• Adoption

    adoption law legal helpAdoption is defined as a judicially created parent-child relationship between two related or unrelated parties. When the process of adoption has taken place the attachment between biological parents and the child has been legally severed. The adoptive parents become the legal parents of the adopted child, and they receive the same legal rights over the child that a biological parent would have. Similar to other areas of family law, the area of adoption law is regulated by individual states under the 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Adoption laws are a creature of statute and as such, state statutes are supposed to be strictly construed, so that laws pertaining to adoption cannot be deviated from. Adoption law was unknown at common law and therefore does not have its principles rooted in traditional common law. However, similar to common law traditions, a primitive reference to adoption can be found in the biblical story in the Book of Exodus, where the Pharaoh’s daughter rescued and cared for baby Moses as if he were her biological child. In the 19th century, prior to formalized adoption laws, informal and culturally created adoptions took place. Under informal adoptions, adults in the community often took in and cared for parentless or displaced children who shared the same cultural heritage. In 1851, Massachusetts passed the first “modern” adoption statute, which laid out the “best interests of the child” standard that is still used in modern adoption proceedings.

    Modern adoption law consists of five different forms of adoption: private agency, public agency, independent placement, stepparent adoption, and intercountry adoption. Private agency adoptions involve nonprofit agencies licensed by the state to place children with adoptive parents. Public agency adoptions involve children currently placed in the welfare system and are facilitated by social service departments. Independent adoptions involve adoption arrangements made by the birth parent with the help of a facilitator or intermediary and without an adoption agency. Stepparent adoptions occur when a stepparent wants to legally adopt his/her spouse’s children, with the spouse’s permission. Lastly, intercountry adoptions involve an adoptive parent who adopts a child from a different country.

    There are two main parts involved in the process of adoption: ending a pre-existing relationship with others and the adoption itself. The first part of the adoption process consists of the adoptive parents giving notice to the biological parents of their intent to adopt the child. Then they must obtain the consent of either the biological parents or the adoptive agency to terminate the biological parents’ parental rights. Once the adoptive parents have received consent, they must file a “petition for adoption.” In most jurisdictions, the child is temporarily placed with the potential adoptive parents, while the court gathers background information and conducts a home study investigation. Once the court finds the adoptive parents’ information to be satisfactory, the judge reviews whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child. If so, the adoption is approved and a permanent decree of adoption is ordered.

    Adoptions have become more popular and controversial in recent years. Although each state has their own laws regarding adoptions, most states have statutes that allow both married and unmarried couples to adopt children. Some states even allow single adults and same-sex couples to become adoptive parents. There are only four states in the United States that explicitly prohibit same-sex couples from adopting: Utah, Arkansas, Michigan, and Louisiana.
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