By: Sarah Stewart Legal Group

By far the biggest question I get about adoption is whether consent by the biological family is necessary.  All too often, one or more parents have vanished and are not easy for the adopting family, or stepparent, to track down.  Absent parents are good at hiding when they do not want to be found.

So, do you need the consent of a biological parent to adopt a child?  The short answer is no, if certain criteria are met.  We discuss those criteria below.

(1) Parent Has Not Contributed to the Support of the Child

Under Oklahoma law, a parent who has not contributed to the support of the minor, either under an Order that determines child support, or within his or her financial ability to contribute, for 12 of the last 14 months, does not have to consent to the child’s adoption.

(2) Parent Does Not Have a Substantial and Positive Relationship with the Child

If the parent has not maintained a substantial and positive relationship with the child for 12 of the prior 14 months, the parent does not have to consent to the adoption. The parent must maintain frequent and regular communication and/or visitation with the child to have a substantial positive relationship.

(3) Parent Caused the Chronic Neglect, Physical or Sexual Abuse of the Child or a Sibling, or the Death of a Sibling of the Child

(4) Parent Sentenced to Prison for Not Less Than 10 Years and Continuation of the Relationship Would Harm the Minor

The Court will determine if the relationship will cause harm to the minor by considering the following: 1) length of incarceration and effect on parent/child relationship; 2) previous convictions and imprisonment; 3) criminal history; 4) child’s age; 5) evidence of abuse or neglect of the child and/or siblings by the parent; 6) current parent/child relationship and how parent has exercised parental duties and rights in the past.

(5) Parent Has a Mental Illness or Deficiency

The parent must be unable, due to the illness or deficiency, to exercise his or her parental duties and rights.  A relationship with the parent must threaten the safety of the child, and the illness or deficiency must not respond to treatment or medication and will not improve.

(6) Parent’s Rights Have Been Terminated or Parent Has Waived Notice of Adoption, or Relinquished Parental Rights pursuant to Oklahoma Law.

(7) Parent Receives Notice of Hearing

For an adoption without consent, the nonconsenting parents must receive notice of the hearing to allow the adoption and/or terminate his or her rights at least 15 days before the hearing.  Service is best if the parent can be personally served.  However, if the adopting parents have searched for the biological parents and can prove they cannot be located, publication notice may be an option.  If a biological parent receives notice by publication, the order on the adoption will not be final for 15 days after the hearing.

There are some additional exceptions that may apply to unknown or unconfirmed biological fathers of children that are not listed here.  If you are interested in adoption, it is best to consult professionals to know your legal rights and responsibilities in the process.