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What are the Different Types of Adoptions?

Adoption is a legal procedure that allows an adult to become the legal parent of another person. In most cases, this involves adoption of a child that is not the biological child of the adopting parent or parents. Adoption creates a formal parent-child relationship that extends to all areas of life, including custody rights, inheritance rights, and other purposes.

When thinking of adoption, most people understand it to be the adoption of a child. However, what many don’t know is that there is a broad range of different types of adoptions. These can involve all sorts of parental arrangements between various people, not just children.

Some common types of adoption can include:

  • Stepparent adoption: This type of adoption involves a stepparent adopting their stepchild. These arrangements may be common in situations where a stepparent has taken a more active role in raising their stepchild;
  • Adult adoption: As the name suggests, this involves the adoption of an adult by another adult. This a common type of adoption arrangement in cases where the adult being adopted has specific caretaking needs or requires special medical care;
  • International Adoption: This typically involves the adoption of a foreign child, as opposed to a child that is a resident or citizen of the U.S. International adoptions can involve different requirements many of them more stringent, as compared with domestic adoptions. For instance, procedures for international adoptions may require the adopting party to submit additional forms, such as Form I-600, Orphan Petition form;
  • Equitable adoption: This type of adoption is established through the conduct and actions of a non-biological parent and adopted child, rather than through a court order. For instance, if the adult has held out a child they adopted as their own during the child’s life, the child may be considered legally adopted even if no formal adoption process took place; and
  • Grandparent adoption: This is where a grandparent adopts one of their grandparents. In many situations, grandparents often fill in to raise a child if the child’s parents become incapacitated. Over time, they may wish to legally adopt the child so they can make decisions involving them.

What are the Steps to Adoption?

Adopting a child (or any person, for that matter) can be a complex process with many requirements. There are various steps that a person needs to fulfill in order to be formally and legally recognized as an adoptive parent. Some of these steps include:

  • Obtaining the consent of the biological parent: The adopting parents must generally obtain the consent of the biological parents (or legal guardians or divorced parents) before they can adopt their child. In some cases, the parents may have already provided a blanket consent to adoption. This is common in cases involving adoption agencies, where the parents have consented to adoption in general before the adopting parents have been identified or selected;
  • Obtaining the consent of the person being adopted (the “adoptee”): In many cases, it is also necessary to obtain the consent of the adoptee, especially if they are over a certain age;
  • Filing a petition with the court: The adopting party must file a court petition which requests the court to approve the adoption;
  • Notice: After a petition is submitted to the court, any party that has an interest in the child must receive notice of the petition. This includes parents and guardians, legal representatives, adoption agencies or agents, and the adoptee; and
  • Adoption hearing: This is where the judge approves the new adoption arrangement and issues a final decree of adoption.

Note that state laws will vary with regard to the exact details of the adoption process. The process may also be different for specific types of adoption, such as international adoption.

How Much Does Adoption Cost?

The cost of adoption will depend on various factors, including whether the adoption is domestic or international, and whether or not an adoption agency will be used.

Independent adoption through a foster agency can cost up to $2,000, though in many instances it may be free. Working with a private adoption agency is more expensive and can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000.

International or foreign adoptions are even more costly, and can range from $30,000 to $80,000. Most international adoptions are handled through an agency.

Besides these fees and costs, an adopting parent should expect additional costs, such as those covering travel and various other filing fees.

Lastly, on top of these expenses, the adopting party may also need to cover attorney’s fees, as it is generally necessary to work with a lawyer for the adoption process. With regards to lawyer fees, these can sometimes be up to negotiation between client and their attorney.

Usually, adoption lawyers will charge and hourly fee ranging from $200 to $300 per hour. Some attorneys may offer a flat rate fee for uncontested adoption cases that involve no special concerns or circumstances (for instance $2,000 for an uncontested filing).

Are there Legal Issues to Consider After Adoption?

Once an adoption is finalized by the court, it isn’t always the end of the story. Various legal issues and disputes can arise in connection with the adoption process or arrangements. It may then become necessary to resolve the dispute through the court system.

Some common post-adoption legal issues include:

For more information on adoption, read our “Ultimate Guide to Adoptions”.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Adoption?

Adoption is a major decision and requires many steps before it can be finalized and legal. You may need to hire a family law attorney if you’re considering adoption. Whatever type of adoption you’re looking into, an adoption lawyer can help you understand the requirements under law and can guide you throughout the whole adoption process.

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