Being a parent can be an amazing experience. While most people have biological children, many people adopt. Either way, the parent-child relationship can be just as rewarding. We love doing adoption cases and would be happy to handle yours. For a family law lawyer, adoptions are the best, feel-good cases. There is conflict in many of our other types of cases, like divorce and custody matters. So, when we can end a case with a room full of smiling family members, it’s a good day for us. If you’re thinking about adopting a child, it’ll be helpful to learn the basics of the legal process.
What is Adoption?
Adoption in Massachusetts is a court decision that creates a legal family relationship between people. It can involve one person taking another person’s child into her or his own family. This includes treating the child as one’s own and giving that child the rights one would give to one’s own child. So, when you legally adopt a child, the child is just as much yours as if you’d given birth to him or her.
In Massachusetts, any person over the age of 18 may start a case to adopt a person who is younger than him or her. But, the person who wants to adopt cannot adopt his or her wife or husband, brother, sister, or uncle or aunt. Further, a minor can file a case to adopt, or join his or her wife or husband’s case, for the adoption of a natural child of one of the parties. Adult adoptions are valid in Massachusetts. And, out-of-state residents can adopt a child living in Massachusetts.
Before starting the legal process, you should consider the extent and relative permanency of adopting a child. As a legal parent, you’ll have to support your child. This means you may have to pay child support if you and your spouse divorce. You may need to pay that support until the child turns 23. You may also have to help pay for, or fully pay for, the college expenses of the child you adopted. These obligations, and many others, are part of being a parent in Massachusetts. Like all important decisions in this world, adopting a child has benefits and risks. You should think through your decision. So, it’s wise (and free) to meet with a family law attorney to discuss the issue before making a final decision.
The Adoption Process
If you decide adoption is for you, the process begins by filing a petition for adoption. Preferably, you’ll file with a skilled family law attorney’s help. On the petition form, the person filing the case declares that he or she is capable of raising the child. The person filing the case also declares that she or he is able to provide suitable support and education for the child.
In the case of children under 14 who are not being adopted by a blood parent, step-parent, or someone who was nominated as guardian in the natural parent’s will, the Department of Children and Families must be involved.
As with most other issues in family law, the court takes into account a number of factors in making a decision in adoption cases. The judge considers the child’s need for loving and caring parents. The judge also takes into account issues like the child’s physical, mental and moral health. You may see how having a family law lawyer could be helpful for the case, especially this part.
Usually, the public can watch almost every type of court hearing. However, adoption cases are not typically open to the public and are generally confidential. When a hearing is about to begin, the family law judge may clear a courtroom of all those not involved in the adoption.
Requirements of Adoption: Consent and Notice
Under Massachusetts law, the following people must give written consent before the adoption:
- the child to be adopted, if older than twelve;
- the child’s spouse, if any;
- the lawful parents (biological or previous adoptive parents, or surviving parent);
- and the mother, if the child was born out of wedlock and was not previously adopted.
The soonest someone can give consent is four days after the child is born. Sometimes, a court may waive the need for consent. A court may waive consent if the child is over the age of 18 or if the court decides that it’s in the best interest of the child to waive consent.
The Adoption Decree
If the court decides to allow the adoption, it’ll issue a decree of adoption. This decree terminates the parental rights and duties of the child’s natural or prior adoptive parents. It also allows for the child to become the legal child of the adoptive parent(s). The decree says the adoption is “final and irrevocable.” So, we advise that you speak with a lawyer about the “final and irrevocable” issue.
Along with the decree of adoption, the court issues a certificate of adoption. Further, the court may issue a name change of the adopted child if the petitioner asks for it.
Hiring Turco Legal as Your Adoption Attorney
Most court cases may not require the help of a lawyer. Yet, the benefits of hiring a family law lawyer outweigh the risks, in my humble opinion. You likely want to get through the process quickly and without problems. If that’s the case, having an attorney by your side who knows the process can be key.
To learn about how the law applies to your case, schedule a free consult with our office. To schedule a consult, call us at (978) 225-9030.