Document Type

Article

Publication Year

2004

Journal Title

Texas Wesleyan Law Review

Abstract

Do judges have the authority to recognize decrees of foreign adoption? Since 1989, over 167,000 parents of children adopted in other countries have needed to know the answer to that question. Adoption creates a parent-child relationship that is not legally different from a biologically created parent-child relationship. Parents are entitled to the same rights and owe the same obligations to adopted children as they do to biological children, and adopted children are entitled to the same benefits as biological children. Adopted children are entitled to the financial support of their parents to the same extent as biological children. Thus, in the event of a divorce, parents who adopted their children are responsible for the payment of child support to the same extent as parents who birthed their children. Adopted children are treated identically to biological children for purposes of inheritance. So, if children inherit under a state's intestate succession scheme, then adoptive and biological children both inherit. Adopted children are entitled to the same benefits as biological children under a parent's life or health insurance and under government entitlement programs like Social Security. In addition, the Family Medical Leave Act gives the same benefits to parents who add to their families by birth and those who add to their families by adoption. A legally valid adoption is a necessary precursor to recognition of the legal benefits just mentioned. With regard to adoptions that occur in countries outside the United States, under the laws of those foreign countries, the issue becomes whether those adoptions are valid in creating the legal parent-child relationship in the United States. Must state courts recognize the validity of a final decree of adoption from a foreign country? What would be the ramifications if courts did not recognize the validity of the foreign adoption? Should adoptive parents return their children to their native lands where often, but not always, economic and political conditions might threaten their well-being? Or should adoptive parents raise the children as their own, but with few or no legal rights for either the parents or the children? Rather than struggle with issues of varying common law rules, disparate state statutes, international treaties, and traditional versus nontraditional families, courts should adopt a child-centered approach for recognition of foreign decrees of adoption, focusing on the best interest of the child.

First Page

381

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