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Even the happiest family dreams, like expanding your family through adoption, may have a few legal i’s to dot and t’s to cross before they can become a reality. And as every family is different, each adoption may present its own set of legal hurdles to clear. The adoption process can be emotionally and legally complex, so it’s best to understand how adoption works beforehand so you can make the right decisions for yourself or your family. Whether you’re adopting a toddler or a teenager, from the United States or abroad, FindLaw's Adoption section can provide legal information and resources for prospective adoptive parents, birthmothers, and adoptees.

This section contains in-depth information on the adoption process – from locating an adoptable child to overcoming obstacles to adoption – as well as helpful facts related to adoptive parenting, adoption consent, international adoption, adoption by same-sex couples, and more. This section also provides links to adoption agencies, tips on hiring an adoption lawyer, and a step-by-step adoption checklist. Here you can find comprehensive information and tools to help you get prepared to begin or complete the adoption process.

How to Adopt

If you’ve made the decision to adopt, the next step is figuring out the logistics. First, every state requires a home study process: a series of interviews and home visits intended to evaluate the suitability or the adoptive parent or family, educate and prepare prospective parent(s), and appropriately place adoptees in the proper environment. Once you’ve been cleared to adopt, the next step is locating a child who’s available for adoption. While licensed adoption agencies may be your best source of adoption information, you can also consult with friends, relatives, or doctors, or volunteer to be a foster parent through a charity or government organization.

Finally, there are the adoption court procedures that must be fulfilled. All adoptions must be handled and approved by an adoption court to provide proper notice for all parties and ensure that all the legal requirements are met. In just about every adoption court proceeding, the court judge will follow the “best interests of the child” standard when deciding whether to approve the adoption.

Types of Adoption

Your needs and abilities as an adoptive parent will, to some extent determine who you will adopt, which will also affect what type of adoption you’ll choose. While agency adoptions are the norm, you may also have the option of an independent adoption which has its own advantages and disadvantages. The same is true for international adoptions, which can carry added regulations and restrictions, and open adoptions, wherein adoptive parents meet and possibly stay in touch with birth parents. Determining which type of adoption is right for you should be a careful and well-considered process.

Same-Sex Adoption

While the legal rights for same-sex couples have been expanding, same-sex couples who want to adopt may still encounter legal difficulties depending on where they live. Not every state guarantees the right of same-sex couples to adopt – some state laws are mute on the issue, and some states prohibit it outright. While many of these bans are currently facing legal challenges themselves, you should be familiar with the law and policies in your state regarding same-sex couples.

Legal Help for Adoptions

In some cases, an adoption agency may provide prospective parents with an attorney. If not, it may be a good idea to consult an attorney for assistance with your adoption petition and representing you during adoption court hearings. An experienced adoption attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities as an adoptive parent and handle many of the tougher legal aspects of adoption for you.