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Woman files appeal in international adoption case

Adoption is a formal process that ends when adoption papers are signed. From that point forward, the adopter is recognized as the legal parent and guardian of the child. Severing that relationship requires the same family law process as ending the parental rights and responsibilities of a biological parent. In cases in which the adoptive parent relinquishes the child, the court can order that child support be paid.

Colorado considering an international adoption will be interested in an ongoing child support case involving a Russian boy who was 7 years old when his adoptive American mother sent him back to Russia with a note that she could no longer care for him. The case, which prompted a worldwide outcry and has made it more difficult for Americans to adopt children from Russia, has resulted in an order that the woman pay $150,000 in child support.

The boy, who is now 9 and lives in a group home outside of Moscow, spent six weeks in a psychiatric hospital because of the trauma he experienced, according to an attorney for the adoption center.

It is likely that the adoptive mother would have been ordered to pay less child support if she had ended the adoption through the proper channels. Reportedly, she did not seek any help from the adoption agency or other services before sending the child back to Russia.

On Aug. 14, the woman, who now lives in California, filed a notice of appeal. She says she cannot afford the $1,000 per month for child support that the judge ordered and that she is unemployed. It seems that the judge in the initial hearing was influenced by her failure to appear to prior hearings, and he said that her arguments were unconvincing. She is seeking to have her payment requirement halted while the appeal is processed.

Though it is unclear what the result of this case will be, child support typically can be modified if the payer's income is reduced. In any case, participants in international adoption should work with a family law attorney throughout the process so that they understand their rights and responsibilities, as well as keep the best interests of the child in mind.

Source: The Washington Post, "US woman who sent adopted Russian boy back says she can't afford child support, appeals ruling," Aug. 16, 2012

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