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Can Unmarried Couples Adopt Children?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Not everyone waits for marriage to start a family. Whether it's because of economic reasons, political constraints, or personal choice, an increasing number of unmarried couples desire to adopt and raise children together without having to say "I do."

But can unmarried couples legally adopt children?

Check Your State's Laws

In many states, such as California and New York, unmarried couples are allowed to jointly adopt children. But this isn't the case in every state, as the nonprofit advocacy group Unmarried Equality explains.

In states that do allow unmarried couples to adopt children, both adults must be deemed "fit parents" and must obtain all necessary consents to adopt a child. There are two legal routes for unmarried couples to adopt children: They can jointly adopt a child or one partner can legally adopt the biological child of the other.

After the adoption is finalized, both partners are considered legal parents, meaning they have equal legal responsibilities to raise and support the child. In the event of separation, they are able to petition a court for custody or visitation rights and are obligated to provide child support.

Private Adoption Agencies May Enforce Own Rules

Although there are a number of ways to adopt a child, the most common way is to go through a public or private adoption agency. Adoption agencies often present an extra obstacle for unmarried couples because they are notoriously selective and often disfavor unmarried couples.

Unmarried couples who are interested in adopting a child should prepare to explain why they aren't married and be able to demonstrate the stability of their household. The goal should be to paint a clear picture of their fitness as potential parents and the healthy environment in which they can raise a child.

As an unmarried couple, you may experience a longer waiting period and may have to be more flexible about your preferences regarding the child, such as his or her age. A local agency will report to the court for approval of the adoption, but only after completing the home study and interview process with the prospective parents.

For extra help on adopting a child as an unmarried couple in your state, you may want to consult a local adoption lawyer.

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