What You Need to Know About South Carolina Adoption Laws

Every state has adoption laws in place to help protect children, birth parents and adoptive families throughout the legal adoption process. As an adoption attorney, part of Rick Corley’s job is ensuring you understand these laws and that your adoption meets all of South Carolina’s legal requirements.

In this article, learn more about your legal rights, responsibilities and requirements to adopt or place a baby for adoption in South Carolina.

Adopting a Child in South Carolina: Laws for Adoptive Families

Adoption is an exciting path to parenthood, but it can also be a legally complicated and overwhelming process. As a hopeful adoptive family in South Carolina, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with adoption laws and legal processes in your state as you begin the adoption process.  Read on to find answers to common adoption law questions for adoptive parents in South Carolina.

Who can adopt a child in South Carolina?

Every state has certain eligibility requirements and qualifications for prospective adoptive parents. Any South Carolina resident may adopt, as long as they meet state home study requirements. In addition, nonresidents may adopt a child in South Carolina in the following circumstances:

  • They are a relative of the child being adopted
  • At least one of the prospective parents is a member of the military and is stationed in South Carolina
  • The child being adopted has special needs
  • The child has been in foster care for at least six months, is legally available for adoption, and no South Carolina resident has been identified as an adoptive parent for the child
  • Unusual or exceptional circumstances indicate that an out-of-state placement would be in the best interests of the child

If you have questions about the requirements to adopt in South Carolina, contact Rick for a consultation. He has represented many out-of-state adoptive families and is an expert in state adoption laws and interstate adoption placements.

Who can become a foster parent in South Carolina?

To become a foster family in South Carolina, prospective parents must complete a licensing process with the state. The requirements to foster a child in South Carolina include:

  • Be at least 21 years of age or older
  • Complete a foster parent application and submit it to the county’s regional office
  • Submit fingerprinting and child abuse registry checks for all adult members of the household
  • Attend 14 hours of pre-service training
  • Pass a fire safety inspection of the home
  • Complete in-home visits and pre-placement interviews with a licensed social worker
  • Provide character references
  • Complete medical evaluations for all members of the family
  • Provide copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other relevant social documents

More information about the process to become a foster parent or adopt from the South Carolina foster system is available through the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

If you have adopted a child internationally, you may need to have the adoption finalized or domesticated in a South Carolina court. Whether your adoption should be finalized or domesticated depends on the circumstances of your adoption and can be determined by the type of visa your child received:

  • If your child was issued an IH-4 visa, you will be required to finalize the adoption in South Carolina. This means that your child came to the United States on a guardianship and the adoption was not legally finalized in his or her country of birth. You will need to file legal paperwork and attend a court hearing to finalize your adoption in South Carolina.
  • If your child was issued an IH-3 visa, your adoption was finalized in his or her birth country, he or she is automatically a U.S. citizen, and you do not need to take additional legal action upon returning to South Carolina. However, it is strongly recommend that you complete a domestication of foreign adoption, which is a simple paperwork review process that allows you to receive a U.S. birth certificate for your child. Domestication of foreign adoption is a simple and cost-effective process that does not involve a court hearing.
How are birth parent expenses regulated in South Carolina infant adoptions?

According to South Carolina law, adoptive families can pay an expectant mother’s necessary and actual medical expenses, as well as reasonable living expenses for the mother and child. All expenses are subject to court approval and must be included in an accounting that is filed with the court at the finalization hearing.

Placing a Baby for Adoption in South Carolina: Laws for Expectant Parents

If you are pregnant and considering adoption, it is important to understand adoption laws and your rights throughout the process. Most importantly, you should understand the consent and relinquishment process, as well as revocation and birth father rights.

Here, find answers to some of the most common questions for expectant parents about the legal adoption process.

Who is required to consent to a South Carolina adoption?

