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Q. How do you adopt a child?

A. While laws vary in different states, most jurisdictions follow the same general pattern. Usually, if the child's natural parents are married, both must agree to the adoption. If they are unmarried, the mother must consent; whether the fathers consent depends from state to state. If the adoption is to proceed without the consent of the natural parent, a court must terminate parental rights. Adoptive parents are not permitted to pay excessive fees to an intermediary or to the child's natural parents. A court must make a determination that the adoption is in the best interests of the child. Normally, there will be an investigation of the adopting parents through a state agency; this investigation may be made and the parents pre-qualified before a child is located; this procedure is recommended to avoid delays if a child becomes available for adoption or a natural mother is about to give birth.


Q. What are the different kinds of adoptions?

A. The three basic types of adoptions are: agency adoptions, relative adoptions and private adoptions. Agency adoptions are arranged by agencies licensed through the state. A formal application or investigation will be required by the agency to determine whether the adopting parents are fit. Various states regulate the amount of fees chargeable by an agency. Private adoptions are not legal in all states. normally an attorney is the primary contact in a private adoption. The attorney may work with physicians who are aware of patients who seek to give their children up. Generally, adopting parents are allowed to pay certain of the natural parents bills, including maintenance and medical expenses related to the pregnancy as well as attorneys fees. Payments that suggest that a child is being purchased are not allowed; this is a crime in every state. In a private adoption there is always the risk that the natural mother will change here mind about the adoption after the child is born. This may happen after the adoptive parents have spent considerable sums in medical and maintenance expense. This situation is often a cause of heartbreak and economic loss for adoptive parents who are anxiously looking forward to  parenting. Often state agencies will meet with the natural mother after birth and try to convince her not to give up the child. Should the natural mother not proceed with the adoption, it is usually impossible to recover money that was paid in good faith to the physician, mother, hospital and attorney in anticipation of the delivery. Relative adoptions take place when a blood relative adopts a child whose parents have died or are incapable or unwilling to raise a child. Adopting relatives must obtain a court order to make the adoption legal.


Q. Can a the natural mother revoke her consent to an adoption?

A. Subject to certain limitations, consent may be revoked before an adoption order is final. In most states, the consent of the natural mother must be executed after the birth of the child, and she will have several days to revoke her consent. There has been some sad litigation involving revocation after consent and before the adoption becomes final. The case law in each state must be consulted to determine whether the consent may be revoked. Some courts have allowed revocation of consents obtained by duress or fraud long after the adoption has taken place. A natural father who was unaware of the birth of a child may file a proceeding to set aside the adoption after he learns of the true facts. These are complicated issues that are often regulated by state statutes or determined by legal precedents in each state.


Q. What if the natural mother is a minor?

A. In a most of the states, the mother can, if a minor, place the child for adoption with legal approval and with parental consent. In some states, the minors parents must receive notice and have an opportunity to be heard in the adoption proceeding.


Q. Is the natural fathers consent necessary?

A. A majority of states require that the natural father consent to an adoption if he is known. Depending on state law, the consent of the natural father, even if not married to the natural mother, may still be required, especially when he has provided support in the past or has been involved in the child's upbringing.


Q. What is a step-parent adoption?

A. Step-parent adoptions are those in which the child's natural parent marries someone who wants to adopt the child. If the other natural parent is alive, consent will generally be needed unless the child has been deserted or the court finds that the natural parent is unfit. If the adopting step-parent ultimately divorces the natural parent, they will each have the same child support obligation applicable to natural children.


Q. What is the legal status of a adopted child?

A. Adopted children have the same legal status as natural children of the adoptive parents. After the adoption, the natural parent no rights normally associated with parenting. Neither the child nor the natural parent may inherit from each other by benefit of their former relationship; a will making a specific bequest is necessary. Any duty of the natural parent for future support under law, order or decree is cancelled upon adoption. Past child support arrearages owed but not paid are not discharged by the adoption.


Q. What is an open adoption?

A. In an open adoption the natural parents are told of the identity of the adopting parents. Occasionally, some type of limited contact between the child and the natural parent is agreed to. The enforceability of visitation and contact rights under such an arrangement is questionable.


Q. Can an unmarried person adopt a child?

A. While some agencies prefer to place a child with a married couple, many agencies will consider a single parent for adoption.


Q. Can a homosexual couple adopt a child?

A. In some states, such adoptions are allowed.


Q. Who has access to adoption records?

A. In most states, adoption records are sealed and can be opened only by court order. Many states do make the natural parents medical records available, since a entire medical history of the natural parents may be relevant in treating, diagnosing and preventing genetically related conditions.


Q. What is surrogate parenthood?

A. In some states, surrogate parenting can be legal. Essentially, a couple can contract with a female surrogate who agrees to be artificially inseminated by the husbands sperm. After birth, the baby will be given to the contracting couple. It is also possible for an ovary that the female donates to be fertilized in vitro (test-tube baby) and then implanted into the surrogate. If the husband is not fertile, a male surrogate or sperm bank may be contracted with to provide sperm. A carefully drawn contract is necessary to determine parental rights should the surrogate have a change of heart after the baby is born. In the event the surrogate will not deliver the baby to the contracting party, the ensuing litigation will certainly be complex and expensive.


Q. Can adopted children find out the identity of their natural parents?

A. Conventionally, adoption records are highly confidential and determining the identity of the natural parent may be difficult, although not impossible. Ordinarily, the services of an attorney familiar with adoption law should be retained to assist with the process.



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