The adoption process is a procedure by which an individual or a couple goes through in order to obtain legal custody of a non-biological child. Unlike child custody or child visitation arrangements, this process generally is not entered into as the result of a divorce or a marital dissolution proceeding.
Most adoption cases arise because the individual or couple want to raise a child. Adoption cases usually involve a child who is an orphan, or may be assigned to a family through an adoption agency.
An individual or couple might also have the potential option of adopting a child through an international adoption process. These options will all depend on the circumstances of the adoption.
In general, the adoption process can involve:
- Choosing a child for adoption;
- Being interviewed by either social workers or other employees of various state agencies who handle adoption services;
- Conducting background checks on the potential parent or parents to be;
- Having to fill out required forms (e.g., a petition for adoption); and
- Paying necessary state or filing fees.
The court, typically a family law court, will need to approve the adoption. This occurs during a legal proceeding known as an adoption hearing, in which the court will decide whether or not to give its approval to the parent or parents for the adoption, and if so, this approval will finalize the adoption process.
The decision of the court will be based on various factors; the most important factor being that approving the adoption will be in the child’s best interest.
Once a child is officially adopted, it establishes a formal parent-child relationship in the eyes of the law. This means that for issues relating to legal purposes, such as inheritance rights or child custody obligations, the adopted child will be viewed as if they are the parent(s)’ biological child.
Additionally, while this article will be primarily discussing the adoption process for children, it is also useful to know that in certain situations an adult may be adopted as well. If you would like to learn more about adult adoption, you can read more about it here.
Regardless of whether you are entering the adoption process to adopt a child or an adult, you should contact an adoption attorney in your state. A local adoption attorney will be able to provide further information about the adoption process and the relevant laws that apply in your area. An attorney can also help to guide you through the process.
What are the Requirements for Adopting a Child?
The laws regarding the adoption process will often vary by state. Although the state laws may differ, there are some general requirements for adopting a child that will normally overlap among all jurisdictions. This typically includes the following requirements:
- Being able to support the child financially;
- Ensuring that at least one of the prospective adoptive parents of the child has both their physical and mental health in good condition;
- Demonstrating an overall positive background (e.g., no prior neglect of a child, no substance abuse issues, and so on); and
- Not being involved in any serious past or present criminal charges, or possessing a criminal record.
In cases where a child has special needs, the court may also assess whether or not the parent or parents will be able to handle the child’s special needs.
For example, if the child has a physical disability or a mental condition, the court may check to see if the adopting parents will be able to provide the proper level of care for the child in accordance with their special needs.
There are also different requirements, which will depend on the type of adoption that an individual or a couple chooses. Some types of adoptions include:
- Agency adoptions (both public adoption agencies and private adoption agencies);
- Independent adoptions (e.g., private adoptions not associated with an agency);
- Open adoptions; and
- Stepparent adoptions.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help When Adopting a Child?
Child adoption can involve many different legal issues, which can be impacted by various elements, such as the laws of a state, the background of the adopting parent or parents, and the facts surrounding the adoption.
Thus, if you are thinking about adopting a child, you should consider hiring an adoption lawyer for help with the adoption process. Having a lawyer can be especially useful when it comes to filling out the forms properly for the related application process, or assessing the type of adoption that may be best for you and your family.
A local adoption lawyer will also be able to determine what your rights and obligations may be as a potential parent under the laws of your state. Additionally, if any disputes arise during the adoption process, an attorney will be able to provide you with representation in the matter, should you need to appear in court.