Family Law FAQ

Who May Become an Adoptive Parent?

Any adult or minor child may be adopted as long as the individual is free to be adopted. An individual is considered free to be adopted if the statutory consent requirements have been satisfied. Generally, consent is required from the child (if over 12), the biological parents (if living, or surrendering parental rights of one or both parents may be required) and the guardian (if there is one).

  • Adoption has become increasingly more common for gays and lesbians. This may be as a single parent or as a couple. Almost all states permit homosexual parents (gay or lesbian) to adopt. Although the law differs regarding adoption by homosexual/gay/lesbian parents from state to state, generally, the role of adoption is to give as many children good homes as possible and many courts uphold this goal.
  • Generally, there is no law against a single person (heterosexual or homosexual) adopting another individual. However, if the adoptive parent is married (and not the legal parent of the adoptee), some jurisdictions may require the spouses to file a joint adoptive petition.
  • An adult may adopt another adult or emancipated minor if the adoptee is not his or her spouse. The purpose of an adult adoption is to make the adoptee the adoptive parents’ heir at law. Some states have specific statutory requirements for adult adoptions and generally, the courts will look at the presence of a parent-child relationship before approving the adoption.
  • A stepparent may petition to adopt a child if the stepparent’s spouse has sole custody of the child, or has joint legal custody of the child. Consent to the adoption is required by the stepchild (if 12 or over), the child’s biological parents or the child’s legal guardian.
  • A grandparent may also adopt his or her grandchild. Grandparents are legally capable to adopt; however, there may be some special concerns for the court to consider. Some concerns are life expectancy or age of the grandparent, health concerns and the state law that would govern. Some states have statutes regarding grandparents as adoptive parents.

What is the difference between closed and open adoptions?

  • Traditionally, closed adoptions were the standard type of adoption. In a closed adoption, the birth parents do not choose the adoptive parents. Nor do they have any contact with them. After the adoption has taken place, there is no contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents, such as photos, updates or meetings. The adoption is usually handled by an agency and the birth parents records are sealed. In the past, this meant total secrecy. However, due to lack of access to medical records, more information may be shared with the adoptee and the adoptive parents. The amount of information shared depends on the wishes of the birth parents, adoptive parents and the state laws regarding closed adoption.
  • Recently, open adoptions have been used more frequently. Open adoptions can range from sharing the names and contact information of birth parents and adoptive parents to a meeting between the parents. There are also open adoptions where the birth parents select the adoptive parents based on their information or even interviews. Additionally, the birth and adoptive parents may create an agreement to lay out the rights of the parents, amount/type of communication before the birth and any contact after the birth. In an open adoption, there may also be agreements regarding post adoption rights for the birth parents, visitation and grandparent visitation.

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