Adoption in Ohio and The Adoption Process

Adoption in Ohio and The Adoption Process

Adopting a child is a rewarding but often time-consuming process.

People have a lot of questions about how to adopt a child. The adoption process differs not only from state to state but from county to county as well.

Although when people think about adoption they may think about adopting a newborn baby, there are several other options available as well. We’ll explore them below.


Adoption spelled in colorful magnets

The state of Ohio allows both attorneys and agencies to handle adoptions.

Some Ohio counties, however, don’t accept the birth parents’ consent to the adoption of their child. In these circumstances, an attorney would coordinate the handling of the adoption--including finding birth parents for the family.

The adoption would then be handed off to an agency, which will then accept the birth parents' consent for the adoption instead of the court.

The state of Ohio recognizes four types of adoptions: Public, Private Independent, Private Agency and International. We’ll explore each one of those options below.

Public Adoption

In a public adoption, a child has been removed from their natural parent’s home due to neglect, abuse or a parent’s dependency on alcohol, drugs or other substances.

This child is no longer under the custody of the parent but is in custody of the state’s child protective services department.

These adoptions may be facilitated either by a public children's services agency run by the county or a private agency that specializes in placing foster children.

Although the ages of children can range from infants to teens, children in public adoptions are usually older or have special needs. Siblings are also common.

These adoptions are subsidized by the state or county, so the cost to adoptive parents is very low compared to other types of adoptions. These adoptions also tend to take less time than other types.

Private Independent Adoption

A private independent adoption in Ohio is coordinated by a lawyer and involves a child who isn’t in the custody of the state, county or an agency.

A private independent adoption involves a direct arrangement between the birth and adoptive parents. In this type of adoption, the birth parents give consent directly to the adoptive parents.

Any person--such as clergy or a doctor--may informally aid or promote adoption by making the person seeking to adopt aware of a child who will be or is available for adoption, but only an agency or attorney can make the formal arrangements for an adoption.

An adoption attorney in the state of Ohio is not allowed to represent both the person seeking to adopt and the parent placing a child for adoption. The majority of adoptees in private independent adoptions are usually infants.

Private Agency Adoption

A private agency adoption is similar to a private adoption coordinated by a lawyer but is done by an adoption agency licensed by the state of Ohio. These agencies can be for-profit or nonprofit.

In most cases, the birth parent(s) surrender the parental and custody rights to the adoption agency, who then facilities the adoption. Although the birth parents usually have a say in where their child is placed, the agency is within its legal rights to place a child with a family other than the one selected by the birth parents.

Adoption agencies typically try to honor the birth parents' wishes, however.

The majority of children adopted through private adoption agencies are under a year old.

Birth parents often decide to work with a private adoption agency instead of directly with an attorney because in many cases, agencies will come to the hospital or home to receive the birth parents’ surrender of the child.

In an Ohio attorney-handled adoption, birth parents are required to consent to the adoption in front of a judge. If both parents consent to the adoption, they can do so in the attorney's office.

If only the mother is surrendering the child, she has to go before a county judge or magistrate.

Adopting Internationally

AdoptionMultiFamInternational adoption involves the adoption of a child from another country and can be facilitated by either an adoption agency or a private adoption attorney.

Although international adoptions seem to get the most media coverage, they are usually the most complicated, expensive and longest of all of the different types of adoptions.

To adopt a child who is a citizen of another country the adoptive parents have to satisfy both the laws of the state they live in as well as the laws of the host country.

International adoptions are regulated through the Hague Adoption Convention that allows the federal government oversight of adoption agencies and international adoption policies. This oversight protects all the parties concerned from unethical adoption practices, child abductions, and adoption scams.

Any adoption agency that deals with international adoption must be certified by the U.S. State Department.

The State Department also requires that the adopting parents show proof that the foreign adoption agency has secured legal consent and provided counseling for the biological parents, has attempted to place the child within their own country and that the child has been properly cleared for a U.S. adoption.

