Many people are unable to have children of their own or want to add to their families through adoption. Adoption law governs the legal process a prospective parent must go through in order to adopt a child who is not biologically their own. There are several different types of adoptions that involve various agencies. Each state has its own adoption laws that govern how the process is completed. An adoption lawyer works to facilitate the process for clients in a manner that adheres to the legal requirements. A lawyer may additionally help prospective parents to decide which type of adoption would best fit their situation.
The Adoption Process
While state laws vary, every person who wants to adopt a child must go through a legal adoption process. The process is initiated with the parents submitting to a thorough investigation. These investigations are completed by licensed social workers or juvenile court officers. During the investigation, the prospective parent and the child will be thoroughly assessed to make certain they are each appropriate for adoption. The investigation and assessment includes a home study, and the entire investigative process should be expected to last at least six to eight weeks. The investigation will include interviews with every member of the family, full criminal background and medical checks, and much more. After the investigation is completed, the worker will then summarize the findings and recommendations in a written report and file it with the court.
Historically, a majority of adoptions were closed, but they became more open during the 1980s. In a closed adoption, information about the biological parent is kept sealed. The identity of the adoptive family is also kept protected from the biological parents. The idea behind a closed adoption is that it offers more protection against biological parents coming back later and seeking to overturn adoptions. Some adopted children have later sought to try to find information about their biological parents and have had difficulty since the records are often not given to them either. Although this type of adoption is not as popular anymore, it is still available in some cases.
Open and Semi-Open Adoptions
Many adoptions are now either open or semi-open. In open adoptions, the birth parents and adoptive parents exchange information. Biological parents may have visits with their child and receive updates as the child grows. In semi-open adoptions, information exchanged is limited to first names and states of residence. They may also agree to exchange letters or pictures that are handled through a third party.
Many families are blended today, and it is very common for a stepparent to want to adopt the children of their spouse through a stepparent adoption. In order to do so, a stepparent may first be required to get the consent of the child's noncustodial parent. While some states allow written consent, others require that the noncustodial parent appears in court. A noncustodial parent may have the ability to object to the adoption and challenge it as well. A stepparent who wants to adopt a stepchild normally will not have to submit to a home study but may be required to undergo a criminal background check.
Independent adoptions, also called private adoptions, are also common. In a private adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents handle the matter without the help of an agency. An adoption attorney may help to facilitate the process in order to protect clients and to make certain everything is done in legally.
Adoptions can also proceed through public or private agencies. Public agency adoptions are normally for children who have special needs or who have come out of the foster care system.
Private agency adoptions can be either international or domestic. The fees charged for private adoptions may range into thousands of dollars, and an adoption law attorney is often still a part of the process.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
Related Topics In This Section
- Family Law
- Emancipation of Minors
- Marriage Separation
- Qualified Domestic Relations Order
- Spousal Support
Additional Adoption Articles
- What Is Adoption?
- Open or Closed Adoption: Which is Right for You?
- In what situations can an adult be adopted?
- Can prospective adopters seek legal compensation for a default adoption?
- What Is The Process Of Adoption? How Is It Started?
- What are the differences between adult adoptions and minor child adoptions?
- What Happens During The Adoption Probationary Period?
- Adoption Law Overview
- Do Prospective Adopters Need An Attorney?