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Adopting a Child When a Parent’s Whereabouts Are Unknown


This post isn’t going to discuss the procedure for adopting a child out of foster care or through a formalized adoption process. This is specifically in regards to those unique situations where a spouse wants to adopt the biological child of their partner and they have no idea where the other biological parent is. The same applies to even more unique situations where someone who is not even related to the child may try to adopt the child with one parent’s permission, but the other parent is location unknown.

These are very unique situations, and while they appear to have the same hurdles as grandparents’ claiming rights to see their grandchildren, they actually don’t have as many restrictions.

The biggest restriction–obviously–is that the potential adoptive parent must have permission from at least one biological parent. If one biological parent is around and does not agree to let you adopt their child, you have an entirely different situation that is far more complicated. If your situation meets this requirement, read on.

Next step is to accept the fact that you will need an experienced family law attorney to handle this matter with you. The procedure itself isn’t overly complicated, but you will want to make sure all of the proper steps have been taken from the get-go to ensure that the AWOL parent isn’t able to appear out of the blue and take their child back. That is never best for anyone, especially the child.

Together, with the biological parent who has given you consent to adopt their child, you can file a suite to involuntarily terminate the missing parent’s rights and adopt. The court will then appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the other parent and try to locate him or her. If the attorney is unsuccessful, then that parent will default and the adoption proceeding can continue.

However, if the attorney ad litem is able to track down the wayward parent, you may have a real fight on your hands if he or she does not consent to the adoption. If this happens, you will be quite thankful indeed that you do have a family law attorney on your side. The process will take longer, and you and the consenting parent will have to prove to the court that your adoption is in the child’s best interest. For example, has the child been living with you for a couple of years, will the child be exposed to irreparable emotional or physical harm if the other parent takes custody, and/or will the child suffer irreparable emotional harm if he or she is removed from your custody?

It’s a sticky situation, and hopefully one that can be resolved with the least amount of conflict. To all potential adoptive parents who are going through this or are about to go through this, know that the child is truly blessed to have someone like you to step up and take charge of his or her well-being.

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