On many levels, adoption is wonderful, whether through joint adoption of a child by a pair of spouses or through combining children from previous relationships into a blended family. However, many adopted children have lingering feelings of never truly “belonging” in their adoptive families. This feeling can be magnified when adoptive parents go through a divorce.
Just as with biological children, adoptive parents going through a divorce should attempt to establish and maintain as normal a co-parenting routine as possible. Neither parent should denigrate the other parent or attempt to undermine his or her rules.
The Legalities of Divorce with Adopted Children
In the eyes of the law, adoptive parents have the same rights as biological parents, provided that both parents have legally adopted the child or children involved. However, if only one parent has legally adopted the child or children, the parent who has legal parental status will have more leverage in determining custody, barring exceptional cases, such as severe abuse by the legally adoptive parent. Likewise, when one parent is the biological mother or father and the other parent has legally adopted the child or children, the court will likely favor the biological parent in custody issues. Again, exceptions are often made where the biological parent has been demonstrated to be abusive or unfit.
Easing the Transition for Adopted Children
Many children experiencing their parents’ divorce experience anxiety. Professional therapy is also frequently advised for children whose parents are experiencing a divorce. Therapy may be especially helpful for adopted children.
With adopted children, anxiety over witnessing their parents’ breakup is often magnified by fears that they will be “sent back” by their adoptive parents after the divorce is finalized. Both parents – the custodial and the noncustodial ex-spouses–have the responsibility of reassuring adoptive children that both parents still love them and that they still “belong” in the family.