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The Divorce Encyclopedia

Term Definition Adoption - a legal process by which a child’s rights and duties toward his or her natural parents are severed and similar rights and duties are substituted toward his or her adoptive parents.
Application in Divorce Adoption law is entirely statutory because it is unknown in common law.

Most adoptions are done by heterosexual couples who raise the child as their own. Adopted children can be placed with them independently, which means as a result of private negotiations between the parents and the birth mother, or by way of a agency, which acts as a placement agent, often for a young woman who gives up her child for any number of reasons. At one time, adoption records were sealed to protect the identity of the woman who placed her child for adoption since these placements were almost always done by unwed mothers. The policy behind adoption remains the benevolent assumption that a childless couple who provides a loving home for a child is better prepared for parenthood than a single women without a husband and the resources required.

In adoption law, the rights of the natural parents must terminated before the child is adopted. This termination happens under the terms and conditions of the jurisdiction’s adoption statute and varies from state to state.

Today gay couples of both sexes frequently desire to adopt the children from their partner’s previous relations and marriages. Some but not all states recognize a stepparent’s ability to adopt the child of his or her spouse without divesting the spouse of his or her parental rights. These accommodations are commonly called second-parent adoptions. Most states have created exemptions from the termination proviso "where the party seeking to adopt a child is a stepparent and married to child’s parent." The stepparent exception preserves the rights of the child’s parent "when he or she does not intend to relinquish his or her parental rights but only seeks to allow his or her current spouse to share in these rights."

International adoptions, which have become increasingly popular since the end of the Cold War, are much more complicated than domestic family adoptions. Aspiring parents must surmount three separate sets of hurdles. These are as follows: 1) the law of the country where the child resides; 2) the requirements of the United State Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); and 3) the adoption laws of the jurisdiction in which they reside.

Intercountry adoptions require that the prospective parents meet the fitness requirements of the United States government and that the child has been properly relinquished. Normally the children of intercountry adoptions are orphans, not children placed for adoption as in domestic placement in the United States.

Care must be taken because a legal adoption in the country of residence of the child does not automatically make him or her eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.

Intercountry adoption is complex, time-consuming (it can take up to two years) and sometimes frustrating.

The United States recognizes the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, a multinational treaty establishing uniform international legal procedures to intercountry adoptions.

In a divorce, of course, adopted children enjoy the same rights and protections of biological children.

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