• The Adoption Process

    adoption process legal helpTo begin the adoption process, the parents (or whoever is acting as the parent under law) must agree to relinquish all rights and duties to the child. The consent to this agreement must be in writing and then either witnessed and/or notarized or finalized before a designated official. Generally, the relinquishment is final and irrevocable; therefore there sometimes exists specified waiting times before adoption consent is recognized. Some states allow the birth parents to consent at any time after the child is born while other states mandate a waiting period that varies from 12 hours to 15 days. The consent may be withdrawn under certain circumstances such as when the consent was wrongly attained.

    Nevertheless, the birth mother and the birth father have the primary consent rights in adoption. In some states, if the parents are minors, they might have to seek the consent of their own parents or be provided with counsel before consent. However, such rights may be terminated due to many reasons such as mental incompetence or parental unfitness. If neither of the parents can give consent, the law gives such rights to others such as a guardian, the court or even close relatives. In virtually every state, older children may also consent to their own adoption.

    Although the birth parents’ consent to adoption relinquishes rights and duties to the child, state law does not generally prohibit post-adoption contact or communication. However, it is up to the discretion of the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents may create birth parents’ rights in any way they see fit. Adoptive parents can informally set these rights or create written contractual agreements. In some states, these rights can extend to other birth relatives who have significant emotional ties to the child. Every included party must agree to all the provisions prior to the adoption finalization. In order for the agreement to be enforceable, the court must approve the agreement. The court only approves the agreement if it feels that all parties are in agreement and the agreement is in the best interests of the child. If there are requests for modification or compliance disputes, any party may petition to the court. Some states require mediation before this process. Unfortunately, many states do not even have laws on post-adoption contact or communication.

    All states, however, have laws that specify requirements for adoptive parents’ eligibility. Typically, any single adult or couple can be eligible to adopt. States vary on the age of an “adult” - the “adult” age range goes from 18 to 25. Some states permit minors adopting in extenuating circumstances. There are also age gap requirements. The requirement ranges from the adoptive parent being 10 years to 15 years older than the child. Additionally, some states do not require adoptive parent citizenship.
    All states permit the adoption of children. However, some states require the child’s age to be younger than 18. Other requirements for adoption vary from state to state such as children having to be present in the state or children need to reside in the home of the prospective adoptive parents for a required amount of time. As for children who were adopted abroad, some states allow the same protections and rights to the adoptive parents if the adoption was given pursuant to the foreign country’s due process as to the adoption decrees found in that state.
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