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What Is Adoption Law?

Definition of Adoption Law

An adoption is when an adult legally assumes the role of a parent for a child. Adoptions happen for numerous reasons, such as when the child's birth parents are unable or unwilling to care for their child, when the birth parents are deceased, or when one birth parent remarries a spouse who wishes to assume legal parental rights.

Adoption can take place through a number of methods, ranging from adopting through an agency that places children with adoptive parents, adopting independently through an arrangement between the adoptive and birth parents, or adopting a child from another country.

Terms to Know

  • Birth parent - The genetic mother or father of a child
  • Confidential adoption - An adoption in which the birth parents and adoptive parents never meet or exchange identifying information; also called a closed adoption
  • Foster parent - An adult who acts as a parent or guardian without legally adopting the child
  • Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption - An international treaty that governs how prospective adoptive parents can legally adopt children from other countries
  • Home study - A study of a prospective adoptive parent's home in order to determine the household's ability to properly care for and nurture an adopted child
  • Open adoption - An adoption in which the birth parents and the adoptive parents have contact with each other before and/or after the adoption becomes final; also called a cooperative adoption
  • Termination of parental rights - A legal process that permanently terminates a parent's rights and obligations to care for their child

For more definitions of related legal terms, visit the Glossary of Adoption Terms or the FindLaw Legal Dictionary.

Other Considerations When Hiring an Adoption Lawyer

There are many different types of adoptions, each with their own requirements. Many prospective parents quickly become overwhelmed with each of the avenues of adoption and confused about the ones for which they qualify. Hiring a lawyer familiar with each type of adoption can help you sort out which method is best for you.

It's worth noting that adoption is not only for children. Many states allow adult adoption, where an adult legally adopts a younger adult as his or her child. In some cases this may be preferable to a guardianship where an aging parent can no longer provide care for an adult child who is disabled or mentally incompetent, and perhaps another relative is willing and able to assume the full parental role and obligations and therefore deserves the full legal benefits of parenthood. Some senior citizens also do this in order to secure inheritance rights for a particular individual with whom they have had a long-term relationship.

In addition to familial benefits, adoption can also affect adoptive parents' tax returns. Adoptive parents may qualify for special tax credits to help pay for the cost of caring for a new child. That said, it may also trigger child support payments in the event of a divorce. Some adoptive parents may also want to seek legal help from a tax attorney in addition to an adoption attorney to ensure that all of their legal issues are properly handled.

If you are facing a legal issue related to adoption, contact an adoption lawyer immediately to explore your legal options and to make sure your rights are protected.

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