Adopting / Re-adopting in the U.S.

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Do you have to re-adopt your child when she finally arrives in the United States? Maybe yes, maybe no. And even if the official answer is “no,” you may want to re-adopt anyway.

No: Re-adoption in a U.S. Federal court is not required for children who entered the country with an IR-3 visa (those whose adoptions were completed overseas). International adoptions finalized abroad, in most situations, are legally binding in the United States. However, some U.S. State courts do not automatically recognize a foreign adoption decree. If your child was issued an IR-3 immigrant visa, you are not required under Federal law to readopt the child, although your State adoption law may require you to do so.

Yes: Re-adoption or adoption (in the case of a child in a guardianship or where both parents have not met the child) is a requirement for all children entering America with an IR-4 visa - where the adoption was not completed overseas.

That said, you may want to do a re-adoption in the U.S. even if you’re not required to by law. Why? Simple: Children whose adoptions were completed in a foreign country may benefit from re-adoption in the U.S. because re-adoption enables you to obtain an American birth certificate from your state of residence for your child. A legal name change can also be completed during re-adoption in the U.S. Upon completion of the re-adoption in your local court, you will have a U.S. Judgment Order for Adoption and will no longer have to produce the foreign Judgment and translation. You will also receive a birth certificate (or Record of Foreign Birth) from your state that lists you as the birthparent of your child and lists the name you have chosen for your child.

Your child’s foreign birth certificate is legal and binding within the U.S. However, getting certified copies of your child’s birth certificate will be much easier if you only have to contact your state department of vital records. (Just imagine this future scenario: Your child – now an adult – needs multiple certified copies of his birth certificate – a certificate issued two decades ago in Kazakhstan. Who should your child contact to get these documents? Will the original records in Kazakhstan even exist 20 years from now? How will you provide a translation of the birth certificate? How will your child get the documents he needs?) Re-adoption immediately solves this problem, since it takes place in your local county. Your child will need certified copies of his birth certificate whenever he registers for school, participates in athletics, or if he chooses to adopt in the future.

Also, not all states in the U.S. recognize a foreign adoption decree. There are 27 states and one territory (the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) that grant the same recognition and effect to final decrees of adoption from foreign countries as to decrees of adoption issued in that State or territory:

New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Dakota
South Carolina
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
If you live in one of these places when you return home with your internationally adopted child all should be well. However, if you move to a place that does not recognize foreign adoption decrees, the legality of your international adoption could be questioned. (For example, your child may not be recognized as your heir and may lose the right to inherit from you.) Re-adopting in your home state ensures that this scenario will not happen, since every state recognizes final adoption decrees from other U.S. states and territories.

Eighteen states, the District of Columbia, and four of the five U.S. Territories have no statutory provisions regarding international adoptions:

New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island
South Dakota
West Virginia
American Samoa
Puerto Rico
U.S. Virgin Islands
To re-adopt your child in the United States, you’ll need an attorney – but don’t worry, the legal fees charged for a re-adoption are usually quite modest. It’s important to look for an adoption attorney who specializes in international re-adoptions, and make sure she has handled re-adoption cases from your child’s birth country. Do not rely on the guy who prepared your will or who handled your divorce to understand how to properly do an international re-adoption.

In many instances, the re-adoption itself is a festive event. Judges often conduct the re-adoption in their chambers, with the whole family invited to participate (even siblings of your new child) and take photos. Re-adoption day is yet another reason to celebrate on your international adoption journey.

Credits: Excerpted from "International Adoption Guidebook," Mary M. Strickert, 2004

Visitor Comments (6)
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Jean - 3 years ago
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Our children came in on a IR4 visa, but we weren't told that we needed to be a readoption until much later. Now we know that we need to do it, but we are living in another state. Which state should we do the re-adoption in? #1
barbara - 4 years ago
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Does anyone have experience with a recent re-adoption in Vermont? The last time I tried to check into this, I got a dead end. Our adoption agencies are in another state and couldn't help. We also adopted 11 and 16 years ago. #2
Lin - 4 years ago
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You don't always need an attorney to re-adopt. I just did it on my own in Connecticut Probate Court for the cost of filing the paperwork with the state. It's a 2 part process - fill out the paperwork, bring your adoption decree, pay the amount - $165 in CT, then the clerk files for you. You get a date to go to court within a few weeks, appear before a judge, and then the clerk gives you copies of your validation of a foreign adoption with the embossed seal. #3
Guest - 4 years ago
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Where do I get the forms needed for readoption? #4
Guest - 4 years ago
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My friend misplaced her children's adoption papers and their birth certificates. They were adopted from Russia. Do they need an attorney to re-adopt and what happens if they can't find their decree? #5
christine - 4 years ago
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lin where did you get the forms #6

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