As we look forward to the holidays and hopefully spending time with family, it’s good to remember that not everyone is so fortunate to have biological family members in their lives. Thankfully, though, families can be chosen as well as biological. And a perfect time to raise awareness about adoption is in November, which has been designated Adoption Month in the United States.
Most of the time, when hearing the word “adoption,” people think of just one type: the scenario in which the birth parents have surrendered their parental rights and an agency helps find the child new adopted parents in their own country or internationally. This method of adoption requires considerable legal work, but there are several other types of adoption as well, all of which necessitate the help of an experienced attorney.
Step-parent adoption is the most common type in the United States
Consider the scenario of a woman who already has children, then gets married to the man she loves. The man becomes a step-father, but this isn’t the same thing as being an adoptive father. Children can have only two legal parents, so in order for the step-father to adopt his step-children, he must essentially receive the parental rights granted to the biological father. This can happen in three ways:
- Obtaining permission from the biological father (who forfeits his parental rights)
- Petitioning for parental rights because the biological father has died
- Proving that the biological father has disappeared and is not at all involved in his children’s lives (usually requires demonstration that there has been no contact or financial support for a certain period of time
It is worth mentioning that the genders can be reversed in the scenario above, but it is far more common for step-fathers to become adoptive parents rather than step-mothers.
Other types of adoption
There are three other types of adoption to note as well, including:
- Adoptive parents being chosen by the birth parents specifically to take the child or children
- Children being adopted by family members other than their parents (like grandparents or older siblings, for instance)
- Children who become eligible for adoption because their biological parents have been stripped of parental rights by a court order (after being deemed unfit parents). These kids may spend time in foster homes before getting adopted.
Not all adoption circumstances are joyful, but each can lead to great outcomes if children are placed with the right adoptive parents in the right homes. In all cases, however, it is important to seek the help of an experienced family law attorney to ensure that all legal matters related to the adoption are completely and thoroughly resolved.