Adoption is the legal process used in Missouri to transfer the legal and physical custody
and responsibility of a child to adults who are not the biological parents of that child. An
adoption will effectively terminate the existing parent-child relationship between the
child and the birth parents, and create a new parent-child relationship between the
adopting parents and the child. The adopted child is then deemed for all purposes to be
the child of the adopting parents as if born to them. As a result of the adoption the child
is entitled to the same support, nurture and care from the adopting parents, and the child
and adopting parents each assume the same inheritance rights as if the child were born to
the adopting parents.

Although Missouri’s statutes do not distinguish between types of adoptions, they in
general can be classified in the following categories:

1. Relative Adoptions
2. Private Placement Adoptions
3. Agency Adoptions
4. Foster Parent Adoptions
5. Step-Parent Adoptions
6. Foreign Adoptions
7. Recognition of Foreign Adoptions
8. Adult Adoptions

    Relative Adoption

    In a relative adoption the child and adopting parents already have an existing familial
    relationship. The adoption may be necessary due to the death or incapacitation of one or
    both of the birth parents. Typically, a relative adoption will require the filing of a two
    count Petition for transfer of legal custody and adoption. The adopting parents will
    request a transfer of legal custody of the child from the birth parents to themselves. This
    order must remain in place for a period of six months after which time the court may
    enter a final decree of adoption.

    Private Placement Adoption

    Private Placement Adoptions are those adoptions where the child was placed by the birth
    parents, or an agent operating on behalf of the birth parents, with adoptive parents who
    have no familial relationship with the child to be adopted. In Missouri private placement
    adoptions are strictly regulated. Only certain individuals may operate on behalf of the
    birth parents seeking to find adoptive parents, and only certain expenses may be paid for
    the by the adoptive parents. Great care must be taken by both the birth parents and
    prospective adoptive parents to avoid committing the crime of trafficking in children, a
    felony in the state of Missouri.

    Similar to a relative adoption a private placement adoption will typically require a two
    count petition for transfer of legal custody and adoption.

    Agency Adoption

    An agency adoption is an adoption where the child was placed by an agency duly
    licensed and authorized to place children with prospective adoptive parents in the State of
    Missouri. The agency will have usually, but not always, received custody of the child as
    the result of a prior court action terminating the rights of birth parents. In such instances
    the agency will have authority to place the child with the adoptive parents for purposes of
    adopting the child, and this action constitutes the transfer of lawful and actual custody of
    the child to the adopting parents. Therefore, in most agency adoptions, the parents only
    petition the court for the completion of the adoption. A decree of adoption may be
    entered after the adopting parents have had lawful and actual custody for a period of six
    months or longer.

    Foster Parent Adoption

    Foster Parent Adoptions are adoptions where the child was previously placed with the
    foster parents due to a prior court or agency action removing the child from the birth
    parents home. In such situations the foster parents will receive first preference if
    competing adoptive parents exist, and in most cases, the six month period of lawful and
    actual custody may be waived.

    Step-Parent Adoption

    A step-parent adoption is the adoption of a child by a spouse to one of the birth parents.
    In a step-parent adoption, one of the birth parents will also be a petitioner in the adoption
    action. Also, in a step-parent adoption, the six month period of lawful and actual custody
    commences upon the marriage of the step-parent and birth parent if the birth parent had
    lawful and actual custody of the child at the time of the marriage. The parties in a
    step-parent adoption will need to file only a one count petition for the completion of the

    Foreign Adoption

    Foreign Adoptions are those adoptions where the placement of the child occurred in, or
    was the result of actions taken in, another state or country. The parents in a foreign
    adoption typically assume custody from an agency charged with placing children and the
    parents and agency must comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of
    Children. Failure to do so may result in criminal sanctions. If the child is from a foreign
    country additional requirements of the United States Department of Justice and
    Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services will also apply.

    If the transfer of custody and adoption were completed in another state under that state’s
    adoption laws, there is not a necessity for additional adoption proceedings in Missouri. If
    the transfer of custody and/or adoption were completed in another country, the adoptive
    parents should file to have the foreign adoption decree recognized by Missouri, and in
    some instances, may need to file to complete the adoption process in Missouri.

    Recognition of Foreign Adoption Decrees

    When an adoption is completed in a foreign country under that country’s adoption laws, it
    is recognized in Missouri as a valid adoption when the child enters the United States with
    the permission of the United States Department of Justice and Department of
    Immigration and Naturalization Services. In this process the Missouri court is merely
    recognizing through court order the validity of the foreign adoption, and the court may
    also change the name of the child at the request of the adoptive parents.

    Adult Adoption

    An adult adoption is the adoption of a person over the age of 18 years of age, or older, by
    adoptive parents also over the age of 18. Because the subject of the adoption is over the
    age of 18, no consents from the birth parents, or prior termination of parental rights, is
    necessary; however, the written consent of the person to be adopted is required.

    Adoption Procedure

    The procedures and requirements of the above adoption areas all vary widely. For
    instance, in agency and foreign adoptions a detailed and extensive set of pre- and
    post-placement investigations and in-home studies are conducted, while in a step-parent
    adoption an investigation is typically conducted once by a court appointed attorney for
    the child.

    To discuss the particular facts of your situation, please contact our office at
    (314)862-8888 and ask to speak with one of our adoption specialists.

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