When an adoption of a child occurs, the adopting parent becomes that child’s parent for all legal purposes and the parent and child have the same rights and responsibilities to each other as they would have if the child were biologically born to that parent. Generally, adoption cases fall into three categories: 1) adoption by a stepparent; 2) a private adoption arrangement; 3) adoption from foster care. For all types of adoptions, the child or children to be adopted must have resided with the proposed adoptive parent or parents for at least six months before the petition can be filed.
Adoption by Step-Parent
For a step-parent adoption to occur, the proposed adoptive parent (step-father or step-mother) must be legally married to the child’s biological parent and the child must have resided with the parent and step-parent for a minimum of six months prior to the filing. Step-parents are required to pass background checks, which include a criminal history and review of abuse/neglect registries. Generally, the other biological parent must relinquish his or her rights or have those rights terminated. In certain rare instances, the Court may waive the consent of the biological parent. From the time of adoption forward, the adoptive parent/step-parent has the same rights and responsibilities as if s/he were the biological parent, including the obligation to support the child and the right to parenting time with the child in the event the adopting step-parent and child’s biological parent later divorce. These adoptions are filed in County Court.
In this type of adoption arrangement, birth parents select adoptive parents for their child either through an adoption agency or because the proposed adoptive parents are personally known to the birth mother or birth father. These adoptions are filed in County Court. Note that Nebraska law does not allow for “open” adoptions with contractual rights for visits post-adoption in private (non-foster care) cases.
Adoption from Foster Care
In this type of adoption, the Department of Health and Human Services (either in Nebraska or another state) has legal and physical custody of the child or children to be adopted. In certain circumstances, the legal fees for adoption are covered by a one-time special “adoption subsidy” and the majority of the information and paperwork is completed by a social worker and provided to an attorney who accepts a reduced fee. These adoptions may occur in either County or Juvenile Court.