Adoption: A Happy Family Law Matter
When an individual or a couple adopts a child, it is indeed one of the happiest days for them, their child, their lawyer and for the Family Court Judge.
There are several types of adoptions. Perhaps the most common one is a step-parent adoption. For example, a custodial parent remarries and the non-custodial parent has not been an active part in the children’s lives. The “step-parent” has begun to fill the role of the absent parent. The custodial parent contacts the non-custodial parent who agrees to consent to this adoption, as being in the best interest of the children. In addition, he will no longer have a child support obligation for them. The children now live in an intact family and the parent they thought of as “Mom” or “Dad” now has the legal designation to go with the role he or she has played in the children’s lives.
Adoption can also occur through the Children’s Division or a licensed private agency. Children’s Division adoptions can span the range of foster parents’ adopting, or a grandparent or another relative. The adoption has to be preceded by the voluntary or involuntary termination of parental rights, a matter taken very seriously by the Court. They are very satisfying to all the parties and the Judge as it generally means that the child will have permanency in his or her life and not live in limbo. A private agency adoption may follow the voluntary placement of child by a birth parent who, for a variety of circumstances, has determined that she cannot raise the child herself and is happy to know that the child will be raised by an individual or couple who has the ability and desire to do so. The father has to consent or have his rights terminated by a Court.
The most difficult adoptions are independent adoptions. Here prospective adopting and prospecting placing parents have located each other themselves. In some cases agencies will help with these placements, too. In many instances the birth parent(s) are represented by one attorney and the parents wanting to adopt are represented by another to avoid any conflict of interest. Some prospective adopting parents are actually permitted in the delivery room and take the baby directly home from the hospital. In other cases, the two sets of parents never really connect but are connected by a family friend or an attorney.
The danger, of course, is that the birth mother or father will change his or her mind after the delivery of the baby, a very emotional time, and not follow through on her intention to allow her child to be adopted. This is a very traumatic experience for all, but for the prospective adoptive parents it feels devastating. These parents have often gone through years of medical treatments attempting to have a biological child and those experiences coupled with another disappointment is more than difficult.
Counseling often helps to mitigate this possibility and the prospective of an “open” adoption does too. Such openness is not enforceable by a court, but also not prohibited. It can include an agreement based on a moral commitment to keep the birth parent informed and in some cases, allows some amount of contact with the child.
Of course, there are international adoptions. You would be well advised to seek advice as to which countries are available and what the exact process is. It is important to use an attorney or an agency with a strong track record of success in this intricate work.
A limited number of courts will consider a second parent adoption for gay or lesbian parents. Such adoptions are not prohibited by the law and provide love, support and governmental entitlements to children by the two nurturing people raising them, instead of one.
Adoption law is a specialty and you should seek the advice of an attorney with the experience to best represent you.
The rainbow at the end of the whole process is very bright and it can be a wonderful journey.