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Family Law – Adoption


Probate courts have exclusive jurisdiction in all adoption matters in Indiana.[1]


Who may be adopted:

  1. Of course, children under 18 years of age may be adopted by a resident of Indiana, following the general adoption procedures.[2]
  2. An individual over 18years old may be adopted by a resident of Indiana, following the general adoption procedures.[3]



A party seeking to adopt a child under 18 years of age, can file a petition for adoption with the clerk of the court that has probate jurisdiction in the county where either the petitioner for adoption resides, or where the licensed child placing/ governmental agency having custody of that child is located, or where the child resides.[4]


Who may adopt:

  1. “In general, no adoption petition by a married person will be granted unless both the husband and wife join in the action.”[5]
  2. However, if the party filing for adoption is married to the biological or adoptive parent of that child, then a joint petition is not necessary, rather an acknowledged consent filed along with the petition.[6]


“Step-parent” Adoptions:

Generally, if the party seeking adoption of the child is already married to a biological parent of that child, then the parent-child relationship of the biological parent is not affected.[7]


Pre-Birth Notice to Putative Father:

In general, before the birth of a child three parties (a licensed child placing agency, an attorney representing prospective adoptive parents of child, or the attorney representing the mother of the child) can serve notice to the putative father of the biological mother’s intent to place the child for adoption.[8]


Notice of Adoption Proceedings:

Generally, notice of a pending adoption must be given to the people whose consent to the adoption is necessary as required under I.C. 31-19-9-1, and to the putative father.[9]


Putative Father Registry:

The purpose of the registry is to collect and store the name and address of a putative father so in case of an adoption proceeding beginning with a child he may have conceived, he will receive notice of the pending adoption.[10] The putative father must register in accordance with I.C. 31-19-5 (or I.C. 31-3-1.5 before its repeal) to be entitled to the notice of prospective adoption; the notice is in accordance with Indiana Trial Rule 4.1.[11]


Consents to Adoption Required:

To have a valid adoption certain consents are required in Indiana, generally consents from these parties are required:

  • Each living parent of a child born in wedlock (including the man presumed to be the child’s biological father);
  • The mother of a child born out of wedlock and the father whose paternity has been established;
  • Each person, agency, or local office that has legal custody of the child;
  • The child to be adopted if over 14 years old;
  • The spouse of the child, if the child is married; etc.[12]


Consents are not required from:

Generally, consent for adoption is not required from parties that have either abandoned or deserted child, a biological father of a child born out of wedlock that did not timely establish paternity, or from the biological father of a child born out rape, child molestation, sexual misconduct with a minor, or incest, a parent who has relinquished parenting rights, etc.[13]


Withdraw of Consent to Adoption & Contested Adoptions:

Only a person entitled to notice of adoption under I.C. § 31-19-4 or I.C. § 31-19-4.5 may contest the adoption, not later than 30 days after receiving service of notice of adoption, and that party must file a motion to withdraw consent to the court.[14]

Further a party seeking to withdraw consent or contest an adoption, must give notice to all parties in the adoption, and to a person whose consent to adoption is required under I.C. 31-19-9.[15]


Effect of Adoption on Parents:

Generally, once an adoption decree is issued, the biological parents of the adopted child are relieved of all legal duties and obligations concerning the adopted child and have lost all respected rights to the adopted child.[16]


Post-Adoptive Visitation Privileges:

There are several factors that would allow a biological or custodial parent to have visitation with the child post-adoption. Some of those factors are (1) the court determining it’s in the child’s best interest; (2) the child is over 2 years old and has a significant emotional attachment; (3) each adoptive parent consents; (4) adoptive and birth parents execute a post-adoption contract agreement and file it with the court; (5) consent from the child, if child is over 12 years old, etc.[17]


Post-Adoption sibling contact:

Indiana Code does provide for pre-adoptive siblings of the child, who has been adopted, to visit.  The adopted child must be at least two years old, and the court finds that contact would be in the adopted child’s best interest, and each adoptive parent gives consent to the post-adoption contact privileges.[18]

[1] I.C. § 31-19-1-2(a)-(b).

[2] I.C. § 31-19-2-2(a).

[3] I.C. § 31-19-2-1(a)(1)-(2).

[4] I.C. § 31-19-2-2(a)(1)-(3).

[5]  J. Eric Smithburn, Petitioning For Adoption, 14 Ind. Prac., Family Law §5:3 ; I.C. § 31-19-2-4(a).

[6] Id.; I.C. § 31-19-2-4(b).

[7] I.C. § 31-19-15-2(a).

[8] I.C. § 31-19-3-1(1)-(3).

[9] I.C. § 31-19-2.5-3(a)(1)-(2).

[10] I.C. § 31-19-5-3.

[11] I.C. § 31-19-5-4.

[12] I.C. § 31-19-9-1(a)(1)-(6).

[13] I.C. § 31-19-9-8(a)-(b).

[14] I.C. § 31-19-10-1(a)-(c).

[15] I.C. § 31-19-10-2(1)-(2).

[16] I.C. § 31-19-15-1(a)(1)-(2).

[17] I.C. § 31-19-16-2(1)-(7).

[18] J. Eric Smithburn, Adoption Procedures, 14 Ind. Prac., Family Law §5:115; I.C. § 31-19-16.5-1(1)-(2).