Adoption Law Overview

Adoption is an exciting way to have a child. Parents adopt a child with the intent to love, raise and protect the child. They intend the child to become a complete part of their family, just as a birth child would be a complete part of the family. However, in order to make sure that the adoptive child has a permanent place in the family, it is important that the adoption be completed in accordance with all applicable laws. Adoptions are governed by the laws of the state(s) where the child and adoptive parents are located, federal law, and, if applicable, international law.
State and Federal Adoption Laws
Among other things, state laws typically regulate:
Consent to adoption: In all states, the birth mother and father, if known, must consent to an adoption if the birth parent’s legal rights have not been terminated. If the birth parents no longer have legal rights regarding their child then the state agency or person who has custody of the child must consent to the adoption. Almost every state also requires that older children give their consent prior to being adopted. The age at which a child is considered older varies among the states but is typically between 10 -14 years old.

The manner in which consent is to be provided pursuant to state law varies among the different states. Some require birth parents, or the agency or person with authority to give consent, to appear before a judge, for example. Other states require written consent statements that are notarized and witnessed. The waiting time before a consent is legally binding also varies from state to state.

It is important for all parties to understand the requirements for a consent to adoption because in all but the most extreme cases of duress or fraud, the consents are irrevocable in order to promote secure placements for the children being adopted.
Who may be a party to an adoption: Most states allow single and married adults to adopt children. However, the states define adult differently (typically, between the ages of 18-25) and may require additional things such as a minimum age difference between the adopting adult and the adoptive child. Approximately half of the states also allow for the adoption of adults. The adoption of adults is limited to step-children or mentally disabled adults in some states.

State laws may also protect the rights of unwed fathers and regulate the amount that may be charged for an adoption in that jurisdiction.

The federal laws permit interstate adoption and provide financial incentives, such as tax credits, for adoptive parents to help offset the costs of adoption.

International Adoptions
International adoptions must comply with all of the requirements of domestic adoptions as well as the requirements of the country from which the child is being adopted. Further, parents must take special steps to make sure that the child is able to travel back to the United States and becomes a U.S. citizen.
There are few things as important in life as protecting our children. Providing a child with a permanent and secure place in a family is an important part of that protection. Therefore, many adoptive parents review applicable adoption laws themselves and seek the advice of an adoption attorney so that they can adopt a child, love a child and raise a child knowing that their relationship is permanent.

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.

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