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File for adoption

Adopting a child requires a great deal of attention. Find out what you need to get started.

Probate and Family Court

The Details

What you need

We strongly recommend you find a lawyer to assist you with the adoption process.

You will need to file your adoption with your local Probate Family Court.

Sometimes adoptions are filed in Juvenile Court or in District Court. Adoptions are filed in Juvenile Court only when they have a pending case involving that child, usually through a care and protection 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.

You will need to submit the following forms:

  • Petition for Adoption and Affidavit of Petitioner for Adoption (available with your local court)
  • Court Activity Record Information (CARI) Record Check (available with your local court)
  • Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceedings 

In addition:

Following the above form filings, 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 was not reported missing.

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

All applicable forms should be submitted to your local court. However, please note that other documents may be required from additional agencies. See our Related Links for more information.

To find your local court, click here.

Forms may mailed to your respective local court. However, please note that other documents may be required from additional agencies. See our Related Links for more information.

To find your local court, click here.

Next steps

  1. Timeline

    How long the process will take is highly variable, and depends in part on issues such as whether surrenders are filed, notice needs to be given, or a home study needs to be completed. Ask the adoption clerk upon the filing of the papers for a timeline for the next steps.  

  2. Notice

    After you file your forms, “notice” must be given to:

    1. Everyone whose consent is required if they have not already provided written consent

    2. The Department of Children and Families if the child to be adopted is under 14.

    3. The father who was not married to the mother of the child at birth is entitled to notice if he has filed a a claim with DCF saying that he is willing to accept responsibility for the child, or if a court has declared him to be the father.

    The Court will notify you if you are required to give notice, and provide you with a citation. The citation tells the people listed that you have filed for adoption and what will happen next.  You need to arrange to have the papers “served.” See Service of Process for more information.

  3. Home Study

    Within 30 days after receiving notice, the Department of Children and Families 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 to be adopted.

    You will be subject to a CARI (Court Activity Record Information) background check. This includes your criminal record, juvenile record and civil restraining order information.

  4. Hearing

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

More info

Please note that the following documents may be required given particular circumstances:

  1. If you are married: 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.
  2. If you are divorced: Certified copy of your Divorce Judgment. You can get this from the Probate and Family Court where your divorce was filed. (Find your local Probate and Family court with our location listings page.) You will need the names of the people, the approximate date of the divorce, and if you have it, the docket number. The fee is $20.00 for a certified copy plus one dollar per page for every page except the first.
  3. If you are asking the court to waive the Home Study: Motion to Waive Investigation Report of Department of Children and Families (DCF).  
  4. If you are adopting a child whose birth mother wasn’t married and the birth father has not signed a surrender: Affidavit from DCF Regarding a Search of the Parental Responsibility Claims. This is a document DCF will provide to you.
  5. If either of the parents gave up legal rights to the child: Surrender Forms. The surrender form must be in the proper format. A parent cannot surrender a child until four days after the date of birth of the child to be adopted. It must be signed in front of a notary public with two witnesses watching, and the birth parent must have chosen at least one of these witnesses. (See G.L. c.210, s.2 for more information.)
  6. If a court ended the legal rights of one or both parents: Certified copies of Judgments from Other Legal Proceedings. You will need to obtain and include a copy of the court judgment from that court.

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