When adopting a child in Florida who is not related to you by blood or marriage, there are certain expenses that are permitted by law and others that aren’t (Florida Statutes section 63.097). Knowing the difference may save you unnecessary expense and time.
Living and Medical Expenses
If the birth mother is unemployed, underemployed, or disabled, you can pay a reasonable amount for certain living expenses, such as:
Basic phone service
Food and toiletries
Other expenses to support the health and well-being of the birth mother
and unborn child
You are also allowed to pay reasonable and necessary medical expenses during pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum.
It is not permissible to pay any of the birth father’s living expenses, nor his medical expenses except, perhaps, DNA or disease testing. Living and medical expenses, for either parent, incurred after six weeks postpartum are prohibited.
Additionally, any expenses that exceed the statutory $5,000.00 cap are prohibited unless you first obtain the court’s approval. The court must find extraordinary circumstances exist in order to approve exceeding the cap.
Legal and Other Fees
You, are permitted to pay for your own legal representation at a reasonable hourly fee, and if you are using an adoption agency, you are allowed to pay for legal representation for the agency as well.
Though it isn’t clearly provided for in section Florida Statutes, section 63.097(2), I believe it is permissible to pay a reasonable hourly fee for an independent legal consultation for the birth parents. A legal consultation will insure the birth parents’ consents are fully informed and voluntary.1
If the birth parents need counseling to assist them with their decision to place the child for adoption, a reasonable hourly fee for such counseling is allowed.
You are required to have a preliminary home study prior to a child being placed with you for purposes of adoption. The fees for this preliminary home study, and for the post-placement final adoption home study, are permissible, and even required under F.S. section 63.097(6).
If you are required to serve the parents with the petition to terminate their parental rights2, or if you have to complete a diligent search for a birth parent whose location is unknown, such fees are also allowed.
Any legal and other fees not listed above, or that exceed $5,000.00, are prohibited. If extraordinary circumstances exist, you may be able to obtain court approval to pay legal and other fees beyond the $5,000.00 cap.
The law allows up to $800.00 in court costs as well. Unfortunately, that cap is unlikely to cover all the court costs normally involved in an adoption.
Clerk’s fees (such as sealing a summons, certification of documents, etc.)
Other litigation expenses
Birth certificates and medical records
Eight hundred dollars doesn’t go very far these days. Filing fees alone are $400. I recommend having the birth parent interview recorded by court reporter and transcribed. This can cost another $300-$400. Chances are very likely court pre-approval will be needed for additional court costs.
The law prohibits payment of court costs exceeding the $800.00 cap or costs not listed in 63.097(2).
Other prohibited expenses
Payment for locating a child for adoption
Any non-itemized, undocumented expenses, and any items not listed
on the expense affidavit (F.S. section 63.132)
Sorting through these allowable and prohibited adoption expenses can be confusing to laypeople and to attorneys who have little or no experience in private, non-relative adoptions. Your best bet is to with an attorney in your area whose practice focuses mainly on adoption. Doing so will save you lots of time and maybe lots of money. If you are a Florida resident and need more information on adoption, you are encouraged to contact our office at (727) 835-7832.
1 In no way should the adoptive parents agree to pay for ongoing legal representation for the birth parents, and this limitation needs to be expressly stated to the birth parents. If the parents ever contest the termination of their parental rights, and if they are indigent, they are entitled to court-appointed counsel. If they are not indigent, they are free to hire their own legal representation.
2 You are required to serve the petition to terminate parental rights on the birth parents in certain circumstances. If you are unsure whether or not you have to serve the birth parents, consult with an attorney experienced in adoptions.