Family Law and Adoption: What You Need to Know

If you are thinking of adopting a child, you may be looking for information on family law and adoption. Because adoption laws vary from state to state, the information can be a bit overwhelming. The best starting point is to know what you are up against, where you can go for further information and where you can get the number of a good adoption attorney.

United States Adoption Laws vary by State
The laws regarding adoption are determined by each state. Many states have adopted parts of The Uniform Adoption Act, which is a set of guidelines that was originally designed to be accepted and ratified by all states. It sought to standardize adoption practices across the United States. Most states however, have added to or amended this act to form their own state adoption law.

Some areas in which states differ in their adoption law are the age that children must be before their wishes about adoption are considered, the number of days that a person has to reconsider the relinquishing of a child for adoption, the rights of birth fathers and the rights of adopted children to know about their birth families.

Adoption law exists to protect the welfare of children. All states have laws that prevent children from being sold for adoption. Some states allow the birth mother or a surrogate mother to be paid a reasonable amount for expenses. This is an extremely complex legal area, and if you are adopting privately, you must have an attorney to help you sort through adoption law in your state.

You can read your state laws on adoption by going to your state government Web site. http://laws.adoption.com/ allows you to access each state's adoption laws.

Adoption law in each state is frequently amended and can be interpreted differently at different times by state courts. Therefore, it is imperative for anyone considering adoption to hire a competent adoption attorney from the state where the child resides. This lawyer will make sure that your adoption moves smoothly and correctly.

Federal Adoption Laws
There are two federal laws in place to help standardize the adoption process. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a federal adoption law that states that a child adopted in another state will have the same legal rights and benefits as the state he or she resides in.The Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) is the other federal adoption law. This act prohibits discrimination in the adoption process by sex, race, color or national origin.

American Indian Adoption Law
A child who is a member of a Native American tribe or eligible to be a member of a tribe falls under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978. This act allows the tribe's wishes to be considered in the placement of the child. Since tribal eligibility and membership vary from tribe to tribe, you should retain an adoption lawyer who is familiar with Indian law when considering the adoption of a Native American child.

Adopting from Another Country
Many people are interested in adopting a child from another country. Each country has its own adoption law. Some countries require that you use an attorney from the country; others will allow American attorneys familiar with the country's adoption law to assist you.

The State Department of the United States cannot help you adopt a child from another country, intervene on your behalf or advise you legally on another country's adoption law. However, they have put together information on the adoption policies of many countries and can advise you on getting a visa for a child.

The Office of Children's Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs can send you brochures that will explain the adoption process in numerous countries. For more information visit http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/adoption_485.html

If an American citizen legally adopts a child in another country, the United States recognizes the adoption as legal. The child and its parents do not have to go through adoption procedures in the United States.

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