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Legislative Update: Summary of Changes to Florida’s Adoption Laws

Logo of Florida House of RepresentativesMany bills relating to family law were proposed this past legislative session.  Many, if not most, of the bills died, while some, including House Bill 1163, passed both houses and were signed into law by Governor Scott.  House Bill 1163 (now Chapter 2012-81 of the Laws of Florida) made the following changes to Florida’s adoption laws (as summarized by the Florida Senate Committee on Children, Family, and Elder Affairs):

  • Requires that a petition for termination of parental rights contain facts supporting the allegation that the parents of the child is informed of the availability of private placement of the child with an adoption entity;
  • Removes legislative intent that all placements of minors for adoption be reported to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF or department);
  • Amends certain definitions in ch. 63, F.S.;
  • Exempts adoption proceedings which were initiated under ch. 39, F.S., from the requirement to search the Florida Putative Father Registry if the search was previously completed;
  • Requires the use of an adoption entity for all adoptions of minor children, unless the adoption is by a relative or stepparent;

New York Recognizes Gay Marriage. Do Floridians Have Options?

Beginning July 24, 2011, gay couples in New York will be able to apply for a marriage license.  This will make New York the sixth and largest state to recognize gay marriage.

Florida, unlike New York, does not permit gay marriage, nor does it recognize civil unions.  But there are things that partners can do to symbolize their love for one another and create certain rights and responsibilities.  You just have to be creative.

Let me give you an example.  One of the services that my firm offers is that we represent clients in name change matters.  I have heard all different reasons why a client wants a name change, including that he or she (a) has done some things he or she is not proud of and wants to turn a new leaf, (b) wants to take on the qualities of a religious or historical figure by taking on part of that figure’s name, and (c) simply does not like his or her name.

One day, a young woman came in for a consultation, and she had a touching story to tell me.  She said that she had been dating her partner for several years, and that they wanted to get married.  But, of course, Florida does not permit gay marriage.  However, this woman decided to declare her love and commitment by legally taking on her partner’s last name.  I was able to guide her through the judicial process of symbolically affirming her dedication to her partner through a name change.

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Advantages of a Stepparent Adopton

Florida has provided an expedited process for cases where a spouse seeks to adopt his or her stepchild.  Advantages of a stepparent adoption over the average adoption include the following:

  • Preliminary and final home studies to determine the suitability of intended adoptive parents and whether the adoption is in the child’s best interests are not required (though, in some cases, they may be ordered by a judge);
  • Proceedings for termination of the biological parent’s rights occur at the same time as proceedings for adoption, so an intended adopted parent does not have to wait until a biological parent’s rights are terminated prior to filing a petition for adoption;

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Pinellas County Seventh Annual Adoption Day Video

Below is a video from ABC Action News which follows one family through Pinellas County’s Seventh Annual Day of Adoption (November 2010):