Do I Have the Right to Adopt My Niece if I Have Had Custody of Her for the Last Six Years?

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

“I have a brother and, through him, I have a niece who I legally took custody of when she was 1 month old, due to my brother being imprisoned for 6yrs and my sister-in-law passing away. My brother finished serving his time and has now been deported back to Mexico. He is now threatening to come back and take my niece back to Mexico to live with him and his new family. My niece is now 9 years old and I would like to see if I could file for adoption of her. I have heard of a law that says that after 5yrs of custody of her, I would have the right to adopt her. Is it true that there is such a law? Please help me with this. I want what is best for the benefit of my niece.”

You will need to consult with a family law and adoption attorney in your state – you will want to find one who is familiar with immigration issues as well.  Some of this will depend on the arrangement you already have – was it adjudicated through the courts?  Do you have legal custody of your niece?  Or were you deemed a foster parent? Or was it informal? The answers to these and other questions will determine what you need to do.