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Adoption law is governed by each state, as all 50 states have their own statues concerning adoption. Adoption is a process through statutory law in accordance with the laws set by the state where the child and parents reside, in which the natural parents of a child give up any rights or obligations toward their child and the adoptive parents assume these rights and obligations.

When a child is adopted, their birth parents are no longer legally responsible for their child and the new adoptive parents become legally responsible for the child's entire wellbeing, including his health, education and welfare.

Different Types of Adoption

An open adoption is when a biological mother does not give up all of her rights to her child and is allowed visitation rights.

A step-parent adoption can occur under different circumstances, including: if a biological parent dies and the new spouse wants to adopt the child; if the biological parents divorce and a new spouse wants to adopt the child even though the other biological parent is still alive (in this case the other parent must give consent or be deemed an unfit parent to do so); or if a child is born outside marriage, the birth parent later remarries, and the step-parent wants to adopt the child.

Second-parent adoption is when a child is adopted by the unmarried partner of the child's legal parent.

Two-parent adoption is when a child is adopted by an unmarried couple. This is often used by lesbian and gay couples in the handful of states that allow two-parent adoptions.

There are a few little known aspects of adoption, such as:

An adopted “child” doesn't always have to be a minor. If a state's law permits, adults can be adopted by another adult for various reasons, such as having a special and long-term relationship with the person or to avoid a generation-skipping transfer tax.

An adopted child generally no longer has rights to his natural parents' estate.

As of February 12, 2001, the Child Citizenship Act allows for adopted foreign-born children to automatically become U.S. citizens once in the United States. Before, an adopted child remained a citizen of their home country and had to wait for approval from the INS before obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Some states allow biological grandparents rights to an adopted child in certain situations, such as when a biological parent dies, parents divorce or when the child is adopted by a step-parent.

The biological mother does have a window of time and has a period of 48 to 72 hours after birth to change her mind if she later decides not to give consent to the adoption. If she lives in a state that allows the Uniform Adoption Act, she has up until 8 days after giving birth to change her mind about the adoption.

Only in cases when the biological father's identity is unknown can an adoption be finalized without his consent. If his identity later becomes known, a court must decide whether he could assume parental rights and responsibilities.

By Margie Monin           

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