Adoption can be a long and expensive process. Additional legal requirements apply when the child you wish to adopt is a foster child or a stepchild. Some of these requirements are beneficial to you, while others make the adoption more difficult. Adoption law varies somewhat from state to state.
Foster Children Adoption Differ from Traditional Adoption
The adoption of foster children is usually handled by a state adoption agency. Typically, adopting a foster child is less expensive than adopting other children. Financial help may be available for adoptions of children with special needs. As a foster parent, you might be given preference if your foster child becomes available for adoption. This transition increases stability in the child's life.
Legal Rights and Responsibilities of Adopting a Foster Child
Legal responsibility for (and authority over) a foster child lies with a state child welfare agency. When you adopt a foster child, legal responsibility for the child switches from the agency to you. Once the adoption is final, you will gain full decision-making authority over the child - just as if you were the child's birth parent.
Adoption of a child results in important legal responsibilities. If you get a divorce, for example, a judge may order you to pay child support until your child reaches 18.
Adoption of a Stepchild Requires Parental Consent
Ordinarily, you cannot adopt the child of your spouse without the consent of both of this child's biological parents. Some states require the consent to be in writing, while others require the biological parents to give consent personally in front of a judge.
There are certain exceptions to the consent requirement. Depending on the state, you may not need the consent of a non-custodial parent - the parent the child doesn't live with, if the parent has made no effort to contact the child for a certain period of time. Also, you don't need the parent's consent if their parental rights have already been ended by a court order.
Adoption of a Stepchild Ends the Legal Rights of Biological Parents
Once a biological parent has given up a child for adoption, and the adoption has been finalized, the biological parent loses all legal authority over the child. Usually, the biological parent is also relieved of all legal responsibilities toward the child.
An Adoption Attorney Can Help
The law surrounding adoption of foster children and stepchildren is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an adoption lawyer.