Adoption, from a legal standpoint, is a procedure to create and establish the parent-child relationship between a child and the adoptive parent. Adoptions can be a rewarding and exciting opportunity for parents-to-be as well as for attorneys handling the adoption procedure itself. The procedure is nuanced, and while part of “family law” conceptually, many family law practitioners are not familiar with and do not do adoptions.
The requirements and rigor of adoption studies and reports often make adoption proceedings overwhelming for parents-to-be who are not represented by an adoption attorney.
Adoption and being awarded child custody are not the same thing. Courts may use custody suits to grant conservatorship of a child to someone who is not the child’s biological parent, and the rules and procedures for even obtaining standing (the right to participate in such a suit) do not always favor non-parents, even those with the absolute best intentions. But conservatorship and custody are different from parental rights because they contain only the rights granted in a judge’s order.
Via the adoption process, the parent becomes the legal parent of the adopted child. This is particularly relevant in matters of probate law, where an adopted child inherits just as biological children would.
Can I adopt a child?-Adults are generally able to request adoption from courts. Whether or not a child may be able to be adopted depends and varies with circumstances. Some common circumstances include:
- When both parents have, or will have, their parental rights terminated;
- Stepparents of children may adopt even when both biological parents maintain their parental rights;
- When you have the necessary parental consent, or consent from the conservator(s) of the child;
- Other detailed circumstances, sometimes in the absence of parental consent.
Adoptions require a number of studies and reports, often including: personal interviews of the parents and the child, home visits and evaluations, observing the child and potential adoptive parents, observing the child in varying environments, and considerations of past criminal histories of the parents and adoptive parents to be. As always, courts will be focused on the best interest of the child when considering this information.