Adoption Laws

Although adoption laws vary from state to state, the adoption process remains the same. Prospective adoptive parents have many choices in the adoption process.

Each state regulates adoptions within its borders. The only exception to this is international adoption. The Hague Convention and a country's adoption laws cover intercountry adoptions.

This article briefly overviews the adoption process, adoption fraud, safe haven laws, and links to state laws.

The Adoption Process

First, they must decide the type of adoption they are pursuing. The type of adoption they choose influences other options in the adoption process. For example, prospective parents using a private adoption agency can't adopt a child in the foster care system.

Public adoption agencies handle foster child adoptions. In stepparent adoptions, if the child is over 10 years of age, they must consent. Private adoption agencies offer more counseling and adoption services beyond adoptive placement.

Adoption Process Basics

After the prospective parents choose a type of adoption, they undergo vetting by the adoption agency. This includes a home study. During a home study, a social worker or adoption professional visits the home and collects information. The prospective parents submit autobiographical statements, financial records, and recommendations. The social worker uses this information to create a report. If the prospective parents are fit to adopt, they move on to the next step.

The next step is finding a child to adopt and starting the legal process. In all cases, an adoption cannot proceed if there is no termination of parental rights. In an ideal world, the child's biological parents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights. In other cases, the birth father or putative father doesn't want to lose his parental rights. In those adoption cases, the court can terminate the father's parental rights under certain circumstances.

Adoption proceedings begin with a petition for adoption. These proceedings end when the court approves the adoption. After the adoption is final, the adoptive parents can get a new birth certificate for their adopted child from their local Department of Health. The adoptive parents' names are on the new birth certificate.

Foster Care

Adopting a child out of the child welfare system is slightly different. The state has custody of the child in foster care, which means the adoptive parents must go through a local Department of Human Services to adopt. Many children in foster care are older, have special needs, or have a history of child abuse. Often a child's foster parent decides to adopt their foster child. In other cases, family members pursue a relative adoption. In all adoptions, the child's natural parents must give up their parental rights.

Adoption Fraud

Adoption fraud includes international misrepresentations or illegal acts for personal or financial gain. Almost any party to an adoption can commit fraud during the adoption process.

This includes

  • Adoption agencies
  • Adoption attorneys
  • Birth mothers and potential adoptive parents

One example of adoption fraud is when someone pretends to have a baby to adopt in exchange for financial support.

Adoption fraud includes the following

  • Failing to provide background information
  • Providing false background information about a child
  • Promising adoption to multiple parties in return for financial support
  • Misrepresenting information to influence the adoption decision

Safe Haven Laws

States have laws that allow mothers to relinquish their parental rights and turn a child over to state custody. This option is preferable to abandonment soon after the child's birth. All 50 states have safe haven laws. These laws name the locations and conditions for birth parents to leave a child. These laws:

  • List the places where a parent can leave a child
  • Determine who can relinquish a child
  • Limit the child's age
  • Provide a process to identify a parent not involved in relinquishing the child to give them a chance to reclaim custody

Downsides of Adoption Types

Adoption can impact the degree of contact between the birth and adoptive families. There is no post-placement contact in closed adoptions. Courts seal adoption records in closed adoptions.

In open adoptions, the adoptive and birth families agree to stay in touch. Each arrangement creates risks for the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the adopted child. Careful consideration of the potential drawbacks is helpful during the pre-placement process.

Get Help

A local family law attorney or adoption attorney can help you understand adoption laws in your state. Speak to a local family law or adoption attorney today.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • It is a good idea to have an attorney for complex adoptions
  • An attorney can ensure you meet all legal requirements and that your adoption is finalized appropriately
  • An attorney can help protect the best interests of adoptive children, adoptive families, and birth parents
  • For simple adoptions, you may be able to do the paperwork on your own or by using an agency

Get tailored advice at any point in the adoption process. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

 Find a local attorney

Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Adopting a child is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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