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She Won’t Raise Her Sister’s Child; Can She Be Forced to Accept Custody?

When you are engaged, it is one of the happiest times of your life. You are planning a future with this person and are eager to start. But life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan.

We recently read a story about a 27-year-old woman who was planning a future with her fiancé when she caught him having an affair with her sister. Making matters worse, her sister became pregnant with her fiancé’s child. She called off the engagement and stopped speaking to her sister and fiancé for five years. Then tragedy struck, and both her sister and the former fiancé were killed. The child was put in foster care because the maternal grandparents were denied custody based on health concerns. The paternal grandparents did not try for custody at all.

At this point, the family started looking in her direction. Since she broke off her previous engagement, she has a new fiancé with whom she bought a home. She is stable and happy. That is why her parents are pushing her to seek custody of her ex and sister’s child. She refused to seek custody. Her parents continued to press and go behind her back to convince her new fiancé to take the child. The child will stay in foster care if she doesn’t seek custody.

Our hearts go out to everyone involved in this tragedy, especially the young child. But it started us thinking about family and adoption. Could this young woman be given custody if she doesn’t want it?

Can I be forced to adopt a family member’s child?

Not in North Carolina, you can’t. You cannot be forced into adopting a family member’s child, because you must agree to take the child in. There is also a legal process requiring consent from multiple parties and acceptance by the court. If a family member is trying to force you into adoption, or if you believe that legal decisions are being made without your input, speak to a Charlotte adoption attorney immediately. Do not sign or agree to anything without speaking to Epperson Law Group.

Can I reject guardianship if it’s in a will?

When you have a child, you want to ensure their future if something happens to you. Some people will name godparents and others will name guardians. A godparent is an active part of the child’s life, but they do not have legal rights over the child in most cases. A guardian is someone who will have legal rights to the child. You can name a guardian in a will, but that does not guarantee the person named will agree.

When establishing a guardian in estate planning paperwork, there must be consent. The potential guardian must consent in advance and know they could potentially take custody. The parents must have paperwork consenting to the guardianship. The chosen guardian must also agree to take the child if something happens. If the parents fail to notify the potential guardian before naming them, it can cause issues. The potential guardian can reject the guardianship.

What if I want to adopt a family member?

Kinship adoptions (also called relative adoptions) are reserved for certain family members. The court and other authorities promote kinship adoptions. It is better, most courts believe, for the child to keep their family connections, education, community, and medical treatments. The child can benefit if the relative lives in the same area.

If both parties agree, biological parents can place the child with a close relative. Relative placement is a temporary action. Placement is not permanent, but it can help with the adoption process if that is the goal.

Family members that participate in a kinship or relative adoption include:

  • Grandparents
  • Siblings
  • Stepparents (provided they are still married to the biological parent)
  • First cousin
  • Great-grandparent
  • Aunt or uncle
  • Great uncle or aunt

If the relative does not fall into one of these categories, it is not a kinship adoption but an independent adoption.

Relative adoption typically has fewer steps than independent adoptions. The court can still require home studies to ensure the child is safe and cared for. However, these processes may be skipped if the child has already been in the home for over two years. When you meet with a Charlotte adoption lawyer, we will help determine if you have a relative adoption, file the appropriate paperwork, seek consent and negotiate the adoption agreement. Our Charlotte adoption lawyers will work with you until we finalize the adoption process.

Other types of adoptions

The process for an adoption will vary depending on the kind of adoption it is. Charlotte residents can seek one of these types of adoptions:

  • Foster care adoption
  • Private adoption
  • Surrogacy Adoption
  • Foreign adoption

All adoption requires consent and petitions to be filed with the district court. There will be a slew of supporting documentation to provide. If the child is over the age of 12, they must also provide consent to their adoption. The petition can be opposed or unopposed. The court has the final say in whether the adoption will benefit the child.

The Epperson Law Group, PLLC, can help with adoption and guardianship. We understand that parents want to keep their children in the family if something were to happen. It is best to have a formal document outlining these plans, as informal plans can make school and medical appointments challenging. Our Charlotte family law attorneys can help you with adoptions and other family law topics and protect your rights. We are dedicated to assisting Charlotte, Boone, Concord, and Weddington clients. Call our office or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment today.