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Oregon Adoption & Guardianship
Adoption of Children

When a child is adopted, the birth parent's rights are terminated and the adoptive parent is the child's legal parent. Adoption is permanent. If a couple adopts a child and later divorces, each must realize that either party could be awarded custody of the adopted child or be ordered to pay child support. Adoption files are sealed to protect all involved. However, Oregon maintains a voluntary adoption registry and in certain restricted circumstances, birth parents may obtain identifying information about their adopted child, and an adopted child over the age of 18 may obtain identifying information about his or her birth parents.

Except in stepparent and relative adoptions, a formal home study is required at the expense of the prospective adoptive parents. Usually, a pre-placement study is required before a child can be placed in your home.

An adoption usually requires the consent of both birth parents. However, consent of either or both parents may be waived upon a showing of willful neglect or abandonment for a period of one year or more before filing.

Oregon has strict standards about what money may be paid to a birth parent in connection with an adoption. Violation of these standards may result in the denial of a petition for adoption.

Recent legislation entitles adoptive parents to a substantial tax credit for legal and other adoption costs. This credit is not available in stepparent adoptions.

In adoptions generally and particularly in open adoptions, it is essential that both birth parents and adoptive parents have independent attorneys. This is to make sure that any consents are voluntary and not coerced, and any open adoption agreements are in the child's best interest.

Guardianship of Children
A guardianship may be ordered by a court where a child's needs are not being met by a birth parent. A guardianship does not result in termination of parental rights, and may be continued or terminated by the court as the situation of the child or birth parents changes. A temporary guardianship may also be established without court intervention by the signed agreement of the child's custodian. A temporary guardianship usually cannot be longer than six months.

In a guardianship proceeding, formal notice must be given to the birth parents, a child over the age of 14, and any recent guardian of the child. If the guardianship is objected to, the court will schedule a hearing to determine the fitness of the child's parents and where the child should be placed.

After a guardianship is ordered, the guardian has full custodial rights over the child and required to provide for the child's care, comfort and maintenance. The guardian has no formal obligation to provide financial support to the child, but may seek child support from the child's estate or birth parents. A guardian is required to file a yearly report with the court.

Guardianships may be modified or ended with court approval.

Adoptions - General
Adoption is a legal process by which a natural or birth parent's rights are terminated and the adoptive parent becomes a child's legal parent. Adoption is permanent. Adoption generally concerns minor children but persons over age 18 may also be adopted, with their consent.

Adoption by Stepparents
A stepparent may adopt a minor child with the consent of the child's birth parents. In most cases, a petition for adoption is filed jointly by the stepparent and stepparent's spouse, who is the birth mother or birth father of the child. If the consent of the other parent can be obtained, the adoption process is relatively swift and inexpensive. However, if the other parent objects, it will be necessary to show that he or she has neglected or abandoned the child for a period of one year or more. In some cases, the dispute is resolved by entering into an open adoption. In an open stepparent adoption, the stepparent assumes the role of the child's birth parent. The former birth parent retains a relationship, sometimes involving contact or access to records, which is spelled out by a legally enforceable agreement.

In some circumstances, where both birth parents are unable or unwilling to parent a minor child, a stepparent may seek to adopt the child. Consent of both birth parents is required, or the stepparent must show that the non-consenting parent has neglected or abandoned the child for a year or more. Alternatively, a stepparent may wish to obtain custody of the child through the psychological parent statute. In these cases, a birth parent's consent is not required, but the stepparent must show that compelling circumstances justify the custody award.

Open Adoptions
In an open adoption, a birth parent or grandparent can maintain minimal or substantial contact with a child. In some cases, periodic reports concerning the child's health and progress are made and photos are sent. An open adoption agreement is enforceable by the court if it is in the child's best interests but does not affect the validity or permanence of an adoption. In some cases, an open adoption may not only benefit the child and adoptive parents but also ease the difficult decision by a birth parent to consent to an adoption.

The court has the power to modify an open adoption agreement if necessary to serve the adopted child's best interests. This may mean increasing, decreasing or modifying the contact terms between the child and former legal parent. Mediation is mandatory before seeking modification of an open adoption agreement.

In adoptions generally and particularly in open adoptions, it is essential that both birth parents and adoptive parents have independent attorneys. This is to make sure that any consents are voluntary and not coerced, and any open adoption agreements are in the child's best interest.

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Oregon Courts decide child custody when the parents cannot. The court considers the best interests of the child when making a ruling. Child support payments are based on an income shares model. Each parent is required to contribute financially to their child's upbringing and each person's share is calculated in proportion to their income. Each parent must provide copies of his or her W-2s to verify income. Along with the income statements, the court considers each parent's ability to borrow funds, earning capacity, and the child's needs. The court may order the parent paying child support to buy a life insurance policy and keep it in force so that the child will still be supported if the parent dies before he or she reaches the age of majority.
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