure the parents both understand the significance of the adoption. If the child is old enough, the Judge might ask them how they feel about being adopted.
The hearing usually just takes a few minutes, and then the Judge signs the Decree of Adoption.
Contested Adoption Hearing
A contested adoption proceeding is much more complicated, difficult and usually expensive process. However, it generally consists of the following steps:
- The Petition to Adopt and Notice of the hearing must be served on the people whose consent was not filed with the Petition.
- If the non-consenting people respond to the Petition, then there is often some period of discovery, and other elements of a lawsuit,
- At the actual hearing, the Petitioners must prove that the adoption should be granted over the objections of the non-consenting parent.
The contested adoption hearing can last a full day, or even longer. At the end of the hearing, the Judge may grant or may deny the adoption.
The Decree of Adoption
The Decree of Adoption will state that the adoptive parents will now be treated in all respects as the natural parents of the child. It will also state the new name of the child, and will direct the state office of vital records to issue a new birth certificate for the child, showing the adoptive parents as the natural parents of the child.
After the Decree of Adoption
Once the Judge signs the Decree of Adoption, the Clerk of Court will issue a document called a Report of Adoption. The Decree of Adoption and the Report of Adoption are then mailed to the office of vital records in the State where the child was born, and a new birth certificate is requested.
The the parents or their attorney must request the new birth certificate, because it will not be done by the Court. The new birth certificate will cost anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the State, and may take six to eight weeks to process.
The new parents should also make sure they update their child’s records with the social security office, the child’s school, and their health insurance and health care providers.
Finally, the new parents should consider updating their will, or other estate planning documents, to consider and take into account the new member of the family!