For a child born to a married couple, both parents must consent to the adoption. For a child born outside of marriage, the mother must consent to the adoption. The father’s consent is required if:

  • The child was placed for adoption more than six months after birth, and the father maintained a substantial and continuous relationship with the child during that time
  • The child was placed for adoption within six months of birth, and the father openly lived with the child or the child’s mother for a continuous six-month period, claimed the child as his own and paid a fair and reasonable sum to support the child

If the child being adopted is at least 14 years old and has the mental capacity to consent, he or she is also required to consent to the adoption. If both of the child’s parents are deceased or if their rights have been terminated by the court, any legal guardian, child-placing agency or legal custodian who is authorized to do so must consent to the adoption.

When can birth parents execute consent in South Carolina?

Consent may be given any time after the child’s birth, but is often executed around the time the mother is discharged from the hospital.

How does a birth parent consent to adoption?

Consent must be given by a sworn document signed in the presence of two witnesses. One witness must be a judge, a state-licensed attorney who is not representing the adoptive family, or a person certified to obtain consents.

Each witness must sign and attach a statement that the provisions of the consent were discussed with the birth parent and that the consent was given voluntarily, without duress or coercion.

Can a birth parent change their mind and revoke consent?

Consent is irrevocable upon signing, unless the court finds that the consent was not given voluntarily and that revocation would be in the best interests of the child. After the final adoption decree is entered, consent is permanent and irrevocable.

Do potential birth fathers have the right to notice of an expectant mother’s adoption plan?

An unmarried father who wishes to receive notice of an adoption proceeding must file a claim of paternity with the Responsible Father Registry within the required timeframe. Failure to file with the registry constitutes an implied, irrevocable waiver of the right to notice of any adoption proceedings.

Home Study Laws and Requirements in South Carolina

The home study is an important part of every family’s adoption journey. It is an assessment of prospective parents that ensures they are truly ready to adopt, but it is also an opportunity to learn more about the adoption process, adoption issues, and life raising an adopted child.

Most adoptive families need an approved home study before a child can be placed in their home. Find answers to common questions below so you will know what to expect throughout the South Carolina home study process.

What is included in the South Carolina home study process?

The home study is conducted by your child-placing agency and includes at least two face-to-face interviews, as well as separate face-to-face interviews with each member of the household. The study evaluates the following:

  • The suitability of the home, including location and physical environment
  • The family’s motivation to adopt, attitudes and feelings toward adoption, and plans for discussing adoption with the child
  • The adoptive parents’ emotional maturity, strengths and weaknesses, health, relationships and other relevant characteristics that may affect their ability to parent
  • Any pre-adoption courses or counseling completed by the parents
  • Any involvement in proceedings concerning allegedly neglected, abandoned, abused or delinquent children
  • Records of arrests and criminal convictions and checks of the child abuse central registry
  • Physical examinations for each member of the household, completed within six months of the home study
  • The family’s financial situation and ability to provide financially for a child
  • Religious orientation and other social information
  • Childcare plans if the parents work outside of the home
  • Personal and community character references
When should the home study be completed?

A family must have an approved home study before a child will be placed in their care. The home study should be updated annually to remain current.

What if the home study is not approved?

The prospective adoptive family will receive written notice of acceptance or denial within 30 days of completion. If the home study is denied, the child-placing agency will inform the family of the reasons for denial.

What are the post-placement study requirements to adopt in South Carolina?

After placement and prior to the finalization hearing, a post-placement study must be completed and filed with the court. The post-placement study reviews the adoption petition and its attachments, evaluates the progress of the adoptive placement and determines whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child.

Is a home study required for stepparent or relative adoption in South Carolina?

The home study is not required in a stepparent or relative adoption unless otherwise directed by the court. In addition, an accounting of expenses is not required, and the typical 90-day waiting period before the finalization hearing is not required, so you can finalize your adoption quicker.

Who can conduct the South Carolina home study?

To learn more about the adoption home study in South Carolina, contact a qualified home study provider serving the state:

Still Have Questions?

Adoption is a complex legal process, and it is important to comply with all state laws to ensure your adoption is completed safely and legally. For more information about South Carolina adoption laws and requirements, contact Rick Corley to schedule a consultation.