Adoption Laws

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Adoption laws are the first priority in your list of what's involved in adopting a child. The laws of each state vary, of course. A number of federal statutes come into play as well. Some of them are specifically adoption laws, such as the rights of putative or unwed fathers, adoption subsidies, and adoption of American Indian children. You must comply with both federal and state adoption laws in order to adopt.

State law means both statutes and case law. The first are legislatively enacted provisions establishing policy or practice (procedure). The second are rules of law made by judges who decide on litigation. You can find both statutory and case law in electronic legal databases and law libraries.

What Adoption Laws Cover

The first aspect of adoption laws pertains to the adoption itself. It establishes criteria under which a child may be put up for adoption (consent), who may put a child up for adoption, who may be adopted, and eligibility for adoptive parents. Statutory state law also regulates expenses, including birth parent expenses, agency fees, and costs. It can stipulate restrictions on activities of intermediaries (between birth and adoptive parents) and what those fees may be. It defines all reporting, both financial and otherwise, before and after adoption.

A second aspect of adoption laws, perhaps the one most frequently thought of, relates to accessing adoption records. Most are sealed by state law when the adoption is finalized. Sealed records, for the most part, can be opened only with court permission for "good cause." Sealed records contain both non-identifying information, such as social and medical data, and identifying information, such as the names and birth dates of the birth parents.


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