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Adoption 101: Top Three Legal Issues to Consider

By Robin Enos | Last updated on

Ever thought about adoption or how to adopt a child from outside the U.S.? Any individual or couple considering the adoption of a child has three major legal issues to consider--who is involved; open vs. closed adoptions; and how to get started with the adoption process.

So where to start?

Every state has its own laws regarding adoption, and different states' rules are not uniform. But here's a good base to start from:

1. The Parties Involved: State laws determine who may adopt, who may be adopted and who may place a child for adoption. Generally, any single adult or a married couple can adopt. But 33 states add more requirements, including parent age minimums and state residency requirements.

Same-sex adoptions remain controversial in many states, even though most states' laws contain no prohibition. Currently Florida and Mississippi prohibit adoption by homosexuals. Utah bars adoption by persons who are not legally married, which might include same-sex couples. Connecticut allows a court to consider the sexual orientation of the prospective adoptive parent.

All states require the child to be adopted be under the age of 18. States have numerous residency requirements for the child to be adopted.

The birth parents or the child's legal guardian can place a child for adoption. Also, state departments of social services or child-placing agencies may place children for adoption.

2. Open vs. Closed Adoptions: In a closed adoption, the adopted child has no contact with his or her birth parents. For many decades, this was the most common form of adoption. But in the last thirty years, closed adoptions have become rare. Modern adoptions are usually open, giving adopted children contact with both their birth parent(s) and their adopted parents. Most adoption agencies now encourage open adoption.

3. How to Adopt/What to Do First: The person or couple wanting to adopt will need to complete a self-study course. Next, the adopting party will need to locate a child available for adoption. The process will include obtaining background information on the child. And you will need consent to the adoption, either from the birth parents or from the appropriate government agency.

Navigating how to adopt can be complicated. To be sure you are making the correct moves, and handing your adoption effort properly, you should speak with a knowledgeable adoption lawyer, who specializes in the adoption law.

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