Adoptive parents are also required to obtain an immigrant visa when adopting a child. This is done through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If approved, the adopted child will be granted U.S. citizenship as soon as she or he enters the United States.

The majority of the children adopted internationally are toddlers or young children.

Open Adoptions

Ohio law requires that an adoption attorney or agency tells both the adoptive and birth parents about the availability of (non-binding) open adoption agreement. Any open adoption agreement must be approved by the county probate court handling the adoption. The agreement cannot:

  • allow the birth parent(s) to exercise parental control or authority over the child placed for adoption;
  • deny the adoptive parent or child access to social and medical history or anything else included in the adoption file;
  • limit the adoptive parent’s full parental control and authority over the adopted child in any way.

The court cannot refuse to approve an adoption agreement unless the court finds one of these problems with the terms of the agreement or decides that the child’s best interests will be compromised in some other way.

Even though the courts in Ohio have to approve an open adoption agreement, it is important to remember that these agreements are not enforceable in Ohio.

All terms of open adoption are voluntary and anyone who has entered into an open adoption agreement can discontinue communication with the other party at any time.


Stepparent Adoptions


Stepparent adoptions take place when a parent’s new spouse adopts the parent’s child from a different partner.

Laws differ from county to county--some counties allow stepparents to file adoption petitions without counsel, while others require stepparents be represented by a lawyer. A stepparent type of adoption is relatively simple if you can obtain both party's consent.

It is important for all parties involved in a stepparent adoption to remember that the adoption process creates a relationship between the adopting stepparent and the child that is the exact it as if the child were born to the stepparent.

After adoption, the other natural parent has no legal right to visit or support the child. The child will no longer inherit through the other parent or his or her family. The legal relationship between the child and the other natural parent is terminated.

Following adoption by a stepparent, a new birth certificate is issued for the child and the adopting parent is listed as the child’s natural parent. Even in the event of a divorce, the adopting stepparent will be responsible for child support and is legally able to seek visitation or custody rights.

The adopted child is also eligible to inherit through the adopting stepparent.

If one of the parents doesn’t consent to the adoption or is cannot be located, then the process becomes more complicated. In this case, an adoption attorney will definitely need to be involved, and a significant amount of his or her time will be devoted to filling out and filing legal paperwork.

If the court finds through clear and convincing evidence that the natural parent has failed without justification to communicate or has failed to provide for the child's maintenance and support for a period of 6 months before the adoption petition is filed, the stepparent adoption can proceed without the natural parent’s consent.

Due to recent changes in Ohio adoption law, birth fathers now have a shortened period of time with which to register with the Ohio Putative Father Registry from 30 days down to 15 days.

Other exceptions may apply to putative fathers and parents whose parental rights have been terminated by a juvenile court.

Kinship Adoptions

The term Kinship Care refers to an arrangement in which a relative or another adult who has a relationship or bond with the child has taken over the full-time substitute care of a child whose parents are unable or unwilling to do so.

Kinship care includes relationships established through an informal arrangement, legal custody or guardianship or a relative foster care placement.

Most kinship care placements are interim placements meant to offer the child's parents an opportunity to complete drug or alcohol rehabilitation, parenting classes, or other requirements before the parent(s) and child are ideally reunified.

Typical candidates for kinship adoptions are grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and the typical situations for relative adoptions involve the death or incapacitation of the birth parents. The birth mother and father (if he has properly established paternity) must consent to the adoption of their child, even in relative adoptions.

Parents may voluntarily relinquish all parental rights through the Juvenile or the Probate Court, thereby allowing adoption by the kinship family.  

Adoption can occur only after parental rights have been terminated.

If the parents do not or unable to agree to a kinship adoption, then the adoption will not take place unless the state has determined that the parents will not perform their particular case plan and a decision is made to legally terminate their parental rights. 

One of the more common ways for this to happen is that Children Services obtains permanent custody from the Juvenile Court, thereby ending a parent's rights and responsibilities toward their children and freeing the children for adoption.

