What Are My Rights as an Adoptive Parent?
As an adoptive parent, you will assume the same legal rights as a birth parent when the adoption is finalized.
When a family or individual seeks to adopt a child, they navigate a legal process that will sever the rights of the birth parents and assign those rights to the adoptive parents.
As a prospective adoptive parent, you should know about the process, the cost to adopt a child, and your rights. Discussing your concerns with a lawyer may make navigating the adoption process easier.
Parental Rights and Responsibilities of Adoptive Parents
The legal process of adoption assigns parental rights and responsibilities to adoptive parents. This process is the final step in:
- Severing the legal relationship between a child and their biological parents.
- Establishing a new legal relationship between that child and their adoptive parents (this applies to stepparent adoptions as well).
Adoptive parents in a domestic adoption take on all the same rights, obligations, and duties that a biological parent would have. This includes any legal obligations, tax obligations, and all related duties for providing education, care, and support.
Adoption may sometimes be discussed alongside guardianship or custody. However, adopting a child is a very different process, with another purpose. Adoption establishes a permanent legal relationship with all the characteristics of a biological parent-child relationship. While state laws may vary, an adopted child also has the right to receive an inheritance from their adoptive parents.
Necessity for Consent
Adoption generally requires the biological parents to consent to the process and waive their rights as parents, thus allowing the adoptive parents to take up these rights and responsibilities.
Usually, this is voluntary, especially in a private adoption, with the biological parents willingly giving their consent to terminate their parental rights, although, in an open adoption, they may continue to have contact thereafter.
Exceptions to Necessary Consent
In some cases, the courts may issue a waiver that allows the adoption to proceed without consent. This may happen, for example, if the parent was previously abusive or unfit and has not met the requirements set by the court to keep their child, after a certain period of time
Consent from the Father
In general, adoption requires consent from at least the birth mother. Some states require the father to also consent if the biological parents are—or, in the case of stepparent adoptions, were—married. When possible, it is preferred to have voluntary consent from both parents before you adopt a child .
Some states may also allow an older child a say in their own adoption. The age limit on this varies widely state by state, and the teen’s consent may not be necessary in every state.
The Best Interests of the Child
The goal of any adoption is to support the best interests of the child. This explains why private adoption agencies and the courts who handle domestic adoption proceedings go through numerous steps to ensure the families hoping to adopt will provide a suitable home for children. This process may include:
- Interviews of all adults in the household.
- A home environment study.
- State and federal criminal background checks.
- Submitting financial information.
- Undergoing medical reviews.
- Post-adoption visits.
The adoption process focuses on what’s beneficial for the baby or child. A social worker assigned to conduct interviews and home study will generally follow up with the family after placement to ensure the child is doing well and the family is providing the necessary care during a probationary period that differs by state
The court will not finalize the adoption until this probationary period passes and the social worker or other professional recommends that the adoption go forward.
Confidential Nature of Adoption Proceedings
Today more families are doing open adoptions than in the past. Unlike a closed adoption, where all contact between child and birth parent is severed and records are sealed, an open adoption allows for continued contact, even exchanging pictures or spending time with one another. Some states have loosened their laws on closed adoptions, allowing access to records.
Permanent Nature of Adoption
Unlike the rights and responsibilities that one might gain through a guardianship or custody proceeding, adoption gives the adoptive parents permanent parental obligations and privileges. Moving forward from the finalization of the adoption adoptive parents have the same rights and responsibilities as biological parents, and they are treated the same way under all state and federal laws.
The rights granted in adoption cannot be revoked, short of the court learning about serious fraud, abuse accusations, or other significant concerns about the child’s welfare. Even when there are accusations of abuse or other concerns, the process aligns with what would happen if biological parents faced the same allegations.
Following placement and a period of observation or probation, the adoption proceedings will be finalized. Once this occurs and any future waiting periods set by the state close, the biological parent has no rights to the child, and. the adoptive parents become the child’s sole and legal parents.
Impact of New DNA Testing
At-home DNA testing kits have made it easier than ever before to identify and locate biological relatives. This is especially true in closed adoptions in states where there are no options for unsealing adoption records.
Some states allow adoptees to request their original birth certificate or other documents, while others allow adoptees to get more information if all parties now consent. There are problems that come with DNA testing, including concerns for adoptees and both their birth and biological parents. These include:
- Identification of biological parents who do not want to be found.
- Reunions that fail to happen or do not go as planned.
- Minors accessing these tests or conducting a search without their parents’ knowledge or consent
- Biological parents attempting to reunite with the children they gave up for adoption against the wishes of the child or adoptive family.
When adoption is closed and documents are sealed, there is often a reason why this occurred. Adoptive parents may need to address this with children who express interest in using a DNA home testing kit.
Biological parents may not want their family to know about the child they gave up for adoption, and likewise, adoptees may not want their biological parents to intrude upon their life after years of absence. Adoptive parents may need to set ground rules to limit this possibility, especially as adoptees reach their teen years. Social media can also play a role in uninvited contact from a biological family member and should be closely monitored.
Consider an Attorney When Adopting a Child
If you are considering adopting a child, consult with a family law attorney familiar with the adoption process in your state. LegalShield Members can use the mobile application to contact your law firm and learn more about your next steps.
If you are not yet a LegalShield Member, our team would love to explain how our network of dedicated provider law firms may help your family face your legal challenges and navigate the legal process. We offer plans for families and, individuals that help offset the cost to adopt a child, and we have provider attorneys ready to serve our members in all 50 states.
LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact an attorney for legal advice or assistance. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm.
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