Consent to Adoption - Rhode Island

Date: October 2021

Who Must Consent to an Adoption

Citation: Gen. Laws §§ 15-7-5; 15-7-10

The parents of the child, or their survivor, shall consent in writing to the adoption. If neither parent is living, consent may be given by any of the following:

  • The guardian of the person of the child
  • The next of kin if there is no guardian
  • A suitable person appointed by the court as next friend of the child if there is no next of kin

If the child to be adopted is age 18 or older, the consent of or notice to the child's parents or other person in the child's behalf shall not be required.

No minor parent may give a binding consent to any adoption petition or to any termination of rights except with the consent of one of the parents, guardian, or guardian ad litem of the minor parent.

When (1) the petitioners are one of the natural parents of the child and his or her spouse or one of the grandparents of the child, (2) the child is residing with the petitioners at the time the petition is filed, and (3) the noncustodial parent refused to consent to the adoption, the court shall determine whether the noncustodial parent's rights shall be terminated involuntarily. The court may grant the petition without a noncustodial parent's consent if the petitioners prove by clear and convincing evidence any of the grounds set forth in § 15-7-7(a)(1), (2), or (4). The court shall give primary consideration to the physical, psychological, mental, and intellectual needs of the child.

Consent of Child Being Adopted

Citation: Gen. Laws § 15-7-5

If the child is age 14 or older, the adoption shall not be made without the child's consent.

When Parental Consent is not Needed

Citation: Gen. Laws § 15-7-7

The court shall terminate all legal rights of the parent to the child, including the right to notice of any subsequent adoption proceedings involving the child, if the court finds as a fact by clear and convincing evidence of any of the following:

  • The parent has willfully neglected to provide proper care and maintenance for the child for a period of at least 1 year when financially able to do so.
  • The parent is unfit by reason of conduct or conditions seriously detrimental to the child, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Institutionalization of the parent, including imprisonment, for a duration as to render it improbable for the parent to care for the child for an extended period of time
    • Conduct toward any child of a cruel or abusive nature
    • A chronic substance abuse problem that has made the parent unable to adequately care for the child
    • Inability to correct conditions that led to termination of rights to another child
    • Subjecting the child to aggravated circumstances, including abandonment, torture, chronic abuse, or sexual abuse
    • Commission of murder, voluntary manslaughter, or felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury on that child or another of his or her children
    • Behavior or conduct that is seriously detrimental to the child for a duration as to render it improbable for the parent to care for the child for an extended time
    • Conviction of sexual assault upon the birthmother that resulted in the birth of the child
  • The child has been placed in the legal custody or care of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families for at least 12 months, the parents were offered or received services to correct the situation that led to the placement, and it is still unsafe for the child to return home.
  • The parent has abandoned or deserted the child.

When Consent Can Be Executed

Citation: Gen. Laws § 15-7-6

Termination of rights or consent to adoption may not be executed sooner than 15 days after the child's birth.

How Consent Must Be Executed

Citation: Gen. Laws § 15-7-6

Any governmental or duly licensed child-placing agency in this State, at the request of the natural parent or parents of a child under age 18, may petition the family court for the termination of the rights of the natural parents of the child to consent to the child's adoption. After any notice to the natural parents that the court deems proper, a hearing shall be held prior to the hearing on the petition for adoption in the family court. If the family court finds, after examination of the parent or parents, that the parent or parents freely join in the petition and that the granting of the petition is for the best interests of the child, it shall decree that in the hearing on the adoption of the child the consent of the natural parents as provided above shall be unnecessary and that the agency shall be the sole party to give or withhold consent. The granting of the petition to give or withhold consent to the child placement agency shall also make the agency the guardian of the child for all purposes.

Revocation of Consent

Citation: Gen. Laws § 15-7-21.1

A decree of adoption or a termination of a parent's right to give or withhold consent for adoption shall not be subject to a challenge or petition to reverse unless the challenge or petition is filed in the family court 180 days after the decree or order is entered.

In the event a challenge is brought within the 180-day period by an individual whose parental relationship to a child is terminated or by any individual who is asserting a parental relationship to the child, the family court shall deny the challenge unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the decree or order is not in the best interests of the child.

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