1. Effects of Adoption
Adoption can be utilized in a wide variety of situations, from the adoption of a newborn infant by unrelated adoptive parents, to grandparents or stepparents who wish to take on a child as their own. In any case, however, the end result of an adoption is the same: the adoptive parent becomes the child’s legal parent, and all further distinctions such a biological/non-biological, step-parent, etc. are legally disregarded. Once the adoption process is complete, the law sees only the parent-child relationship with no further qualifiers.
The legal relationship established by a successful adoption can also affect many other, non-legal, aspects of the parent-child relationship. The terminology alone can have a psychological impact. For instance, the title of being a “step-parent” may implicitly impact how the parent or child sees their relationship, similar to how there may be an important psychological distinction between the title of “boyfriend/girlfriend” and “husband/wife”.
Similarly, the adoption process itself is a form of ceremonial commitment similar to the transformation to becoming husband and wife. The law requires you to profess certain commitments that are then recognized and enforced by law. The day an adoption is finalized is not so different from the day a couple’s love is cemented in the eyes of the law, or when a person achieves citizenship and all the attendant rights and responsibilities.
Adoption can also help avoid legal issues that accompany profound and unexpected life changes such as death, incapacity, or even divorce. The legal relationship of a step-parent to their step-child is contingent on the step-parent’s relationship to the biological parent. Therefore, as a step-parent, the death of your spouse could legally sever your relationship with your step-children, who may be sent to live with biological relatives. Step-parents may not even have rights of visitation in situations such as this, and the court may appoint a guardian to represent their interests, irrespective of how close of an actual relationship existed between the children and step-parent. Adoption avoids these issues by making the parent-child relationship legally indistinguishable from that of the biological parent.
2. Roadmap to Adoption
The adoption process generally includes the following major components, but the specific requirements of each step, may vary significantly from case to case. An experienced adoption attorney will help you to determine what each step may require in your specific circumstances.
Eligibility of the child and the adoptive parents must be established. Requirements may include the age and ability of the child, the marital status of the adoptive parent(s), or any history of abuse, neglect, or other crimes. This may also include background checks and a home study to determine that a parent or a prospective home is suitable and appropriate for the adoptee.
Every person or entity who has a legal interest in the child must be given the opportunity to be heard on whether the adoption should be permitted or not. This requires that any interested parties be informed of the adoption. They may be the child's biological parents, grandparents, relatives, and others. Additional steps may be necessary in situations where the biological parent cannot be located, refuses to consent, or other cases where notice and consent are not straightforward. If the child has been the subject of any previous court proceedings, it may also be necessary for the court itself to consent to the proposed adoption.
The adoptive parent must ask the court to approve the adoption. In the petition for adoption and at the final hearing, the adoptive parent(s) must demonstrate to the court that all procedures have been followed, including any required consents and notices. If the court believes that all required procedures have been followed, including any consents and notices, then the court should grant the adoptive parent’s petition if it finds that it would be in the best interests of the child.
3. After the Hearing
Once the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parent(s) become the legal parent(s) of the child. You should obtain copies of the certified court order as proof of this fact. Some courts will not issue certified copies after the day of the hearing, so it is important to request these ahead of time. The order can be used to change the child’s name, obtain a new birth certificate, and accomplish similar administrative tasks.