Oct 24, 2013

Child Adoption or Abduction?

On Monday, a Greek couple was remanded into custody after being accused of abducting a child they call ‘Maria.’ As the search for the child’s biological parents continues, news of her story is spreading worldwide. The couple claims that they adopted the child with the permission of her biological mother. The couple admitted that their adoption was “non-legal,” but claims that the biological mother will verify that they had permission to adopt the child.

Unfortunately for this couple and others like them, a biological mother’s permission to adopt her child may not cure the use of illegal means to attempt to adopt a child. Strict laws govern both domestic and inter-country adoptions. Local laws of the country of the adoptee must also be followed. If any of the laws are violated, or rules or procedures are not followed, it may result in the removal of a child from persons whom the child has called parents for as long as the child can remember. Whether a person’s failure to follow the law and the procedures set forth therein is intentional or accidental, the true victims in cases of “illegal” adoptions are the adoptive children.

In the context of inter-country adoptions, each country sets forth its own restrictions on adoptions to foreigners. In the recent past, we have seen a decrease in the number of international adoptions. Some people attribute the decrease in the number of international adoptions to the increase in restrictions imposed on foreigners seeking to adopt children worldwide. Some restrictions include age, marital status, sexual orientation, and others. For example, China now prohibits children to be adopted by foreigners who are morbidly obese, or have facial deformities. When contemplating an international adoption, one must consider the restrictions imposed by the prospective adoptive country and ensure they meet the qualifications.

The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption country (“Hague Adoption Convention”) governs inter-country adoptions between countries that have signed and ratified the Hague Adoption Convention. The purpose of the convention is to protect the best interests of children and prevent the abduction, sale, and trafficking of minor children. If one of the countries in an inter-country adoption is not a signatory to the Hague Adoption Convention this does not mean that the adoption is not possible, it simply means an entirely different set of procedures apply to the adoption. The United States signed the Hague Adoption Convention in 1994 it went into effect in the United States in April 2008. Inter-country adoptions are complex and one should consult with an attorney to ensure compliance with the laws and procedures set forth therein when contemplating an international adoption.

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