The adoption process involves a plethora of extreme emotions and is a complex, difficult experience. Add to that the legal process involved and that complexity increases rapidly. From a legal standpoint, adoption transfers the parental rights of the birth parents, or less often another legal guardian, to the adoptive parents. Circumstances vary in each case, as do the laws from state to state.
As mentioned, the laws relating to adoption do differ between states, but there are Federal statutes that provide some overarching guidelines and requirements for those State laws. The State laws generally fall into two categories, with distinct issues for each.
Laws Relating to Adoptive Families
– Eligibility: Both individuals and couples can become adoptive parents, provided they are adults, although it should be noted that Mississippi still forbids same-sex couples from doing so. There are additional eligibility laws in some states pertaining to residency and age. With age, some laws specify a certain number, others specify how much older the adoptive parents must be to the adoptee.
– Home Study: While some degree of investigation is generally performed, States have individual standards, parameters and investigating bodies.
– Advertising: While laws regulating adoption advertisements have been established in every state, some are far more restrictive than others. In those states, ads can only be placed by professionals in the field, such as a licensed adoption agency.
– Expenses: For those adoptive families that wish to provide financial assistance to the birth parent, most states allow this within varying guidelines. Some states do restrict certain types of spending or require it all to be reported.
Important Laws for Birth Parents
– Consent: The States mandate the legal procedure for obtaining consent from birth parents. They also determine whether any other parties must consent as well and if consent can be revoked and for how long.
– Rights of the Birth Father: Roughly half of the states provide putative father registries to allow men to discover paternity. This also ensures he is notified of adoption proceedings.
– Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights: States determine the standard that allows parental rights to be forcibly severed. Common motives for this action are abuse or neglect by the parent(s), substance abuse by the parent(s) or abandonment.