Like with the other types of adoptions discussed here, kinship adoption is a permanent arrangement, entitling a child to all of the benefits and rights of a biological child within the adoptive family.  In the state of Ohio, Kinship Adoption may also entitle the children to certain adoption subsidies, social security, insurance and/or pension benefits.

Adult Adoptions

Although adult adoptions are rare, most states provide for them, including Ohio.

Adults can be adopted under the following circumstances: if a parent-child relationship had been established while the child was still a minor, a total and permanent disability, developmental disabilities, or if the adult was in the permanent custody of the state at the time of his or her eighteenth birthday.


As a general rule, adoption lawyers have fewer restrictions for adoptive parents (age, marital status, sexual orientation, religion), than adoption agencies.

The adoption attorney you hire will help you provide, prepare, and submit all required legal documents throughout the adoption process. An adoption lawyer will be knowledgeable on state- and country-specific adoption laws and will do the best to make sure that you and the child you are adopting receive the best service possible.

An adoption lawyer will provide guidance based on your situation--whether it's a private adoption, a stepparent adoption, or if you’re a same-sex couple wanting to adopt. An adoption lawyer can prepare you for any hearings that may be required in the adoption process as well as representing you in court or in legal conflict if need be.

Although it depends on a variety of circumstances, in Ohio, attorney-arranged adoptions are usually less expensive than private agency adoptions.

According to the Ohio Bar Association, the average cost of a private agency adoption for a healthy infant without special needs ranges from $12,000 to $16,000.

Attorney fees for a similar adoption range from $3,000 to $5,000. In addition, an agency home study often costs between $1,300 to $2,500; a home study that is done through the courts in Ohio usually averages between $200 and $600.

The state or county subsidizes a non-private or “public” agency adoption,, so the cost to adoptive parents is very low, or sometimes, even free. In many public agency adoptions, parental rights have been terminated due to child abuse or neglect.

In an adoption handled by a lawyer, the birth parents select the adoptive parents and make all the decisions about their child and the adoption. Potential adoptive parents usually assemble information--including pictures--about their lives, values, and parenting philosophies for birth parents to use when choosing an adoptive family.

Often, adoption attorneys will set up meetings between birthparents and adoptive parents, as well as assisting the involved parties to stay in contact if they wish to do so.

In a private attorney arranged adoption, the surrender of parental rights occurs through the court system.

This also involves the birthparents making an application to the court to place their child with a designated family. As long as the selected family has passed home study, background checks or any other legal requirements, the court is not allowed to place the adoptive child with a family other than the particular one chosen by the birth parents.

Unfortunately, there have been instances where birth mothers have used their babies as ways to con potential adoptive parents out of thousands of dollars--only to leave the potential adoptive parents in debt and without a baby.

Having an attorney involved in the adoption process helps everyone involved stay on track and keep the adoption running smoothly through the proper legal channels.


Anyone wanting to adopt a child in the state of Ohio, domestically or internationally, is required to complete a home study.

Ohio requires a home study for all types of adoptions, including stepparent adoptions.

Information requested for the home study requirement varies from agency to agency and county to county but most include personal interviews, submission of health records and financial statements, home visits, character references, educational training, adoption education, a personal statement, and criminal background checks.

This information is requested to determine if the person(s) petitioning to adopt are suitable to do so.

gavel and scalesOhio law also states that if the adopted child is 12 years of age or older he or she must consent to the adoption. 

Consent to adoption can be granted in as little as 72 hours after birth as long as an assessment has been completed prior to birth. If not, then consent can be given 72 hours after the completion of the assessment.

Consent becomes irrevocable after birth parents surrender rights to an agency or--in the case of attorney-led adoptions--after the court has issued an interlocutory order or final decree.

If there is evidence of fraud, duress or misrepresentation, consent can be withdrawn at any time, although a return to the birth parents is not necessarily automatic. The state of Ohio requires a six-month home residency prior to the finalization of the adoption.

In June 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, that state-level bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

This ruling opens the door for same-sex couples to have both their names on a birth certificate of an adopted child--something that was not allowed before--but Ohio’s adoption laws still need to be re-written to allow equal parenting recognition. Many same-sex families wanting changes on their children’s birth certificates are still in limbo.

