How Are Adopted Children Handled in Divorce?

While the legal process of divorce may have similarities for both biological and adopted children, there are specific considerations that are taken into account when it comes to the well-being and custody arrangements for adopted children.

One of the fundamental questions that arises is whether adopted children are treated any differently from biological children by custody courts. In most cases, custody courts do not differentiate between adopted and biological children. The primary concern of the court remains the best interest of the child, regardless of their biological or adopted status.

Custody and Adopted Children

When it comes to custody arrangements, both adoptive parents typically retain legal rights to their children after divorce. Unless extenuating circumstances exist, such as abuse, neglect, or endangerment, both parents will likely have rights to visitation and involvement in the child's life post-divorce.

Even in cases where one parent has not legally adopted the child, they may still have the opportunity to seek custody or visitation rights if they have played a significant role in the child's life and it is deemed beneficial to the child's well-being.

Determining custody of an adopted child in divorce is a matter of assessing the child's best interest. The court will examine factors such as the child's age, their relationship with each parent, their adjustment to the divorce, and the ability of each parent to provide a nurturing and supportive environment.

The court may also consider the child's preferences if they are of sufficient age and maturity to express them. In addition, the court may consider the child's cultural and ethnic background, particularly if the adoption involves a transracial or transcultural placement.

Child Support and Adoption Subsidy Payments

Adoption subsidy payments, which are financial assistance provided to adoptive parents, can be a point of consideration in the determination of child support during a divorce. These subsidy payments are intended to help support the adopted child and facilitate their adjustment to their new family. In some cases, the court may consider these funds when calculating child support obligations.

It is worth noting that adoption subsidy payments are generally not affected by divorce. However, the court may consider the financial resources of each parent, including the subsidy payments, when determining child support amounts. It is important to consult with an attorney familiar with family law and adoption to understand your jurisdiction’s specific guidelines and regulations.

Stepparents and Adoption Reversal

Another common concern is whether a stepparent adoption can be reversed after divorce. Stepparent adoptions occur when a spouse adopts their partner's child from a previous relationship. While a parent can petition the court to reverse a stepparent adoption, it is typically a challenging and complex process. The family court will consider the child's best interests and whether reversing the adoption is in their best interest.

Caring for Adopted Children During Divorce

When faced with divorce, adoptive parents should take proactive steps to help their adopted child cope with the changes and maintain a sense of stability. Divorce can be particularly challenging for adopted children, who may have already experienced the loss of their biological parents or previous caregivers. It is crucial for parents to provide additional support and reassurance during this time.

Open and honest communication and maintaining routines can be beneficial for helping an adopted child cope with divorce. Seeking professional counseling or therapy for the child can also be beneficial in helping them process their emotions and adjust to the changes in their family dynamic.

Ultimately, the family courts treat adopted children similarly to biological children. Consulting with a lawyer who specializing in custody matters can help answer questions relating to your case and family situation.


Karen Rosenthal

Karen B. Rosenthal is a partner and co-founder at matrimonial litigation firm Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield LLP, where she brings 35 years of matrimonial law experience to bear in matters involving high-net-worth equitable distribution, contentious custody battles, and other high-stakes disputes. Certified as an Attorney for the Child and a frequent speaker on topics related to children going through high-conflict divorce, she has been recognized as a leading New York lawyer by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Crain's New York Business magazine, and New York magazine.

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