Adoption Law

Family Lawer Missoula - St. Peters Law Offices P.C.

Adoption Law

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Family Lawyer:

Linda St. Peter has been practicing adoption law for over 30 years and loves working in this area. It is a very positive area of law in which we are creating families, providing security and support to our children. It is a privilege to assist in that process. Linda views adoption as an act of love: a loving act by the birth parents and the adopting parents. Adoptions are welcomed in the courtroom. It is a happy event that our judges are pleased to preside over.

The Montana Legislature has passed supportive laws that have made adoptions easier to accomplish. There are stepparent adoptions, private adoptions (which include interstate and intercounty adoptions), agency adoptions, adult adoptions, and contested adoptions.

Under various circumstances, women often find themselves raising their children without the financial support of their child’s father or the additional emotional support that their children need. For children, a sense of belonging is important to their sense of security and development. Family members and friends often step forward to fill the void created by the absent parent. Under Montana law, these wonderful family members and friends can formalize their relationship with a child through a stepparent adoption. In this process, the adopting individual does not have to be a stepparent but may be an “extended family member” such as a grandparent, uncle, aunt, brother or sister. Even a close friend who has the consent of the custodial parent may proceed with a stepparent adoption.

Through the adoption, the children acquire a legally recognized parent who may now extend not only emotional support but financial support as well. The child may now receive health insurance through the adoptive parent as well as inheritance and other governmental benefits and support made available to legal dependents. Montana encourages the creation of families through adoptions. This encouragement is shown through the ease in which the adoption process has been legislated and in the tax deductions allowed on both the state and federal tax returns for all adoption related expenses. Our children deserve strong, supportive families. Strong families build responsible communities. Stepparent adoption is a relatively inexpensive means to strengthen the identity and security of our children and our families.

Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoptions are quite common and affordable. Traditionally, we think of stepparent adoption as a situation in which a stepparent is adopting their spouses’ child. However, it is broader than that. Stepparent adoption refers to the adoption of a child by an “extended family member.” This could be the grandparent to the child or an uncle, aunt or even a close family friend. Because it is a stepparent adoption and one of the birth parents retains his or her parental rights, the usual six-month waiting period may be waived. With the consent of the stepparent’s spouse and the consent of the child’s birth parent whose parental rights are terminated, the stepparent may be able in a matter of a couple of weeks obtain an adoption decree.

Private Placement (Direct Parental Placement)

No agency is involved in making the placement. In Montana, parties independently find each other.  Still requires a home study and disclosures.

Foster to Adopt 

The child becomes a ward of the state through an abuse and neglect proceeding and placed in foster care.  The state allows the foster parents to adopt the children.  The state is a party and must consent in these adoption proceedings.

Agency Adoption

Placement of a child by a public or private agency licensed or regulated by the state.

Interstate Adoption

An adoption in which the child and the adoptive parents reside in different states. Follow the rules of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. Exceptions to the ICPC include sibling/grandparent/guardian adoptions.

International Adoption

International adoption must be conducted through an agency. The Hague convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of InterCountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) is an international agreement to safeguard inter-country adoptions.

Adult Adoption

Adoption of an adult by an adult.  Consent of natural parent not required but notice still provided.

Putative Father Registry

One of the ways in which the Montana Legislature has made adoptions easier is through the establishment of the Putative Father Registry. A putative father is simply a father who is not married to the mother of his child at the time of the child’s birth. If a man believes he may have fathered a child out of wedlock then he fills out a form, available at the Courthouse and the registry in Helena, which asks in part for his address. This allows the birth mother to contact the Putative Father Registry and ask that a search be made to determine if the birth father or possible birth father has registered. If the birth father is not registered, the registry issues an affidavit that is filed in the adoption case, so stating. With this affidavit the birth mother and stepparent do not have to take any further steps to notify the birth father. If however, the birth father is registered and his information indicates his address, he must receive notice of the adoption process so that he may contest if he wishes.

Even if the birth mother has an idea of who the putative father might be, once she has the affidavit from the Putative Father Registry she does not need to take any further steps to verify, notify, or locate the birth father.

The burden is now on the birth father. The Putative Father Registry clearly places the consequences of a father’s actions on his shoulders. If he wishes to preserve his parental rights then he needs to register so that that he will receive notice if any adoption proceedings are initiated of his child. The advantage to the birth mother is that the Putative Father Registry eliminates her need to search or even identify the putative father.

 

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement, made for any number of reasons, can help relieve some of the stresses surrounding your upcoming wedding and allow you to focus on the more immediate planning and enjoyment taking the next step with your fiancée. A prenuptial agreement can be made to establish division of property or spousal support in the event of divorce, but can also be made to prepare for the introduction of children into the family. The last thing you want to have to worry about is your legal future, so if we can help create or administer your prenuptial agreement, please contact our offices.

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