Let experienced Michigan Adoption Attorneys answer your adoption questions. Michigan permits independent or private/direct placement adoptions, and Rathert Law Offices does these frequently.  In Michigan, we call these direct placement adoptions because the legal parent (usually the birth mother) places the child directly with the adoptive couple and not an agency.   To file a direct placement adoption in Michigan, the adoptive parent(s) must reside here, the birth parents must reside here, OR the child must be physically present here.  If a couple wants to adopt a child, they must be legally  married.  Michigan now recognizes gay marriage and allows same-sex couples to adopt.   Because you can file in the county where the child is physically found, non-resident, interstate adoptions occur often.  A home study of the adoptive parents is required before a child can be placed. The home study must be performed by a licensed adoption agency.  As Michigan Adoption Attorneys, Ken Rathert and Jennifer Grahek have handled many private adoptions, independent adoption, and direct placement adoptions. The law does not require the birth mother and adoptive parents to meet in person and share identities, but it is usually done. The adoptive parents are permitted to assist the birth mother with some living expenses. The newborn is usually released directly to the adoptive parents at the hospital.

Click here for a video about direct placement adoption recorded by Ken Rathert. 

Can you adopt a child from another state?  Do you need interstate (ICPC) approval?  Are you related to the child?  Do you have a current home study?  Are you a Michigan birth mother working with an out-of-state couple?  Are you a Michigan couple working with an out-of-state birth mother? There are many questions you need answered about interstate adoptions.   We have handled many interstate adoptions.  These include private adoptions, relative adoptions, and adoptions of children in foster care.  We represent both birth mothers and prospective adoptive parents from Michigan.  We also represent adoptive parents from all over the country.  Call or email us with your questions about interstate adoptions.


As Michigan Adoption Attorneys, we have finalized many Interstate Adoptions.  While the distance and the difference in laws make the process somewhat more challenging, the results are the same:  A new family is brought together through adoption.   Interstate adoptions must comply with the ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children).  Every state, including Michigan, has an ICPC Coordinator who reviews the Interstate Adoption application and gives approval for the adoptive parents to take the child home.  In an Interstate Adoption, the ICPC from both states must approve.  Because more documentation and procedures are required for Interstate Adoptions, it is important to retain an experienced Michigan Adoption Attorney familiar with Interstate Adoption.  Rathert Law Offices, P.C. has helped facilitate hundreds of successful Interstate Adoptions. 

Click here for a video recorded by attorney Ken Rathert about Interstate Adoptions. 

We often do adoptions from Michigan to other states, and sometimes from other states to Michigan.  We are very familiar with ICPC procedures. 

Relative Adoptions

Relative adoptions usually take place between the child and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Relative adoptions often work well. 


In a relative adoption, the adopting parent(s) must be related to the child within the fifth degree by marriage, blood, or adoption.   The Michigan Adoption Code defines, "Within the fifth degree by marriage, blood, or adoption" as any of the following relationships: 

parent, step-parent, grandparent, step-grandparent, brother, step-brother, sister, step-sister, uncle, step-uncle, aunt, step-aunt, first cousin, step-first cousin, great aunt, step-great aunt, great uncle, step-great uncle, great grandparent, step-great grandparent, first cousin once removed, step-first cousin once removed, great great grandparent, step-great great grandparent, great great uncle, step-great great uncle, great great aunt, step-great great aunt, great great great grandparent, or step-great great great grandparent.

This is a long list and can be confusing.  Click Here for a chart showing the degrees of relationship.   Click here for  Kinship Care pamphlet.

Remember, you can still adopt a child not within the fifth degree of relationship.  But that would not be a relative adoption.  

Often, the best solution for a child is to be adopted by a relative.  We do many of these. 

Stepparent Adoptions

A  Stepparent Adoption can be a very positive experience for everyone  including the former parent whose rights are terminated.  Getting  the consent or terminating the parental rights of the non-custodial parent is very important in a Stepparent Adoption.  

The non-custodial parent must either consent to the adoption, OR the rights of that non-custodial parent must be terminated because the court has determined the non-custodial parent has significantly failed in his or her parental responsibilities.  This means that for a period of two years before the petition for adoption is filed, the following two things have occurred: 


  * (1) The other parent, having the ability to support, or assist in supporting, the child, has failed or neglected to provide regular and substantial support for the child or if a support order has been entered, has failed to substantially comply with the order, for a period of 2 years or more before the filing of the petition, AND

  * (2) The other parent, having the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the child, has regularly and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of 2 years or more before the filing of the petition. 

A Stepparent Adoption can be a very positive experience for everyone including the former parent whose rights are terminated.

Are you a guardian who would like to adopt your wards?  Are you currently attempting to complete a guardianship?  Do you have children living with you because the parents have left the children in your care and you have no legal authority to take the children to doctors appointments or enroll them in school?  Do you have a guardianship over children and their biological parents are deceased?  If so, then you should consider guardianship adoption. 


Bob and Judy are friends with parents who have left a child in their care.  The parents did not give Bob and Judy any authority to enroll the child in school or take the child to the doctor.  Bob and Judy were granted a guardianship over the child, Jill. Jill’s parents have failed to follow court orders, have failed to follow treatment plans, and have failed to visit with Jill.  Neither parent pays child support.  Bob and Judy wish to provide Jill with a permanent home.


Bob and Judy should consider a guardianship adoption of Jill.   This would make Bob and Judy the legal parents of Jill.  Completing a guardianship adoption should be done by a lawyer experienced in guardianship adoptions.  Before a guardianship adoption can take place, the parental rights of the biological parents must be terminated.  


