Readoption is the process of having the foreign adoption of a child recognized by an American state or local court system. Deciding whether to "readopt" a child who has been adopted internationally can be confusing. Some foreign countries issue only guardianship rights, not final adoption decrees. In these cases, the adoption must be finalized in the United States. In other cases, readoption is required by federal or state law for children who were adopted overseas. Even if readoption is not required, you may want to readopt for the legal advantages it gives you and your child. The following information will help clear up some questions you may have about readoption.
- Readoption. In many cases, the adoption of a foreign-born child is finalized overseas. The parents receive an adoption decree and birth certificate from the foreign government, usually with English translations. In the United States, the federal government and 26 states now recognize finalized foreign adoption decrees. However, if you live in a state that doesn't, you may have problems with your child's enrollment in school, inheritance rights and Social Security benefits. Your installation Legal Assistance Office can help you determine whether or not your state requires readoption. If you finalize the adoption in the United States you do not need to readopt.
- Adoption finalization. In some cases, an international adoption is not finalized overseas and must be completed by the parents once the child has returned to the United States. Adoption finalization differs from readoption because finalization is necessary only if your child's adoption was not completed overseas. If the adoption needs to be completed in the United States, the child will travel to the United States with an IR4 visa. Finalization may be required under these or other circumstances:
- When the parents do not travel to meet their child overseas, the adoption may not be recognized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and must be finalized in the United States.
- Some countries give the parents custodial rights but do not finalize international adoptions. In these cases, the adoption must be finalized in the United States.
If the adoption is not finalized overseas, you will need to finalize the adoption in your state of residence.
Reasons to readopt
Currently, 26 states recognize adoptions finalized overseas. If you live in a state that doesn't recognize your foreign adoption, you may be required to readopt in accordance with your state's laws. (For a state-by-state listing, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.) Even if you are not required to readopt, many adoption professionals recommend readoption for the following reasons:
- Not all states recognize foreign adoptions. If you move or get orders to a new duty station in a state that doesn't recognize your foreign adoption, you will need to readopt. Even if you don't have plans to move, you may choose to readopt while your child is still young to avoid any confusion later if you or your child move to a different state.
- Birth certificate. If you readopt, you can request a state-issued birth certificate, which will replace your foreign birth certificate (and associated translations). This can be important because, if you lose the paperwork or your child needs a certified original birth certificate, you can request it from your state's vital records department. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to get an original copy of a foreign-issued birth certificate.
- Name change. If your child's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services paperwork was not prepared with his or her new, "American" name, you can change his or her name when completing your readoption paperwork.
The readoption process
The process for readoption or adoption finalization varies from state to state. In some states, it can be as long and tedious as the original adoption, but in other states it's relatively simple. In many cases, you'll need an experienced attorney to help you file the necessary paperwork with your local family court. Make sure your attorney has experience with the readoption of foreign-born children. Your installation Legal Assistance Office may be able to help you find an experienced local attorney. To find the nearest Legal Assistance Office, visit the U.S. Armed Forces Legal Assistance website.