Adoption is a legal process where one person acquires parental rightsover a child not his own. Adoption law is a combination of federalregulations and state laws. The federal government lays out theframework and funding for adoption and states enact legislationcomplying with federal requirements. There has been an attempt tounify adoption laws across the country, but not all states adoptedthe proposed legislation. While there are nuances accompanyingadoption in state laws, there are five features that are common inall states: (1) the best interest of the child standard, (2) consentof biological parents, (3) complete vesting of parental rights toadoptive parents, (4) permanent nature of adoption, and (5)confidential nature of adoption proceedings. The Hague Convention oninter country adoption safeguards cases of adoption by U.S. citizensof children from any country that is a party to the Convention. U.S.citizens can still adopt children from any country that is not aparty to the Convention, but they are not offered the sameprotections.
Adoption under the law can be done through public agencies or throughdirect contact with biological parents. Both methods of adoptionrequire the consent of biological parents and must go through a courtprocess. The .S. Constitution holds that natural parents havefundamental right in the custody of their children. Adoptionterminates the right of biological parents over the child, and givesthe guardianship to the adoptive parents. This means that theadoptive parents will take over all of the parental responsibilitiesto the child, including taxes, social security, and inheritance. Therights of biological parents are totally extinguished. It is in thisregard that adoption proceedings require the consent of biologicalparents. All states require the consent of the birth mothers, whilesome states require the consent of married fathers. In some states,unmarried fathers, especially those who show interest in parentalcare toward the child, have the right to consent to the adoptionproceeding. The right to consent may be waived or forfeited byabandonment, judicial termination of parental rights, or adjudicationof incompetence. The consent of children between the ages 10 to 14years is also required.
Courts adopt the best interest of the child standard when determiningwhether prospective adopters are suitable parents. Adoptionproceedings, like custody cases, focus on what the child wants andneeds, rather than what the adoptive parents can give. Statestypically provide a probationary period where child welfareprofessionals will conduct an evaluation to determine the bestinterest of the child has been met. Most adoption proceedings aresensitive, thus the proceedings and records are kept under seal andmay not be opened unless by virtue of a judicial finding of goodcause. Traditionally, biological parents won't know the identity ofthe adoptive parents, and vice versa. Some states have relaxed thislaw through the years, allowing biological families contact andvisitation following the issuance of the adoption decree.
Adoption is permanent, which means the legal obligations ofbiological parents are totally extinguished and are transferred untothe adoptive parents. The parental relationship between the adoptiveparents and the adopted child is not subject to revocation, whichmeans, second thoughts of any party cannot revoke the adoptiondecree.
State adoption laws lay out the requirements on who may or may notadopt. Some sates disqualify individuals who are unmarried or single,with mental or physical disabilities, or those with criminal recordsor employment instability. Other states also disqualify gays andlesbians. An investigation is conducted to determine whether theapplicant is suitable, before the court decides based on the bestinterest of the child. These suitability requirements vary from stateto state, so a prospective adoptive parent must seek the aid of anexpert adoption law attorney who is knowledgeable of the manyrequirements and procedures in the adoption proceedings. Adoptionproceedings can also become lengthy and emotionally-taxing that anexpert adoption law attorney is required to boost the case for the applicant.