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Adoption Overview

Deciding whether to adopt a child or place a child up for adoption presents a difficult set of considerations. Knowing the rules for adoption before you enter the adoption process will help ensure that you make the correct decision for everyone involved. Below, you will find introductory and basic information on adoption rules -- including a look at who may adopt, who may place a child up for adoption, state-specific adoption laws, the adoption process, the costs of adoption and more.

Who May Adopt?

Generally speaking any single adult or married couple is eligible to adopt. In some states a married person can adopt alone if they are legally separated from their spouse or if their spouse is legally incompetent. Stepparents may generally adopt the birth children of their spouse. Some states have restrictions based on age or residency within the state.

Gay and lesbian couples may face additional resistance when attempting to adopt. Florida and Mississippi have laws prohibiting adoption by homosexuals and Utah bars adoption by couples who cohabit but are not married. In some states, such as Connecticut, the sexual orientations of prospective parents may be considered, though state law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Who Can Be Adopted?

States have a variety of rules that guide who may be adopted. All states and territories permit the adoption of a child. Many states permit adoption regardless of the age of the person being adopted. Some states require that the child be under 18 years of age, other states require that the adopting person be a particular number of years older than the adopted person, requiring age differences that range from 10-15 years.

Some states restrict the adoption of adults to persons who are disabled. Other states require that the adopting parent and child to be adopted cohabit or establish a parent/child relationship for a period prior to the petition ranging from month to years, depending on the state.

Types of Adoptions

The process of adoption or the parties involved may differ depending on the circumstances and laws relevant to individual circumstances.

Some adoptions involve family members. Stepparents may adopt their stepchildren or family members may seek to adopt a grandchild, niece, or nephew due to the death or incapacitation of the birth parents. These adoptions tend to be easier than those involving parties that are not related.

Other adoptions may take place with the assistance of an agency, may be privately arranged but processed by an agency in an "adoption by identification," or the birth parents and adoptive parents may come to a private arrangement termed an "independent adoption." Not all states permit independent adoptions.

International adoptions have been quite popular, though they also introduce additional issues having to do with U.S. immigration and the requirements of your state of residence.

Legal Assistance

Adoptions are notoriously complicated and the assistance of an agency and an attorney are both frequently helpful. Experienced assistance can help you avoid costly and time-consuming errors that can ultimately jeopardize your ability to successfully adopt a child.

Learn About Adoption Overview