New York is a progressive and reasonable State in relation to its views and laws on adoption. The laws are in place to protect the rights of all parties involved in the adoption process with great emphasis placed upon the best interests of the child.
What is adoption?
Adoption is a legal proceeding where one person (or persons) takes another into the relationship of child and acquires the rights and incurs the responsibilities of parent, in relations to the adopted person.
What are the different types of adoption?
- Agency Adoption. Where the placement of a child is made through an Agency organized under New York State law, authorized to receive children for the purpose of adoption.
- Private-Placement Adoption (sometimes referred to as independent adoption). Any adoption other than an agency placement is a private placement adoption.
- Step-Parent Adoption. An adoption, in which one spouse, in a remarriage, adopts the child or children of the other.
- International Adoption. The adoption by New York residents of children born and living in a foreign country.
Who may adopt?
- Subject to the necessity of being certified by the Court as a qualified adoptive parent(s), an adult unmarried person, an adult married person, an adult married couple together, or any two unmarried adult intimate partners together may adopt another person.
- An adult married person who is legally separated may adopt another person. This does not create any obligation on the nonadopting (separated) spouse.
- A foster parent who has cared for a child continuously for a period of 12 months or more may apply to the authorized agency for adoption. If the child is eligible for adoption, the agency is to give preference and first consideration to the foster parent’s application. The final decision, as in all adoption applications, is at the sole discretion of the Court.
- The unmarried partner of a child’s biological or adoptive parent, whether heterosexual or homosexual, has standing to adopt where both individuals are formally raising the child together as one family.
- An adult or minor married couple together may adopt a child of either of them born in or out of wedlock and an adult or minor spouse may adopt such a child of the other spouse. Subject to the circumstances of the situation, the adoption may depend upon the consent of termination of the rights of the other biological parent. This is commonly known as stepparent adoption.
Who must consent to the adoption?
Unless the Court excuses the consent of a necessary party, the following consents are required to adopt a minor:
- The adoptive child, if over the age of 14;
- Both parents, or the surviving parent, whether adult or minor, of a child conceived or born in wedlock;
- The mother, whether adult or minor, of a child born out of wedlock;
- The natural father of a child born out of wedlock where certain legal criteria have been met, regarding his relationship to the child and/or the natural mother; and
- Any person or authorized agency having lawful custody of the adoptive child.
- (Note: Under certain circumstances, subject to the Court’s determination, the consent of a parent may not be required where he or she indicates an intent to forego his or her parental or custodial rights and obligations. This may be shown by failure for a period of six months to visit the child, or communicate with the child or those persons having legal custody of the child, although able to do so.)
What is the legal effect of adoption?
When the judge signs the Order of Adoption, the relation of parent and child becomes final. At that point, all the rights, duties and other legal obligation of parent and child are established. A new birth certificate will be issued showing the adopting persons as the parents of the child. The original birth certificate will be sealed.
Confidentiality of the adoption process
Although it is common today for adopted children to know of their adoption, the records relating to adoption are sealed by the Court. The adoption file and the information contained in it can only be opened to the appropriate parties upon application to the Court and a showing to the Court of good cause. Mere curiosity is not deemed “good cause.” However, the need for essential medical data may be deemed good cause.
If the adopted child was born in New York State, the birth parent(s) may execute a statutory form indicating whether she and/or he approve that New York State may release to the child a copy of his/her original birth certificate upon obtaining the age of 18. Such approval or disapproval may be amended at any time by the birth parent. Said birth parent (s) may also submit to the Adoption Registry any newly discovered medical information. This is intended to serve the best interest of the child.
New York State presently maintains an Adoption Registry under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Health. Prior to attaining the age of 18, the adopted child may seek and receive only non-identifying information relating to the birth parent(s). However, upon attaining the age of 18, if both said child and the birth parents(s) file with the Registry, each indicating a desire for contact, arrangements may be made to provide appropriate information to the parties.
What should I do if I am seeking to adopt?
Call for a confidential consultation with an attorney at Donnellan & Knussman, PLLC to create an individual legal plan for your adoption.