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File for adoption

Find out where and how to file for adoption in Massachusetts.

Probate and Family Court locations

The Details of File for adoption

What you need for File for adoption

We strongly recommend you find a lawyer to help you with the adoption process. How long the process will take varies, and depends on issues such as whether surrenders are filed, notice needs to be given, or a home study needs to be completed. When you file your paperwork, ask the adoption clerk for a timeline for the next steps.

To begin the process, you'll need to submit these forms:

  • Petition for Adoption and Affidavit of Petitioner for Adoption (available at your local court)
  • Court Activity Record Information (CARI) Record Check (available at your local court). This includes your criminal record, juvenile record, and civil restraining order information.
  • Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceeding (OCAJ-1 TRC IV)

Depending on your circumstances, you may also need to file:

  • If you're married: A certified copy of your Marriage Certificate. This is available from the Registry of Vital Records or from the city or town where you were married.
  • If you’re divorced: A certified copy of your Divorce Judgment. You can get this from the Probate and Family Court where your divorce was filed. You’ll need the names of the people, the approximate date of the divorce, and, if you have it, the docket number. The fee is $20 for a certified copy plus $1 per page for every page except the first. Learn more about how to get a copy of your divorce record.
  • If you’re asking the court to waive the home study: Motion to Waive Investigation Report of Department of Children and Families (DCF).  
  • If you're adopting a child whose birth mother wasn’t married and the birth father hasn’t signed a surrender: Affidavit from DCF Regarding a Search of the Parental Responsibility Claims. This is a document DCF will provide to you.
  • If either of the parents gave up legal rights to the child: Surrender forms. The surrender form must be in the correct format. A parent can’t surrender a child until 4 days after the day of birth of the child to be adopted. It must be signed in front of a notary public with 2 witnesses watching, and the birth parent must have chosen at least 1 of these witnesses (see G.L. c.210, § 2 for more information.)
  • If a court ended the legal rights of one or both parents: Certified copies of Judgments from Other Legal Proceedings. You’ll need to get a copy of the court judgment from that court.

Please note that other documents may be required from additional agencies. See the “Related” section for more information.

In addition to filing these forms, you must respond to a Federal and Central Registers of Missing Children Search Request. The court will send this to you after you have filed the other forms. You must then send your response to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF will then perform a search and make sure your intended child wasn’t reported missing.

Fees for File for adoption

There is no filing fee for an adoption. However, you will need to pay the sheriff or constable for providing notice. These costs will vary.

How to file File for adoption

Generally, you should file your adoption with your local Probate & Family Court. Sometimes adoptions are filed in Juvenile Court or in District Court. Adoptions are only filed in Juvenile Court when they have a pending case involving that child, usually through a care and protection case that moves to a termination of rights case. Gloucester and Brookline District Courts retained their jurisdiction over juvenile matters, but they are exceptions to the general rule.

Forms may be mailed to your local Probate & Family Court. Sometimes adoptions are filed in Juvenile Court or in District Court. Adoptions are only filed in Juvenile Court when they have a pending case involving that child, usually through a care and protection case that moves to a termination of rights case. Gloucester and Brookline District Courts retained their jurisdiction over juvenile matters, but they are exceptions to the general rule.

Next steps for File for adoption

  1. Give notice

    The court will tell you if you’re required to give notice, and provide you with a citation. After you file your forms, “notice” must be given to:

    1. Everyone whose consent is required if they haven’t already provided written consent to the adoption
    2. DCF if the child who’s being adopted is under 14
    3. A father who wasn’t married to the mother of the child at birth is entitled to notice if he has filed a claim with DCF saying that he’s willing to accept responsibility for the child, or if a court has declared him to be the father.

    The citation tells the people listed that you’ve filed for adoption and what will happen next.  You need to arrange to have the papers “served.” See Service of Process for more information.

  2. Home study

    Within 30 days after receiving notice, DCF will conduct a home study and file a report with the court. The home study may also be conducted by a licensed adoption agency. The adoptive parents may have to pay a fee.

    The home study can be waived by the court when one of the petitioners is a parent of the child who’s being adopted.

  3. Hearing

    You’ll have a hearing before a judge who will consider your petition for adoption. The judge considers “the need of the child for loving and responsible parental care and all factors relevant to the physical, mental and moral health of the child.” If the judge allows the adoption, the judge may also approve a name change if requested.

    The judge may order visitation between a child and their biological parent after the adoption is complete, if doing so is in the best interest of the child and also respects the adoptive parents’ interests.The judge may also order visitation between a child and their biological siblings after the adoption.

Downloads for File for adoption

Contact for File for adoption

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