Adoption Law

Growing your family through adoption is an exciting prospect. Adoption unites parents and children needing a home. Each state has its own adoption laws that determine the process. In addition, there are several different types of adoptions.

Whatever your reason may be for wanting to become an adoptive parent, adoption law tells you how to make it happen. An adoption lawyer can help you meet the legal requirements and decide which type of adoption works best for you.

Can I Adopt a Child?

State laws allow most adults eligible to be adoptive parents. This is regardless of marital status, age, income, or sexual orientation. Adults with disabilities are not automatically disqualified from becoming an adoptive parent.

However, it is important to note some faith-based adoption agencies may have different policies. Also, having a criminal history may cause issues for you when seeking to adopt a child. Most states allow an adoption to proceed as long as your convictions are not seriously violent, do not involve children, and are not sexual in nature.

Which Children Are Eligible for Adoption?

In the United States, children younger than 18 years old may be eligible for adoption. Each state determines eligibility, such as whether the child’s parents or guardians have terminated their legal rights.

For international adoption, there are a number of other requirements controlled by federal law for adopting a child. This process can look different, be more costly, and involve applying for visas. Talk to a lawyer with experience in these types of adoptions.

The Adoption Process

While state laws vary, every person who wants to adopt a child must go through the legal adoption process. The parents-to-be initiate the adoption process by going through a thorough investigation by licensed social workers. During the investigation, the investigator will make sure both parties are appropriate for adoption.

The investigation and assessment include a home study, which includes training and home visits. The entire investigative process should last at least six to eight weeks. The investigation will include interviews with family members, a criminal background check, and medical checks.

When the investigation is complete, the social worker will then summarize their findings and file a recommendation with the court. If you are trying an adult adoption, the process may be different.

Types of Adoptions

The law allows for a number of ways to become an adoptive parent. Types of adoption include:

Agency Adoptions

Adoptions can proceed through public or private agencies. Public agency adoptions are generally for children who have special needs or who have come out of the foster care system. Private agency adoptions can be either international or domestic. The fees charged for private agency adoptions may range into thousands of dollars. These also typically require the counsel of a family law attorney.

Independent Adoptions

Private adoptions, also called “independent adoptions,” are common. In a private adoption, the birth parents and prospective adoptive parents handle the matter without the help of an agency. An adoption attorney may help to facilitate the process in order to protect clients and to make sure everything is legal.

Stepparent Adoptions

It is very common for a stepparent to want to adopt the children of their spouse through a stepparent adoption. A stepparent may first have to get the consent of the child’s noncustodial parent. Some states allow written consent. Other states require the noncustodial parent to appear in court and either assert or forfeit their parental rights.

A noncustodial parent may have the ability to object to the adoption. A stepparent who wants to adopt a stepchild may not have to submit to a home study but still may be required to undergo a criminal background check.

Open and Semi-Open Adoptions

Many adoptions involve some communication between the birth mother and biological parents. Many intercountry adoptions are also now either open or semi-open.

In an open adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents exchange information. Biological parents may have visits with their child and receive updates as the child grows. In semi-open adoptions, information exchanged is limited to first names and states of residence. They may also agree to exchange letters or pictures through a third party.

Closed Adoptions

In roughly one in 10 adoptions, the child’s birth parents or adoptive parents still choose a closed adoption. In a closed adoption, information about the biological parent is kept sealed from the adopted child. The identity of the adoptive family is also kept protected from the biological parents.

Closed adoptions offer more protection against biological parents coming back later. However, some adoptees have later sought to find information about their biological parents and have had difficulty since the records are not easily accessible.

How Can an Adoption Lawyer Help?

An experienced adoption lawyer can help you navigate the adoption process. Having an advocate to guide you and give you legal advice through the entire legal process can remove some of the barriers to adoption and avoid any unnecessary surprises. 

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