In New Hampshire, two legal steps are required for a valid adoption.

Surrender/Termination of Parental Rights

First, the child’s birth parents must end their legal relationship with the child. They can do this either voluntarily or involuntarily.

“There is no substitute for sound legal advice from a New Hampshire family law attorney practicing in this area.”

In the former, the parents make an informed decision that they no longer want to have a legal relationship with the child. In the latter, a court finds that a condition in the child’s life relative to his/her relationship with his/her birth parents makes it necessary to terminate the parent-child relationship. The conditions which could cause a termination of parental rights are listed in the applicable state statute.

In either situation, there are extensive procedural safeguards to protect the interests of the birth parents and the child.  This is due to the fact that once a court ends the birth parents’ legal relationship with the child, its decision is final and cannot be changed.

Petition for Adoption

Second, a petition for adoption must be filed in the appropriate court by the proposed adoptive parent(s).

An unmarried adult, a husband and wife, and two individuals in a civil union may adopt a child if they meet certain requirements.

These requirements include a suitability assessment and sometimes a criminal background check. In the suitability assessment, the state or a licensed child placement agency reviews all aspects of the adoptive parent(s) lives in order to determine if it is in the child’s best interests that he/she be adopted.

Practical Considerations in Adoption

Practically speaking, the surrender/termination of parental rights action is filed first and the petition for adoption shortly therafter.

In this way, once the birth parents’ legal relationship with the child is severed at a hearing, the court can issue a temporary order awarding the proposed adoptive parents care, custody and control of the child. The temporary order becomes final after the child has lived with the adoptive parents for six months, assuming there are no issues during this time.

It should be emphasized that this is a summary of a very complex area of the law. In presenting this in summary form, our goal is to provide a general understanding of the topic, not an exhaustive review. There is no subsitute for legal advice from a family lawyer practicing in this area.