I. What are the laws and qualifications for adopting a child in Oklahoma?
To adopt in Oklahoma, you must be at least 21. An individual or husband and wife jointly may adopt, or one spouse may adopt in a stepparent or relative adoption. A married person may adopt singly if legally separated.
II. What adoption expenses can be paid by adoptive families in Oklahoma?
Adoptive parents may pay reasonable attorney fees and court costs, medical expenses, counseling expenses, and living expenses for housing, food, clothing, utilities, and other necessities of the birth mother. The adoptive parents may also pay reasonable costs for travel or transportation of the mother and child as needed for medical or adoption-related appointments. Court approval is required for any living or transportation expenses over $500. Living expenses may be paid up to two months following placement, and counseling costs for the birth parents may not exceed the past six months after placement. Payments deemed unreasonable by the court will not be allowed. The reasonable fees of a licensed agency, as well as home study costs, are permitted. An affidavit must be attached to the adoption petition and filed prior to the final adoption decree disclosing all costs expended by the adoptive family.
III. When and how can birth parents consent to the adoption?
A mother cannot execute consent until after the child is born. Fathers of children born in wedlock cannot execute consent until after the child’s birth. Putative fathers may execute consent before or after birth. A guardian or legal custodian may execute consent any time after being authorized to do so. A child-placing agency may consent any time before or after the hearing on the adoption petition. A child whose consent is required may execute consent any time at or before the hearing on the adoption petition. The consent must state that it is being voluntarily and unequivocally and that the person giving consent understands that consent is final upon execution unless there is proof of fraud or duress. The person giving consent must state that they are represented by counsel or have waived the right to counsel and that they have not received or been promised anything of value for the consent except payments authorized by law. If the person executing consent is a member of an Indian tribe or if the child is eligible for membership, this must be stated in the consent. The consent may be signed before a judge. A putative father of a non-Indian child may execute an extrajudicial consent before a notary public before or after the child’s birth.
IV. Who must consent to the adoption?
Both parents must consent to adoption unless one parent is dead or the rights of one parent have been terminated. If both parents have died or their rights have been terminated by the court, the legal guardian or guardian ad litem must consent to the adoption. If a licensed child-placing agency has custody of the child, the executive head of the agency must consent to the adoption. If the child is age 12 or older, he or she must consent to the adoption unless the court finds that it is not in the child’s best interest to require them to consent.
V. When is consent not needed?
In Oklahoma, parental consent is not required if:
- A putative father fails to prove he is the father of the child, or for a child placed within 14 months of birth, he fails to demonstrate that he has exercised his parental rights or served his duties to the child
- For 12 consecutive months of the 14 months immediately preceding the adoption petition, the parent willfully failed, refused, or neglected to support the child or maintain a substantial and positive relationship with the child
- The parent waives in writing the right to notice of the hearing or fails to appear at the hearing
- The parent is entitled to custody but has abandoned the minor
- The parent has been convicted of physically or sexually abusing the child or a sibling or failed to protect the minor or a sibling from physical or sexual abuse
- The parent has been convicted of causing the death of a child’s sibling as a result of physical or sexual abuse or chronic neglect
- The parent has been sentenced to a period of incarceration for at least 10 years and the continuation of parental rights would harm the child
- The parent has a mental illness or deficiency that renders the parent incapable of adequately exercising their parental rights, duties, and responsibilities
- The parent has permanently relinquished rights and responsibilities to the child
- The parent has had his or her parental relationship legally terminated or legally determined not to exist
- The parent has voluntarily placed the child into the care of a licensed child care institution or child-placing agency and the child has remained in out-of-home care for at least 18 months, and the parent has willfully failed to comply for 12 consecutive months with a reasonable plan of care
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