Adoption

As discussed in a previous post on the increasing use of technology in family law, people interested and involved in adoption are also making use of the internet.  The New York Times published a story a few months ago explaining the positives and negatives of using the internet as a resource in adopting a child.  The article referenced a study completed by  The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.  The Institute found both positive and negative effects of internet use on the adoption process.

Of course, the internet can serve as a wonderful and informative place to turn when researching adoption options.   There are hundreds, if not thousands, of personal blogs, articles and adoption stories online that can be an inspiration and a comfort to adopting families.  Adoption can be an extremely long, consuming and detailed process and these resources and advice can be invaluable to families looking to find out more about the adoption journey.  Additionally, many birth parents and their biological children have used the internet as a tool to reunite.  Others have used the internet to search out prospective adoption agencies or used the internet as a tool to complete research on the adoption laws in certain states or even other countries.  There are countless ways in which the internet can be used as a helpful place to turn when thinking of or going through adoption.

If you happen to be looking for information on adoption in Iowa, a reliable place to begin your research is in the law itself.  Iowa Code Chapter 600 controls adoption law in Iowa.  Here you will find information on adoption petitions, qualifications for filing for adoption, international adoption, closed adoption records, and much more.  However, adoption law and the process itself can be extremely complicated and it is always helpful to consult an attorney well-versed in Iowa adoption law before starting your adoption journey.

Internet use in adoptionHowever, as the Times story indicates, the internet can also prove to be a place where the unsuspecting can easily be taken advantage of.  The Donaldson Adoption Institute study describes cases in which fraudulent adoption agencies scammed thousands of dollars away from unsuspecting people simply attempting to gain more information about adoption.  Adoption is known as a very expensive process, and therefore makes it even easier for criminals to nab cash from people.

Another problem that crops up with internet access, and in particular Facebook and other social networking sites, is when adopted children attempt to contact their birth parents and vice versa.  This could lead to potentially dangerous situations of abusive or criminal biological parents, whose parental rights have been terminated, contacting their biological children and attempting to meet with them in person.  Internet access to biological parents and children can also prove problematic for the adoptive parents if they are caught unaware and have not prepared their course of action for this meeting.  The study tells of one case where a child was contacted and needed to attend therapy after the incident.

As with all things “internet”, there are positives and negatives on both ends of the spectrum.  The internet has clearly lead to many happy reunions, useful research sites, and legitimate adoption agencies where adoptive parents have found their new children.  However, it has also clearly led to crimes, sometimes dangerous, when not used cautiously.  What do you think?  Should there be more regulation of adoption websites?  Possibly some way to tell fraudulent sites from legitimate sites?  Should Facebook and other social networking sites put more effort into security measures, or should it be left up to parents to protect their children from who they may find?

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The decrease in the amount of marriages and the change in what a family unit looks like in the United States has prompted lawmakers in CA to propose a bill that would allow a child to have more than two parents.  The New York Times reported last week on a bill that has passed the California Senate with Democrats voting for and Republicans against.

Increasing Number of States Recognizing Third Parents

This may seem like a revolutionary idea – for a child to have more than two parents, however, there are several states that have recognized similar situations in recent years.  As the NY Times reports, Delaware and the District of Columbia have passed laws that allow for third “de facto” parents.  Other states such as Oregon

“Non-Traditional” families may gain increased legal recognition if recently introduced California legislation becomes law.

and Massachusetts have had their courts recognize third parents throughout the last decade.

The CA bill would allow judges to acknowledge that a child has more than two legal parents.  This recognition would allow families that include same-sex couples to have legal relationships where they may not have been able to previously.  There are many possibilities for today’s varied family structures to have more security – insurance, schools, hospitals, etc. would all be more accessible to people acting as parents because they would now be able to be legally recognized as parents.

The bill would not only benefit families that include a same-sex couple.  For example, if a husband and wife divorce, this bill would allow the new spouse of either biological parent to be able to adopt any children from the previous marriage without having to terminate the parental rights of the biological parent.

Opponents of Recognizing Third Parents

Opponents of the law have concerns however.  They believe that this bill would “open the door” to same sex marriage, which they believe is wrong.  Critics also point out the confusion this could cause when it comes to child support payments.  It isn’t clear at this point what the effects would be on child support, however, it seems that it could only be beneficial to the child to have more sources of child support available.  The recognition of additional parents may also reduce the incredible stress on many state foster care systems because there would be more relatives available for placement when children are removed from their homes.

Opponents are also wary of slippery slope situations where a child could have a dozen parents, or more.  However, the bill does not seem to allow a free for all – it allows a judge to recognize an additional legal parental relationship between an adult and a child in addition to the child’s biological mother and father.  The judge would have to find that the recognition of this additional parent is in the child’s best interest.

Recognizing a Third Parent in Iowa

Currently, Iowa is not one of the states that recognizes a third parent relationship.  When child custody is an issue in Iowa,

Iowa law requires that the court, “insofar as is reasonable and in the best interests of the child,” shall order the custody award, including liberal visitation rights where appropriate, which will assure the child the opportunity for maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents after the parents have separated and dissolved the marriage, and which will encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child unless physical harm or significant emotional harm to the child, other children, or a parent is likely to result from such contact with one parent.

As in other states, it is unclear how the recognition of a third parent would change child custody practices in Iowa.  A bill similar to the CA bill has not yet been introduced in Iowa, however, if the CA bill is successful, it may open the door for such legislation in other states, including Iowa.

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