What are the rights of birth fathers in the state of Ohio? Recently changed adoption laws created a pre-birth notice option that can be sent to a putative father regarding a possible adoption, giving the father a notification so he can consider all of the options available to him.

A birth father that fails to register within 15 days after the child's birth essentially gives up the right to consent to an adoption.

The ability for either the birth father or mother to contest an adoption must take place within six months after the date of the finalization of the adoption.

The recent law also defines what qualifies as living expenses of the birth mother that are allowed to be paid.

Rent or mortgage, utilities, products or services like food, household goods, personal care items and the cost of transportation to work or school are included. The new law also requires that every effort be made to give payments directly to the organization or entity providing the service or item (such as the rental company, grocery store or utility company). Previously the payments could only be made directly to the birth mother.

One of the biggest changes in Ohio’s adoption laws?

Those wanting to adopt are now legally able to advertise--in print, online or over the airwaves--that they are looking to adopt a baby. This means we might soon be seeing classified advertisements, commercials or even billboards!


The laws relating to adoption are found in section 3107 of the Ohio Revised Code. Adoptions take place in the court of common pleas in the county where:

  • the child resides;
  • the person seeking the adoption resides; or
  • where the natural parent resides.

It is mandatory, whether adopting through an agency or independently, that the person adopting as well as the child being adopted appear before the Probate Court for the final hearing.

In some circumstances, there may be other appearances required. Legal steps for completing adoptions are:

  • The name by which the adoptee will be known if the petition is granted;
  • Information on the adoptee, petitioner, and on persons whose consent is required;
  • A certified copy of the adoptee's birth certificate, if available;
  • Copies of required consents and relinquishments of consents;
  • Information on everyone living in the adoptive household.

Once a petition is filed with all of the proper documents, the judge will set a hearing on the adoption and order an assessment.  The assessor will provide a written report to the judge, which will include:

  • adjustment of the child to the placement;
  • present and anticipated needs of both the child and petitioner;
  • the child’s, mental, physical and developmental conditions;
  • the adoptee's biological family background
  • reasons for the child's placement with the petitioner;
  • the adoptee's psychological background.

If the child is old enough, the assessment report will also include the adoptee’s opinions and thoughts on the proposed adoption.

Hearing on Adoption

At the adoption hearing, a county judge will ensure that all persons required to consent to the adoption have done so, all notices have been given to the parties and the child was properly placed in the adoptive home.

The judge will also decide as to whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child. If the adoption is approved, he or she will either enter the adoption decree immediately or make what’s known as an Interlocutory

The Order of Adoption will become a final decree of adoption on a specific date in the future. In an interlocutory order of adoption, the court will provide observation, investigation and a further report on the adoptive home during the interlocutory period.

Decree of Adoption

The final decree of adoption creates the relationship of parent and child between you and the adopted child, the same as if the adoptee were your biological child.

Birth Certificate

The child's original birth certificate will be sealed, and a new birth certificate issued. The adoptive parent(s) will be listed on the new birth certificate, as though they were the natural parents. Adopted children born in either Ohio or a foreign country, receive their new birth certificate from the Bureau of Vital Statistics located in Columbus, Ohio. Children born outside in another state but adopted in Ohio receive their new birth certificates from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state where they were born.


Finding the right adoption lawyer in Ohio is an important step, no matter what type of adoption you may be interested in. Sample questions are below:

  • What services do you provide?
  • Will you actively assist me in finding an adoption situation as well as handle the necessary legal work?
  • What is your general philosophy about adoption?
  • Why did you get involved in adoption?
  • Do you handle open adoptions, confidential adoptions or both? Do you have strong feelings about openness?
  • Will you keep me up-to-date and involved?
  • What are the financial and emotional risks involved?

Most importantly, you want to make sure that the lawyer--and his or her support staff--are people that will help you feel at ease and who will be respectful of everyone’s needs throughout the adoption process.


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