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Adoptions and Severance of Parental Rights

Baumann, Doyle, Paytas & Bernstein, P.L.L.C. offers a full-range of juvenile court related services including adoptions and severance of parental rights.  Our firm has over thirty (30) years of combined experience in adoption and juvenile law with an emphasis on step-parent adoptions, grandparent adoptions, other related adoptions, severance or termination of parental rights and temporary custody matters.  We recognize that this is an exciting, joyful and optimistic time in your lives as a family.  It is a deeply satisfying part of our practice and we endeavor to provide the high quality professional services necessary to complete your adoption as quickly as possible.

In any type of adoption or termination situation, experience, thoroughness and attention to detail are extremely important.  Mistakes and inexperience can result in lengthy delays, but can derail the process altogether or result in nightmare scenarios like the long-lost birth parents knocking on the door seeking custody.  Our firm has the experience and know-how to make sure that your termination and/or adoption matter is handled professionally and completely so that there are no “surprises” down the road.


There are many legal and emotional reasons for a step-parent or family member to adopt a child.  Through legal adoption, the child becomes eligible for all the legal benefits that a parent-child relationship can bring, including:

  • The right to inherit
  • The right to social security should the stepparent die
  • Legal authority to talk to the schools, to pick a child up at school or daycare, and to make emergency medical decisions for the child
  • The same last name as other family members

Step-parent adoption can be a tremendously meaningful event in a child and a parent’s life and it is a relatively simple process.  We handle all of the necessary filings with the court and can appear with you in court for the adoption hearing.  See our Frequently Asked Questions for more information and contact our office for a consultation.


Keeping families together is always an admirable goal.  A grandparent or other relative may wish to become adoptive parents to a child for a variety of reasons, including parental illness or incapacity, teen pregnancy, or a wish to keep a child out of the foster care system.

Whatever the circumstance in your family, we help grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins who wish to adopt a relative child.  Contact our office to schedule a consultation.  We can begin the process quickly.

If you are considering adoption or termination and would like to talk with one of our qualified professionals, please contact us to schedule a free consultation



Who can adopt?

Answer: Any adult individual or married couple can file a petition to adopt children in Arizona. 
Question: Can a step-parent adopt?
Answer: Yes, step-parents can adopt their stepchildren, with the consent of the birth parent or after a termination of the birth parents’ parental rights.
Question:   Is consent from the absent birth parent required for a step-parent adoption?

No, if the absent birth parent will not consent and there are appropriate reasons to do so, the absent birth parent’s parental rights may be terminated or “severed” through the court.

Question: When can a birth parent sign a consent?
Answer: Parental consent is the most common method to achieve a voluntary termination of parental rights. Under Arizona law, consents cannot be signed for a period of 72 hours following the birth of a child, and are irrevocable unless obtained by fraud, duress, or undue influence (A.R.S. ' 8-106 and 107). 
Question:   Can the birth father stop the adoption?

The rights of a birth father depend on whether he is/was married to the mother of the child. Married fathers have more rights than unmarried fathers. There are different methods authorized under Arizona law to address fathers’ rights.  A birth fathers’ parental rights can be terminated; however, this area of law is a particular reason to utilize competent legal counsel during the adoption process

Question: What if the birth parent is unknown or cannot be located?

If a birth parent is unknown or cannot be located, a termination and/or adoption can still be completed by taking the necessary steps to provide reasonable notice.

Question:   What is a relative adoption?

A relative adoption means that the adopting parent(s) are related to the child as grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt/uncle, adult sibling or cousin.

Question: What is certification to adopt?

In Arizona, a prospective adoptive home must be approved by the Court to adopt. The process is called certification.


Do relatives or step-parents have to be certified to adopt?

Answer: No, but a fingerprint check and check of Child Protective Services’ records must be conducted and a home study may be required.
Question: When can grandparents or other relatives adopt?
Answer: Relatives may adopt children: (1) with the consent of the child’s birth parents, (2) if the birth parents are deceased, or (3) if grounds exist to terminate the birth parents’ parental rights
Question:   We already have guardianship, can we adopt a related child?
Answer: Yes, if the parents consent, are deceased or their parental rights are terminated.
Question: We just got married, can my new spouse adopt my child?
Answer: Yes, you may start the adoption process anytime, however, an adoption cannot be finalized until the adopting parents have been married for at least one year.   If you have been married for more than one year, a step-parent adoption can be filed and completed in an expedited proceeding.
Question:   How long does an adoption take to finalize?
Answer: An expedited adoption, if you qualify, can be set for hearing within 60-90 days from the date the Petition to Adopt is filed.  Otherwise, adoption hearings are set approximately six (6) months from the date the Petition to Adopt is filed.  Couples must be married for at least one year before an adoption can be finalized.

What is a severance or termination of parental rights?

Answer: Severance a.k.a. Termination of Parental Rights is a legal finding that a birth parent no longer has any parental rights to a child, although that parent still has the legal obligation to provide financial support for the child.

When can I terminate an absent parents’ rights?

Answer: There are specific legal grounds for termination of parental rights.  Those grounds include abandonment, incarceration, substance abuse, and the commission of certain serious crimes--and the termination must be in the child’s best interests.   Only a qualified adoption professional can tell you if your specific circumstances qualify as legal grounds for a termination

Do I have to be married or planning a step-parent adoption to terminate an absent parent’s parental rights?

Answer: No, people acting as single parents can terminate the parental rights of absent birth parents if there are sufficient grounds to do so and it is in the child’s best interests.
Question:   How long does a severance take?
Answer: Termination of parental rights can be completed in approximately 90 days, if the parent whose rights are being terminated does not object.  If that person contests the action, depending on the court’s calendar, a termination case may take as long as a year or more to finalize.
Question: How does a severance of parental rights affect child support?
Answer: A severance of parental rights has no effect on child support obligations.  A child support obligation only ends when an adoption is finalized.

What is a home study?

Answer: Arizona law requires a home study be conducted, which is basically an investigation into the suitability or fitness of the individuals seeking to adopt. A report must be completed by a licensed adoption agency and filed with the court. 

Is a home study required in relative or step-parent adoptions?

Answer: Usually the answer is yes.  In some specific types of situations, the home study may not be required by the court; however, in most cases the study is required.
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Baumann, Doyle, Paytas & Bernstein, P.L.L.C.     2929 N. 44th Street      Suite 120     Phoenix, AZ 85018-7239     Phone (602)952-8500       Fax (602)667-6552

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