Q: How can my spouse adopt my child from a previous relationship?
- A:Adoption laws vary a lot from state to state, and adoption is an area of law where technical compliance with the law is very important. You’d be wise to at least consult with a qualified local adoption attorney for specifics about the law in your state.
A stepparent adoption usually requires that the parent whose relationship and rights are being terminated consent to the adoption. Usually the parent must sign a document consenting to the adoption, and usually the parent has a “window” of time in which to void that document, or the custodial parent has a time period in which to bring the adoption action before the court. In some states, the document may not be revoked once it’s signed by the parent.
If the parent won’t sign the document, a court will need to approve the termination of the parent’s relationship and rights. This may not even be possible in some states, depending on state law.
Even when a parent has consented, a court will need to find the adoption to be in the child’s best interest. The factors the court will look at vary by state law. The stability of the custodial parent’s marriage is one factor, and courts generally will not allow an adoption into a brand new marriage.
The adoption will normally terminate almost all ties that the parent has to the child, and provide those ties to the adoptive parent. These ties include rights to custody and visitation, the obligation to provide support, and, frequently, inheritance rights of the child and the adults.
Many states require that a child of a certain age – usually in their teens – also consent to the adoption.
Q: Can I collect child support if my husband has adopted my son?
- A:In many states, your ex-husband has no obligation to support your son after the adoption. However, the adoption normally wouldn’t alter any child support arrearage that accumulated before the adoption, so your ex-husband would still be liable for support that was unpaid prior to the adoption.
The adoption terminates the legal relationship between the parent and the child, and creates a legal relationship between the adoptive parent and the child. It is that relationship which is the source of the obligation to pay support.
Q: I was adopted shortly after my birth. Am I able to access my adoption records?
- A:Accessing adoption records will depend on the relevant state’s law. Some states protect the privacy of birth parents by allowing them to seal the records. Such records can only be opened with the consent of the birth parents. Other states allow the adopted child to access the records. State law may require that the adopted child be a certain age before allowing access to the records.
Q: Will I be able to contact my grandson after he’s adopted?
- A:An adoption normally will terminate the relationship between the child and the parent, and it works to terminate the legal relationships between the child and other relatives also. So even if your state has a “grandparent’s rights” statute, you may not be a grandparent” for the purpose of the law.
It’s possible the parents of the child may allow contact; it’s possible they will not. If they do not want any contact and you are persisting, you may be violating the law.
Because adoption law and grandparent rights law is almost entirely state law, you really should consult with an attorney in the relevant state.