Welcome to the Adoption department of Divorce and FamilyLawService Center. Here we will discuss what adoption means, who can adopt, step parent adoption, and same sex couple adoption. We will also go over different types of adoption and lastly, the biological mother’s rights in the adoption process.
What Is Adoption?
State laws govern adoption. Adoption is a court procedure that appoints a non biological adult all the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent over a child. This legal establishment covers the parent / child relationship in its entirety from the health, welfare, and education of the child to child support, child custody, child visitation, and inheritance rights. When a child is adopted, all rights and responsibilities of the biological parents (and in some states the biological grandparents) are relinquished. Adoption law varies from state to state but the best interest of the child is the main concern of the Courts.
Who Can Adopt?
When deciding to establish an adoption, the courts predominantly look at the stability (personal and financial) of the home in which the child could potentially be placed, as well as the ages of the prospective parent(s). Generally, any single adult or married husband and wife can be eligible to adopt a child. Some states specify the age of adulthood for the purposes of adoption at 25, some states at 21, and some states at 18. Within the states there are also differing laws and regulations on state residency requirements.
Step parent Adoptions
Step parent adoptions are the most common adoptions. For a step parent to adopt a child, consent or agreement must be given by the non custodial parent. If that consent is denied, the step parent has to petition the courts to terminate the rights of the biological parent. Once a step parent adoption is final, the non custodial parent no longer has the same legal rights and responsibilities to the child. Generally, the child’s right to inheritance from either birth parent or family members is not effected by the step parent adoption.
Same Sex Adoption
In legal terms most states are silent on the issue of same sex adoptive parents. Recently headlines were made in the Los Angeles Times: “Number of Gay Couples Who Adopt Tripled Over Last Decade”. Again, the main concern of the courts is the best interest of the child.
Adoption does not always have to involve a minor. There have been cases of same sex couples adopting each other to get rights and privileges generally afforded to heterosexual couples. One major thing to keep in mind: this may run the risk of losing inheritance rights from their biological parents and adoption makes a legal parent-child relationship, which would make sex illegal. Know the laws and cover all the bases. Please visit our Same Sex Couples department for more information.
Types of Adoption
There are many different types of adoption. We will discuss some of the most common forms. The two basic categories are agency adoptions and independent adoptions. Within these categories there are varying degrees of cost and risk. Again, adoption is governed by state law which differ from state to state. If the adoption crosses state lines, laws from both states need to be followed. The same goes for adoptions that cross international borders.
Agency adoptions would include local public agencies (foster care, social services, and child welfare) and local private agencies which are allowed in most states and many foreign countries. Adoptions through an agency tend to carry the least amount of risk because there is significant oversight through procedural standards and licensing.
Independent or Private Adoption
Independent or private adoptions are adoptions where an agency is not involved. This type of adoption tends to involve a speedier process. The drawback being less oversight and higher expense. Private adoptions are illegal in several states.
Biological Mother’s Rights in the Adoption Process
Open adoption occur when the biological mother does not have to give up all her maternal rights. Typically child visitation is allowed.
Window of Consent
If the mother changes her mind and decides not to go through with the adoption process, there may be a window of 48 to 72 hours (varying by state) after the birth when the biological mother has the opportunity to not give her consent to the adoption. Some states even leave that window open for 8 days.
Please visit our Reproductive Rights department for more information that may pertain to your situation.