Adoption is the legal procedure through which a minor (18 years or younger) is recognized by law as becoming the son or daughter of the adopting adult(s), and as having all of the rights and duties of such relationship, including the right of inheritance. There are several different types of adoptions which include related, unrelated, agency-placement , or private-placement. through adoption, the adoptive parent(s) have the same rights, duties, responsibilities of a natural parent. In all cases, the adoptive parent needs to contact an attorney to file the Petition for Adoption in the county where the minor resides, or where the agency is located.
Before an adoption is granted, the only people with access to the adoption records are the petitioner, the petitionerís attorney, any attorney appointed by the Court, and the investigator. After the adoption is granted, all documents pertaining to the adoption are recorded and sealed. An alternative for the adopted child who wishes to attempt to locate his/her birth parents, would be to contact the Alabama Department of Human Resources at 334-262-9500. After the adoption is granted, the adopteeís name will be changed as requested by the Petitioner.
Involuntary commitment is a legal procedure by which a person is placed in the custody of the State Department of Mental Health for treatment. This is done only if necessary and after every effort is made to provide treatment for the person on a voluntary basis. In order to meet the criteria for involuntary commitment, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the person is mentally ill and posess a real and present threat of substantial harm to self or others. Other required elements are that the person is unable to make a rational decision regarding the need for treatment and that without such treatment he or she will continue to suffer mental distress. The evidence brought forth by the petitioner must include personal knowledge of specific acts or behavior which signifies a real or present danger.
The petitioner is the individual who comes before the Probate Court and asks that measures be taken regarding a mentally ill person of at least 19 years of age. This is done in the county where the respondent is currently located. The petitioner is usually a family member, but any person may file a petition seeking commitment of another, provided that all the elements are met. Once the petition is filed, a hearing is then set within seven days, with notice given to all parties concerned, including the respondent. At the hearing, testimony is heard from all parties, and the Probate Judge determines whether the criteria for commitment have been met. Attorneys are appointed for both petitioner and respondent and all hearings are open to the public, unless otherwise requested by respondent. If an Emergency Order is needed, the Court must have a letter from a Physician stating an emergency exists.
If the criteria for commitment are met, then the Court will issue an order. Any treatment ordered must be the least restrictive alternative available and will take place at a designated mental health facility. The length of treatment is determined by the treating physician, and may be up to 150 days before a subsequent hearing on the merits will be necessary. If the criteria for commitment are not met, then the petition will be dismissed. At no time may the Court order treatment for substance abuse alone, however, there are occasions when a dual diagnosis of both substance dependence and mental illness is involved. In these cases, treatment for substance abuse must be voluntary, even if done simultaneously with psychiatric treatment.
The purpose of involuntary commitment is to provide psychiatric treatment for mentally ill individuals who have become a danger to themselves or others, and are refusing voluntary treatment. However, the Court is ever mindful of the serious deprivation of liberty which this process necessarily involves. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution applies to all citizens, whether mentally ill or not, and every effort is made to ensure that rights are not compromised and unnecessary treatment is never tolerated. The Probate Judge will always take the least restrictive measures to get help for a person with mental illness.
A will is a document which discloses how a person wishes his or her property to be distributed after death. A will must meet certain legal requirements. The law requires that a person making a will must be 18 years of age or older, of sound mind and under no undue influence. The will must be signed by the maker and witnessed by at least two people. After a will is written, it should be kept in a safe place and the executors or personal representatives should be notified where the will is being kept.
A will should be probated within five (5) years after the person is deceased. To determine if you should probate a will, contact an attorney for legal advice.
Conservators & Guardians
A Conservator is a person appointed by the Court to handle the financial matters and property of a minor or adult person who is incapacitated. A Guardian is a person appointed by the Court to make decisions concerning a personís physical needs. An incapacitated person is someone who is physically and/or mentally unable to care for himself/herself.
A Conservator may be appointed when a person can no longer handle property or manage business affairs. A Guardian may be appointed when a person can no longer make decisions regarding their personal needs. The person might have property that will be wasted without a Conservator or be in need of funds to support them. In many cases, the person has entered a nursing home and has become incapacitated and needs his/her property to be sold in order to generate funds to support them while in a nursing home. In other cases, a Guardian might become necessary because the person might have suffered a stroke or other illness and be unable to respond or make medical decisions alone.
Guardian ad Litem
If you are interested in becoming a Guardian Ad Litem, please download the form to the left and mail it to us at:
Marengo County Probate Office
P.O. Box 480668
Linden, AL 36748