We frequently receive inquires and questions about adoptions at Wilson Law Group. An adoption is when a person or persons legally create a parent-child relationship when there is no parent-child biological relationship. By law, an adopted child has the same rights to inherit, receive social security benefits, and the same protections as biological children. Though each family is different, here are some of the common questions we receive about adoptions:
Can my current spouse or partner adopt my child?
This is a typical scenario that we see at Wilson Law Group. Fortunately, “step-parent” adoptions are generally easier than “regular” adoptions as many of the more costly and time-consuming requirements (such as a home study) are waived. The ease of a step-parent adoption, however, depends on the circumstances regarding the other biological parent. If the other parent is on the child’s birth certificate, the parent petitioning for adoption will have to get the other parent’s permission. This can be done by the other parent signing a specific form of consent to the adoption. If the other parent refuses to consent, or if he or she cannot be found, the parent seeking the adoption will first have to terminate the parental rights of the other parent. In that case, the court will decide if terminating the other parent’s rights is in the child’s best interests. If the court terminates the other parent’s rights, the step-parent adoption can proceed.
If only one parent is listed on the child’s birth certificate (typically the mother) then the step-parent adoption can proceed without consent from the biological father.
It is important to note that in order for a step-parent adoption to occur, the parent seeking the adoption must be legally married to the step-parent. It is not enough to live together or be in a committed relationship.
The step-parent adoption itself, while easier than a regular adoption, is still a complicated process with many steps and requirements. Many documents, such as a petition, affidavits, and checklists have to be filed. Background checks will also be completed for all people living in the home who are over the age of 13. The court will hold at least one hearing to make sure that everyone understands the importance of the proceeding and responsibilities adoption entails. It is imperative that parents seeking a step-parent adoption have the right legal representation to make sure that everything goes smoothly and delays are avoided.
Sometimes, people ask if just changing the last name of the child to the step-parent’s last name is the same as an adoption. It is not. Changing the child’s name does not legally establish a parent-child relationship to the step-parent, but just changes the child’s name. A parent can change a minor child’s last name (or first name) through a separate proceeding. Again, if the other parent is on the birth certificate, the parent seeking the name-change must get the other parent’s consent, or at least notify him or her. The child’s name can also be changed through the adoption proceeding.
I’m a US citizen and want to adopt my sibling/niece/nephew/cousin in order to get him/her immigration status. Can I do that?
The first important question with an adoption for immigration purposes is the age of the child. According to US immigration law, an adoption must be finalized before the child turns 16 years old, in order for the adoptive parent to be able to petition for the adopted child. This means that if your relative is already over the age of 16, an adoption will not help him or her obtain immigration status, though the adoption can still take place.
If the child is under 16 and will not turn 16 before the adoption is finalized, the adoption is the first step in obtaining immigration status for the child. Wilson Law Group is uniquely situated to help families through all parts of this complicated process as we have both dedicated family law attorneys and renowned immigration attorneys. We will work together as a team to ensure that all aspects of the case go as smoothly as possible.
Can I adopt my relative who lives in another country and bring him or her to the United States?
If the adoptee lives in another country, the adoption must take place in the other country and must follow all of the adoption laws of the other country, as well as the requirements of The Hague Convention, if applicable. Once the international adoption has taken place, the child can come to the United States on a special kind of visa and the international adoption decree can be registered in Minnesota.
Can I adopt an adult?
Yes, any person over the age of 18 can be legally adopted. The person to be adopted must consent to the adoption, but no consent is needed from the parents of the person to be adopted. An adult who is a “vulnerable adult” as defined by Minn. Stat. § 626.5572, subd. 21, cannot consent to be adopted.
Parents and families have different motives and reasons for pursuing an adoption and each adoption is unique and presents its own challenges. Contact Wilson Law Group at 612.436.7100 for a free initial consultation regarding your adoption situation.