If you are considering a guardianship adoption, you should consult an adoption attorney.  Although you might be providing a home for your grandchildren through a guardianship, adoption might be a better option because it provides more stability and ends court supervision.  Once the adoption is final, there will no longer be any annual reports or home visits as there are in a guardianship.  Also, when you start receiving social security benefits, the child you adopt may receive benefits as well.  


When can you use the Guardianship Adoption option?

Guardianship Adoption may be considered when:

•The parental rights of the biological parents have been terminated by court order or by death;

•The parents have, without good cause, failed to follow a court-structured reunification plan; 


•A guardianship exists and the parents have the ability to support the child, but fail to do so without good cause for a period of two years prior to filing the petition for termination AND the parents have the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the child and fail to do so for a period of two years or more prior to filing the petition for termination; or


•The parents have physically abused or abandoned the minor child, or are incarcerated for a period of more than two years. 


What are the limitations of Guardianship Adoption?

Because a guardianship adoption would make you the parents of your grandchildren, limitations are few, apart from the limitations of your own stamina.  Once the termination proceedings and the adoption proceedings are completed, this arrangement will not need to be renewed or reviewed.  You will become parents.  Then, it will be up to you to be the best parents you can be!!!

Click here for a video where Ken Rathert talks about Guardianship Adoption.

Adoptions of Abused & Neglected Children

Scenario A: Before Parental Rights are Terminated


The parents of a new baby are both drug abusers who have already lost the parental rights to two previously-born children.  The Department of Human Services (formerly Family Independence Agency) has threatened to have this third child, the new baby, removed from their home as well.  The baby's welfare is at risk.  The mother used drugs during pregnancy, and it is likely that the new baby will be placed in foster care.  


A childless couple has learned of the situation and is very interested in adopting the new baby immediately.  The baby's parents are receptive to this idea, but fear they may have no say in the matter.  


Sometimes, the adoptive parents are related to the birth parents and sometimes they are not.  Either way, an adoption can often work out well.


We, as Michigan Adoption Attorneys, strongly believe that even though parents may have serious problems, they should still, when possible, have the opportunity to help arrange for the adoption of their child.  This often includes choosing an adoptive couple.


Scenario B:  Foster Family vs. Relative


A 2½ year-old girl has been with non-relative foster parents since birth.  It took a long time, but finally the parental rights of the parents are both terminated.  After termination, a grandmother who hardly had any contact with the 2½ year-old girl requests permission to adopt.  The foster parents are heart-broken.  The girl now looks to them as her parents; she has known no one else.  Will the Department of Human Services remove the girl from the only home she has known and allow the grandmother to adopt? 


Rathert Law Offices has experience advocating for foster parents.


In 2014, the Michigan Legislature passed the Foster Parent’s Bill of Rights.  [MCL 722.958a (effective April 1, 2015)]  This section amended the Foster Care and Adoption Services Act to give foster care families a right to information, explanation, and clarification of the agency’s roles.  The Foster Care Bill of Rights incorporates civil rights protection for foster families.  


We also work for grandparents and other relatives who have maintained a relationship with the child while the child is in foster care.  These are difficult situations, but Rathert Law Offices works hard for its clients who want the best for the child.  The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has a great deal of discretion in these matters, but sometimes its initial decision is changed.  If you find yourself in a similar situation and need an experienced Michigan Adoption Attorney, contact Rathert Law Offices. We would be happy to help you.

We often get involved in foster care adoptions-- especially when there are competing parties who want to adopt the same child. 

Adult Adoptions

Adult Adoption is fairly rare, but it does occur.  Sometimes, parties wish to recognize a relationship that has been very important in their lives.  Let an experienced Michigan Adoption Attorney help you with your adoption.

An Adult Adoption is initiated and completed like other adoptions, except that the person giving the consent is the adult who is being adopted, not his or her parents.  Jurisdiction requirements also apply.  Although the legal parents have to be notified, they cannot block the Adult Adoption.  Their consent is not necessary.  Having been adopted, the adult adoptee inherits from the adoptive parents just as any other child.  Also, the adoptive parents may inherit from their adopted adult child.

​Adult Adoption is fairly rare, but it does occur.  Sometimes, parties wish to recognize a relationship that has been very important in their lives.

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Adoption Tax Credit

Good News:  The Adoption Tax Credit for 2020 has increased to $14,300!  Do you qualify? 

The credit is not available for stepparent, adult adoptions, and IVF adoptions.  However it often is available even for adoptions that fail.

The adoption tax credit phases out when adoptive parents' modified adjusted gross income reaches $214,520 to $251,160.  So most adoptive parents do qualify for the tax credit.


Michigan Adoption Attorneys providing service throughout Michigan, including Adrian, Albion, Allegan, Alma, Bangor, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, Berrien Springs, Big Rapids, Cadillac, Cass City, Cassopolis, Cedar Springs, Centreville, Charlotte, Coldwater, Constantine, Coopersville, Copemish, Detroit, Dorr, East Lansing, Fennville, Galesburg, Grand Haven, Grand Junction, Grand Ledge, Grand Rapids, Grandville, Hastings, Holland, Jackson, Jenison, Kalamazoo, Kalkaska, Lansing, Lawrence, Lawton, Leroy, Ludington, Manistee, Marcellus,Marshall, Mattawan, Mecosta, Mendon, Middleville, Mount Pleasant, Nashville, Niles, Onekama, Owosso, Paw Paw, Petoskey, Pigeon, Plainwell, Portage, Quincy, Richland, Saginaw, Saint Clair Shores, Saint Joseph, Saugatuck, Schoolcraft, Scotts, South Haven, Spring Arbor, Spring Lake, Stevensville, Sturgis, Three Rivers, Traverse City, Union Pier, Vicksburg, Watervliet, West Branch, West Olive, White Cloud, White Pigeon, Whitehall, Williamsburg, Zeeland, and other cities.