In ANY case, whether you are working through a public or private agency, you will need a skilled and experienced attorney to represent you during the adoption process. As an attorney, I have been involved with the adoption process of countless children and know that it is a minefield of potential hazards and pitfalls. The adoption process is one in which the "devil is in detail." It is a process where all the "T"s have to be crossed and the "I"s dotted or else it can have disastrous results later. What can seem like a harmless error can result in the entire adoption being invalid or having to start over from the beginning.
There are 2 main types of adoption that occur in South Carolina. One of these is called Domestic adoption of children from within the United States. These usually occur through private actions and by agreement of the birth and adoptive parents. The usual way this type of adoption occurs is if the adoptive and birth parents already know each other in some way, or they are connected with one another through a third party such as an adoption agency. Types of private adoptions may include younger children placed up for adoption by their birth parents or adoption by the child's biological grandparents.
Another form of adoption is when a child is adopted by a step-parent. An example of this would be If the birth parents of a child divorced and the child went to live with his or her birth mother, who eventually remarries. Several years later, step father wishes to adopt the child. One reason for this might be because the step-father has raised the child as his own and the entire family wishes to share the same last name.
There are however many legal issues that surrounds adoptions, which is why it is critical to obtain the help of an experience attorney familiar with the adoption process. Any slip up or mistake in the adoption process can result in the adoption being invalid. For this reason, it is important to understand the difference between custody of a child and parental rights of a child. In South Carolina, the Family Court can award custody to any interested party seeking custody when it is in the best interest of the child to do so. For Instance, grandparents of a minor child seek to have custody of this grandchild and is granted custody by the family court. Custody is the responsibility to provide food, clothing, shelter, to educate and to provide reasonable health care for a child. A grant of custody of a child generally means that the person with custody can consent to emergency and ordinary medical care as required from time to time for the health of the child. There is however a very large legal distinction between custody and adoption. In our example where the Family Court granted custody to the grandparents, the parents still retain their parental rights over the child. These parental rights generally include the ability to consent in extraordinary medical care, the right to consent to the minor child marrying, and enlisting in the armed forces prior to turning 18. Parental rights also carry with it the right to visit with the minor child under such conditions determined by the family court. Parental rights also include the duty to support the minor child. Even though the grandparents might have custody of the child, the parents are still obligated and can be ordered to pay child support. Parental rights also mean that the parents can petition the family court to regain custody upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.
In the case of the step-parent that wishes to adopt their step child, even though the mother has custody, adoption of the child means to gain the same parental rights that come naturally to the birth parents. This means that in order for the step-father to adopt the child the parental rights of the birth would either have to be terminated by the family court in an action called the termination of parental rights, or the birth father would have to sign a relinquishment of parental rights to the minor child.
Another type of adoption are when children are adopted through a state agency such as the Department of Social Services. Most often this occurs when children must be removed from their biological families due to being abused and/or neglected. Many times these children spend time in temporary situations, such as staying with family members, or entering the foster care system and staying with foster families. Children whose biological parents have had their rights terminated may be available for their foster parents to adopt.