Adoption in Ohio

Who may adopt? 

A husband and wife jointly, a step-parent or a single adult.

Who may be adopted? 

Any minor child may be adopted.  Adults may be adopted if:

  • the adult is totally or permanently disabled or mentally retarded
  • a ‘parent-child relationship’ was created through foster care, kinship care or as a step-parent when the adoptee was a child
  • The adoptee was in the permanent custody of a public children service agency on their 18th birthday
  • The adult is the child of a spouse of a person seeking to adopt

What are the types of adoption?

  1. Agency: An agency licensed by the State of Ohio handles the adoption process, approves the placement, conducts the home study and recommends the adoption to the Court. 
  2. Independent Adoption: A private attorney works directly with the Court.   The child may be related to the persons seeking to adopt.
  3. Step-parent: The person seeking to adopt is either a step-father or step-mother.  The current parent must consent to terminate parental rights.
  4. Interstate Adoptions: The child is born in one state and the adopting parents are residents of another state.  State child welfare agencies make the arrangements.
  5. Foreign Adoptions: an American family adopts a child born in another country.  Adoption may occur in the country of birth or in America.  Foreign adoptions are processed through the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization.

Who must consent? 

Under some circumstances, consent may be waived.  Ask your attorney.  Generally, consent must be given by:

  • The parents of the child to be adopted, unless the absent parent has not exercised any parental rights and the court is convinced that it is appropriate to terminate that parent-child relationship.  The absent parent must have willfully failed to support the child for more than a year or have had almost no contact.  Or if the absent parent is a man, he does not meet the state’s tests for presumed fatherhood.
  • A minor being adopted who is over the age of 12 years
  • An adult adoptee.

What are the rights of an unwed father? 

An unwed father may preserve his right to consent to the adoption of a child born after January 1, 1997.  Registration must occur either before birth or no later than 30 days after birth.  Register with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Putative Father Registry. Toll-free: 1-888-313-3100 or

What is an open adoption?

An open adoption occurs when the natural and adopting parents voluntarily disclose their identities to each other prior to an adoption.  There may be an agreement for contact between the adopted child and the natural parents.

Where should I file an adoption?

You must file specific forms with the Probate Court in the county where one of the following applies:

  • The agency having custody of the child is located
  • The child was born
  • The person seeking to adopt resides
  • The person is stationed in military service
  • In an independent placement, where the natural parent resides.

Is a home study necessary?

Usually.  The home study determines whether a person seeking to adopt a minor is suitable.  No home study is required foster care adoptions.

Must I have an attorney? 

Yes.  Only attorneys or agencies may arrange adoptions.  Step-parent adoptions may not require attorneys in some cases.

Must I appear in court?

Yes.  The adopting person must appear in Probate Court.

May I access adoption files? 

The rules are different based on the year of adoption.   See Ohio Department of Health:
The adopting parents may always obtain:

  • Medical Information which includes the medical background of biological parents
  • Identifying Information which may include copies of the original birth certificate

Will the birth certificate change?

Yes.  A new birth certificate will be issued.  Adopting parents are listed on the new birth certificate as if they were the biological parents.

Where can I get more information?·   

  • To adopt: your county Children Services Board or Department of Job and Family Services
  • About past adoptions: Ohio Department of Health: The Ohio Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, houses birth and adoption records of persons born in Ohio and adopted anywhere in the United States.


This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.
Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated May 2012.