There are two types of adoptions – uncontested and contested. In both cases prospective adoptive parents must first gather and file all required documents with the family court and obtain verification from the Department of Human Services (DHS) that they have no history of Child Protective Service allegations or investigations.
If both biological parents agree, the adoption is uncontested and the family court will send the adoption packet to a judge who will schedule a hearing and finalize the process. An adoption can also be uncontested if one or both biological parents have died, in which case the adopted parent is usually a stepparent, grandparent or other relative, or someone approved by DHS.
A contested adoption is often a much lengthier undertaking. Adoption cases are contested for several reasons. For example, a parent wishes to maintain parental rights in spite of having no contact with the child and providing no support, or it is impossible to obtain permission from one or both parents (due to homelessness, drug addiction, prison time or unavailability).
In these cases, when submitting paperwork to the family court, the prospective parents must note that one biological parent has not consented to the adoption.
The family court then schedules a hearing, and a trial if necessary. During the trial, the judge decides whether the nonconsenting parent meets the statutory requirements for taking care of their child. The judge can terminate the parental rights if he or she finds that the parent is not able to provide a safe, stable home for their child, but it is rare for a judge to do so. As in all cases, Hawaii family court judges make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child.
Seth Harris, senior associate of PMK family law is available to assist in all aspects of adoption, whether contested or uncontested. Contact Mr. Harris at Family@HawaiiLegal.com.