Recently on our legal forum an individual asked, “I have recently divorced my spouse and I am now considering becoming a single parent. How do I find out if I can legally adopt in my state?”
Who can adopt a child?
All states, including the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands have specific laws regarding who is legally allowed to adopt a child within the state. If you have specific questions about your rights to adopt you can review your state’s statutes or discuss your options with a family law attorney.
Below we will discuss some general consideration.
What do I need to know about adoption?
- You must meet the eligibility requirements of your state.
As mentioned above, whether or not you are eligible to adopt will vary by state. In general, states allow individuals to adopt as a single adult, jointly with their spouse (and in some states with a partner), or adopt the birth child of his or her spouse. In some states, an individual who is legally separated or married to a legally incompetent spouse may also adopt.
- You must meet the age requirements for adoption.
Not surprisingly, state laws also identify an age limit for those considering adoption. For example, some states will require the adopting parent to be at least 18 (i.e. Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Washington) and other states (i.e. Colorado, Delaware, and Oklahoma) require the adopting parent to be at least 21 years of age.
Other states have additional requirements such as the adopting parent must be at least 10 years older than the adoptee (i.e. California, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Utah), 14 years older than the adoptee (i.e. Puerto Rico) or 15 years older than the adoptee (i.e. Idaho).
- You must meet the residency requirements.
Finally, you will also have to meet the residency requirements of your state. For Example, approximately 17 States, including Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands require that petitioners for adoption be state residents.
Other states allow exceptions for residents if the child is special needs or the nonresident completes the adoption through an adoption agency. Additionally, the period to establish residency in a state can also vary from sixty days up to one year.
Adopting parents who do not meet all of the requirements for their state will be barred from adoption.
How do I find my state’s adoption laws?
Each state is considered a separate sovereign and has their own state government, state constitution, and state courts. Just like at the federal level, states also have legislative branches of governments which create and pass state statutes.
To find information about your state’s adoption laws you can review your state’s adoption statutes. For example, in the State of Arizona adoption information is found in the Adoption Citation: Rev. Stat. § 8-103. The statute clearly states that “any adult resident of the State, whether married, unmarried, or legally separated, is eligible to adopt. A husband and wife may jointly adopt.”
Other states will also have similar statutes which should clearly indicate the criteria for adoption within the state.
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