Family Law

How Does Divorce Affect Adoption?

Adopting a child is an important decision that presumes the child will be accepted into a stable and loving home. When a married couple decides to adopt a child, it is unlikely they are expecting to divorce. However, divorce happens to all parents, including adoptive parents. When divorce occurs during the adoption process, finalization of the adoption can be affected.

Rights and Responsibilities of Adoptive Parents

Adopting a child creates a legal relationship between the parents and the child that lasts a lifetime. The rights and responsibilities of the adoptive parents to care for an adopted child are the same as if the child had been born to them. The adoptive parents have the right to decide on the child's schooling, social activities, and religious practices. They are responsible for caring for the child from day to day, obtaining necessary medical care, and providing a safe and secure home.

Divorce After Adoption

The marriage of adoptive parents can end in divorce just like the marriage of biological parents. The rights and responsibilities of the adoptive parents to their adopted child do not change. As in most divorce cases, the adoptive parents will share legal custody, jointly making important decisions regarding the child's health, education, and welfare. Physical custody of the child may be shared equally. Alternatively, one parent may be granted sole physical custody while the other parent has visitation rights.

Divorce during Adoption

In situations where an adoption has not been finalized, a divorce by the prospective adoptive parents may affect the process. When birth parents are involved in the adoption, their decision to terminate their parental rights may be conditioned on the child being adopted by a married couple. A divorce may give the birth parents a legal reason to halt the process.

If the birth parents' parental rights are terminated before the adoption process begins, they can no longer object to the adoption. However, the court has final approval and will consider how the divorce might affect the adoption. The adoption might proceed as planned, it might be modified so that only one parent adopts the child, or the adoption may be denied.

Adoption and Divorce Involving Same-Sex Couples

Same-sex couples can become adoptive parents and, in some states, they can legally marry. In states that recognize same-sex marriage, a divorce by same-sex adoptive parents normally is handled in the same way as a divorce involving an adoptive heterosexual couple. The situation may become complicated, however, if the same-sex couple moves to a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. The couple may run into legal difficulties dissolving their marriage and establishing the kind of custody plan customarily used in divorces.

A Family Law Attorney Can Help

The law surrounding adoption and divorce is complicated and varies from state to state. 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 a family law lawyer.

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