The information provided below is a simplified overview of adoptions and should not be relied upon without consulting an attorney. Each adoptive situation is unique and general information cannot cover all of the factors which must be considered and addressed in an adoption. Please contact Judy Williams, an attorney in our Billings office who has extensive experience in all types of adoption work, to discuss your family’s adoption needs.
What is Adoption?
Adoption is the act of legally creating a new parent-child relationship. Adoption must follow strict legal processes and requires that a Judge approve it before the adoption is finalized.
After an adoption, the adoptive parents and child have all the rights and responsibilities of the natural parent-child relationship, including the adopting parent’s duty to pay child support and the adopted child’s right to inherit from the adopting parent. The adoption process terminates the parental rights and duties of the child’s birth parent, except the duty to pay any past due child support.
Who can be adopted?
A child if:
- the child has no living parents; or
- the rights of the child’s living parents have been terminated by a Court; or
- the parent(s), the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), or a licensed child placing agency with legal custody of the child consents to the adoption in writing.
An adult may be adopted by another adult without the consent of his/her birth parents or an agency.
Who may adopt a child?
- A married couple, including a same-sex couple;
- a stepparent or other relative who meets the legal definition of extended family;
- an unmarried person over age 18; or
- a married person over age 18 who is legally separated from his/her spouse or whose spouse has been declared incompetent.
What types of adoption are available in Montana?
- direct parental placement by a non-relative (a birth parent or parents select the adoptive parents without going through an agency). Note, however, that it is illegal in Montana for a lawyer, doctor, or other person to act as an intermediary for adoptive parents and/or birth parents unless the person is licensed as a child placing agency;
- placement by a licensed adoption agency, including the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS); or
- stepparent or relative adoption.
For adults: An adult may adopt another adult if they, and if the spouses, if any, consent.