Adoption & Termination of Parental Rights

Adoption Overview

Adoption is the process of becoming a child's legal parent.  Adoption is permanent.  If the judge approves an adoption, the biological parents lose all custody rights to a child.  They will not have to pay child support and will not have any responsibilities for a child.  The adoptive parents will be the child's parents forever, even if they later separate or divorce.

To adopt, the biological parents must either consent to the adoption in writing or must have their rights terminated by a court.  If the biological parent will not consent to an adoption, you may need to File for Termination of Parental Rights first.

Answers to common questions about adoption are below.

FYI!

The information on this page is only for child adoptions.  Adults may adopt other adults through a simpler process.  Please visit How to Adopt an Adult for more information. 

Who Can Adopt a Child?

Anyone can adopt a child, however, the process is usually shorter and easier for stepparents or other people who are already related to the child.  Generally, adoptive parents must live in the State of Nevada for at least 6 months before the adoption.

If two people want to adopt a child, they must be married or registered domestic partners.

If a stepparent wants to adopt a child, the parent and stepparent petition the court together for the adoption. 

If a child's other relatives (grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles) want to adopt the child, they will petition the court for the adoption. 

If a non-relative wants to adopt a child, a home study is usually required.  The child welfare agency and/or private adoption agencies usually arrange for the home study and help with the legal paperwork.  If you are interested in adopting a child through the Clark County Department of Family Services, you can learn about their process by visiting their website.
 

How Does a Stepparent Adopt a Child?

A stepparent can adopt a child as long as the stepparent's spouse joins the petition.  Both spouses must petition the court together for the adoption.  The adoption will not affect the custodial parent's rights to the child, but will simply add a second parent.

The other parent who is being "replaced" through the adoption must either voluntarily consent to the adoption or must have his or her parental rights involuntarily terminated by a judge.
 

Do the Parents Have to Consent to the Adoption?  

Adoptions are quicker and easier if the noncustodial biological parents consent.  The biological parents can sign a consent to the adoption which agrees to terminate their own rights, have it notarized in front of two witnesses, and then the adoption can go forward.

If the biological parent will not sign a consent, then their rights must be terminated by a court order first.  A separate termination of parental rights case must be filed, and the other parent can defend against the termination if they want.  Be sure to visit the Termination Overview page and then learn How to File for a Termination.

A consent is not needed if the biological parent is deceased. 

But What if There's No Father?

There is always a biological father to a child, even if there is no father named on the birth certificate.  If the father's identity is truly unknown, then you must file a Termination of Parental Rights case naming "John Doe" as the father.  The judge has to be certain that any potential father's rights have been terminated before going forward with an adoption.

Does the Child Have to Consent to the Adoption?

Children age 14 and older must sign a consent to the adoption.

No matter the children's ages, the children will have to come to the court hearing with you.  It is a good idea to let them know what is happening so they know why they are coming to court. 
 

Can I Change the Child's Name?

Yes, you may request a new name for the child through the adoption paperwork if you wish.
 

Where Do I File for Adoption?

Adoptions are generally filed in the District Court of the county where the child lives.  

WARNING!

If the child is an American Indian child, these matters usually must be handled by the tribal court.  Check with the tribal court before filing any papers to be sure you are fiilng in the correct court.