Will a criminal record prevent me from adopting?

Adopting a child can be a wonderful, selfless act on the part of an individual or couple. Unfortunately, many individuals make mistakes, some of which may eliminate their right to adopt a child. Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I am considering adopting a child. I am curious whether or not a criminal record will disqualify me from adoption. If so, what types of crimes are considered disqualifying?”

What are the restrictions for adoption?

All states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico, have passed laws and statutes which outline the requirements which individuals and couples must meet to adopt a child.

Requirements are established to protect children and ensure that children are placed in homes which offer the best chance for good social, emotional, and physical care. For information about your state’s laws you can either consult with a family law attorney or read the statutes for your state.

Criminal actions and disqualification for adoption

As mentioned above, state laws will determine who is barred from adoption, but certain general exclusions will be included in all state laws. For example, all states will bar the right of an individual to adopt a child if they have been convicted of any of the following crimes:

  • Domestic abuse of a spouse or child
  • Abuse or neglect of a child
  • Crimes against a child such as assault or possessing child pornography
  • Violent crimes against another person such as rape, sexual assault, murder or felony assault
  • Arson
  • Drug-related offenses within the last five years
  • Fraud, forgery or kidnapping
  • Illegal use of explosives or a weapon

As you can see, most of these crimes are violent crimes committed against another person. Although this list is not exhaustive and your state may have additional crimes which eliminate your right to adopt, it’s important to understand that the court will consider your criminal record and propensity for violence to determine whether or not they believe you can provide the best care for a child.

How do I find out more information about my state’s laws about adoption?

Although statutes and laws can be confusing, with a little effort you may be able to review your state’s laws and get the information you need without discussing your case with a lawyer.

As mentioned above, all states have adoption statutes. For instance, if you live in the State of Alabama you can review the requirements for adoptive parents, which is found in the Ala. Code §§ 26-10A-19; 38-13-3(5); Ala. Admin. Code r. 660-5-22-.03.

Under Alabama law, if you have been “convicted of a sex-related crime; serious intentional physical injury or death crime; a crime against a child, such as abandonment or endangerment; a property crime, such as burglary, robbery or arson (exceptions allowed); or the manufacture, sale, distribution, use, or possession of controlled substances” you will be barred from adopting a child.

Exceptions are allowed, however, for certain felony offenses which occurred more than ten years ago and certain misdemeanors which occurred more than five years ago. It’s important to note, however, that if you were ever convicted of injury or death to a child you will be permanently barred from adoption, regardless of the conviction date.

Bottom Line:

If you have been convicted of any type of violent physical act against another person it’s likely that you will not be able to adopt a child. Other less serious offenses, however, may not eliminate your right to adopt.

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