Adoption Law in Massachusetts

  • By:Karpenski & Schmelkin

Adopting a child is a wonderful experience.  Adoption is, however, a complex process and you must follow the laws exactly.  If you are located in the state of Massachusetts and are looking to adopt, you not only need to know the laws, but you should also have legal representation to guide you through the process. Here’s some general  information on Adoption:

Types of Adoptions

If you are looking to adopt a child there are four (4) types of adoptions, you should be aware of. They are as follows:

  1. Domestic infant adoptions;
  2. International adoptions;
  3. Adoptions from foster care; and
  4. Co-parent adoption

Massachusetts is an Agency State. That means that if you are looking to adopt a child you must be placed with a child either through a private agency or the Department of Children and Families.

Those Eligible for Adoption

A married couple that wishes to adopt a child in Massachusetts must do so jointly. Single individuals are also able to adopt in Massachusetts. If a couple is adopting, however, it is required that they be married for at least two years prior to adopting.

No matter what the marital status, gender or sexual orientation one has, it is essential that the prospective adoptive parent be a legal adult. Generally, there are no specific age requirements, but adoption professionals tend to prefer prospective adoptive parents to be between the ages of 22 and 50.

Children Eligible for Adoption

Generally, any person younger than the individual or couple adopting can be adopted in Massachusetts. However, if the child is 12 or older, the child must give consent to be legally adopted. If the court finds that adoption is in the best interest of the child, however, consent from that child is not required. Usually, the court will consent to the adoption if the child 12 or older comes from a home with unfit parents.

Some of the Requirements for Adoption

Surrender of the Legal Parent’s Rights

The legal parents of the child must sign a written consent to the adoption. The earliest the written consent cannot be entered into is the fourth day after the child is born.

Termination of parental rights:

Where the legal parents do not sign the surrender form, their parental rights must be terminated by court order.

The Court must find that the parent(s) who has not signed the surrender form is unfit. This is a very standard in Massachusetts and there are a variety of factors the Court will consider. Some of the facts the Court will consider are as follows:

• The child has been abandoned by their parents
• The child has been abused or neglected by their parents
• The child has been living apart from his/her parents for at least six months and the parents don’t have contact with the child
• The child is four years old or older and has been in the custody of the Commonwealth for at least one year out of the past15 months and can’t return to their parents
• The child is four or older and in the Commonwealth’s  custody for at least six months and cannot be returned to their parents
• The child’s birth parent has not made an effort to fix a problem that put the child in harm’s way
• The child’s birth parent suffers from a verified  mental illness, alcoholism or drug abuse, which makes them unable to properly care for the child
• The child’s birth parent is a convicted felon who will be unable to provide the child with a stable home life for a period of time
• There is a history of misconduct on the part of the parent to the child that would place the child in harm

Home Study

Prospective adoptive parents must engage in a home study which includes providing documentation and allowing in-home visits which include an inspection of the home and family interviews with a Massachusetts home study adoption professional.

The home inspection is done to ensure that the prospective adoptive parent(s) are prepared to provide a child with a safe and healthy environment.  The home study professional will inspect the home and look for safety features including:

  • Windows with screens and locks
  • Working smoke and carbon dioxide detectors
  • Gates for stairs or pools
  • Covers on electrical outlets
  • Storing toxic materials like chemicals, cleaners, and medicine out of the reach of children
  • And more

A home doesn’t need to be “perfect,” and prospective adoptive parents will not be barred from adopting if a few safety features are missing.  In fact, the home study professional will often help prospective adoptive parents by giving pointers onhow to prepare for a child prior to placement.

Health Requirements for Adopting

Individuals and couples who are looking to adopt a child in Massachusetts are required to submit health records during their home study. This is necessary to ensure that the prospective adoptive parents are both mentally and physically able to care for a child.

Financial Adoption Requirements

Individuals and couples who want to adopt a child are also required to submit financial records for their home study. These documents are necessary to ensure that the prospective parents are financially stable and can provide for all the child’s financial needs. It isn’t required for the prospective adoptive parent(s) to be wealthy, but they must be able to meet basic financial needs.

It’s important to remember that the court will always consider the best interests of the child first. This is to ensure that the child has the best possible family situation.

If you are looking to an adopt a child, it is important that you have the assistance of an experienced Adoption Attorney. For exceptional assistance, contact the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Karpenski & Schmelkin Divorce and Family Law Attorneysto help you build your family.

Posted in: Child Custody