Adoption is a court procedure in which an adult becomes legally recognized as the parent of a child who is not his or her biological child. Adoption formally establishes a parent-child relationship for all purposes, including child support obligations, inheritance rights, and custody. Although the term "child" is used, adults can also be adopted if he or she consents to adoption. Adoption of adult children may be preferable to obtain certain benefits, legal protection, or for inheritance purposes.
The legal rules regarding adoption vary significantly from state to state. Additionally, whether you choose to adopt through a state agency or private organization can also bear significant influence on the adoption process.
Who Can Adopt?
- Married couples
- Single persons
- Gay and lesbian couples in some states.
What Facts about the Adoptive Parent(s) Are Considered?
- Financial Situation
- Personal Stability
The Adoption Process
There are many ways to adopt a child. These are the most common:
- Agency Adoptions: Both private and public agencies offer adoption services. These agencies are heavily monitored and regulated by the government, and are generally less expensive than other resources. As a drawback, agency adoptions usually involve long waiting periods, a complicated application process, and home study procedures.
- Private Adoptions: With private or independent adoptions, a child is placed with adoptive parents without the involvement of an agency. As a result, the adoption process is often faster and more efficient. The major drawback is that private adoptions are usually more expensive because of the absence of government subsidies and support services. Private adoptions are also illegal in several states.
- Stepparent Adoptions: It is becoming more common for parents to remarry and have their new spouse adopt their child from a previous relationship. In order for a stepparent to adopt, he or she will need the written consent of the other biological parent. If this consent is denied, the stepparent must petition the court to terminate the parental rights of the biological parent.
Do I Need to go to Court for an Adoption?
All adoptions, whether through an agency or done privately, must be approved by a court. The adoptive parents must petition for approval from the court as well as participate in an adoption hearing. Additionally, prior to any hearings, anyone who is required to consent to the adoption must receive notice. This includes any biological parents, adoption agencies, the child's legal representative (if a court has appointed one), and the child if he or she is old enough.
If the court determines that the adoption is in the child's best interest, the judge will issue an order approving and finalizing the adoption. This order, usually called a Final Decree of Adoption, legalizes the new parent-child relationship, and changes the child's name to the name the adoptive parents have chosen.
Do I Need a Family Law Attorney?
Speaking with the proper family attorney will help you understand your rights and obligations as well as preserve any possible remedies you may have.