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Who is allowed to adopt in Massachusetts?

There are various reasons for deciding to adopt a child, and eligibility of prospective parents is an important issue as the process is considered. Massachusetts does not allow private adoptions, and thus the process will be overseen by the Probate and Family Court. In order to proceed with an adoption, prospective parents must meet certain requirements.

An individual considering adoption must be at least 18 years old. That person may adopt a younger individual provided that the adoptive child is not a close relative such as a sibling, spouse, aunt, or uncle. A person to be adopted must have lived with the prospective adoptive parent for at least six months prior to the adoption although there may be instances in which the court is able to exercise discretion in waiving that requirement.

In cases of married couples adopting, the names of both spouses must appear on the petition for adoption. If a prospective parent is planning to divorce, the process should be completed prior to the adoption process so that only that individual's name is included in the relevant paperwork. Massachusetts allows same-sex couples to adopt whether they are married or unmarried. A family will go through an approval process with the Department of Social Services prior to having a child placed for adoption. During the time a child is in the family's home, a home study will be conducted. An adoption may also be pursued in cases involving a child who has been placed in a home for care.

Because the court system oversees adoptions, it may be beneficial to work with a family law attorney while going through the process. This may help in preparing for the formal steps that are required under Massachusetts law.

Source: Mass Legal Services, "Family Law Advocacy for Low and Moderate Income Litigants, 2nd Edition 2008", October 29, 2014

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