Massachusetts law about adoption

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on adoption law.

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Table of Contents

Best bets

Adoptions: family law advocacy for low and moderate income litigants, 3d ed., 2018, Chapter 14. Mass. Legal Services.
This source focuses on the forms to file and how to fill them out.

The court adoption process, Mass. Trial Court.
By understanding the adoption process in the Massachusetts Court system, you will have the tools you need to bring a new member to your family.

Find out who is eligible to adopt, Mass. Trial Court.
Find out who can adopt and who can be adopted in Massachusetts.

Get access to historic adoption records, Mass. Trial Court.
Find out which types of historic adoption records are available through the court archives and how to access them.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 18B, § 21 [DSS's] Adoption subsidy program

MGL c. 18B, § 22 Adoption and medical assistance for interstate children; interstate compacts

MGL c.46, § 2B & § 2C Access to birth certificates
Permits certain adoptees and their parents access to birth records. St.2022, c. 158 will remove all restrictions based on year of birth for adoptees, and other authorized persons, seeking the original of a birth record prior to adoption. Effective 11/3/2022.

MGL c.190B, § 2-114 Parent and child relationship (for inheritance)

MGL c. 210 Adoption of children and change of names. 
Massachusetts law allows for the adoption of an adult as well as a child. 

  • MGL c.210, § 1 Sefines who may adopt whom. 
    • Effective July 7, 2022: A person of full age may petition the probate court in the county where he resides for leave to adopt as his child another person younger than himself, unless such other person is his or her wife or husband. Removes the prohibition to adopt “brother, sister, uncle or aunt, of the whole or half blood.”

Massachusetts regulations

110 CMR 7 Services

606 CMR 5 Standards for the licensure or approval of agencies offering child placement and adoption services

Federal laws

25 USC § 1901 The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA)

42 USC §  670 The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980

42 USC § 1996b Interethnic adoption


Adoption court forms, Mass. Trial Court.
Includes instructions on how to fill out and file the forms. The same forms are used for both adoption of a child or adoption of an adult. 

Application for a non-certified record of birth prior to adoption, Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

Selected cases

Adoption of Daphne, 484 Mass. 421 (2020)
Discusses the Massachusetts court's jurisdiction in an adoption by the biological father when the gestational carrier lived in Massachusetts, but the father lived in another country, and had taken the baby to live abroad with him. 

Adoption of Mariano, 77 Mass. App. Ct. 656 (2010)
It was not in the child's best interests to allow his divorcing father to surrender his parental rights, and his divorcing mother to adopt him. "This case illustrates a firm principle in Massachusetts family law. In the negotiation of their disengagement, divorcing parents may not bargain away the best interests of their children."

Adoption of Marlene, 443 Mass. 494 (2005) 
Supreme Judicial Court held: "We conclude that a parent's consent to adoption of his or her child under G.L. c. 210, § 2 , does not terminate the parental duty to support the child."

Adoption of Meaghan, 461 Mass. 1006 (2012)
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the probate court judge's order appointing counsel for an indigent father and child in a private party adoption. "Where the petitioner is a private party, the same fundamental, constitutionally protected interests are at stake, and the cost of erroneously terminating a parent's rights remains too high to require an indigent parent to risk without counsel."

Adoption of a Minor, 471 Mass. 373 (2015)
Lawful parentage, and its associated rights and responsibilities, are conferred by statute on the consenting spouse of a married couple whose child is conceived by one woman of the marriage, through the use of assisted reproductive technology consented to by both women. (Chapter 46 sec 4B)

Adoption of Tammy, 416 Mass. 205 (1993)
Supreme Judicial Court stated that statute did not preclude same-sex cohabitants from jointly adopting child, and that adoption was in best interests of child.

Adoption of Thomas, 408 Mass. 446 (1990)
"A minor parent can consent to the adoption of his or her child; [and] the Probate Court is not prohibited by the filing of a consent in accordance with c. 210, Section 2, from taking evidence concerning the maturity and understanding of the minor parent at the time of the consent and the voluntariness of the consent, or from appointing a guardian ad litem to protect the interests of the minor parent."

Adoption of Varik, 95 Mass. App. Ct. 762 (2019) 
The Appeals Court found that the adoption plan proposed by the department of Children and Families was inadequate. The adoption plan did not convey enough information for the judge to assess the options that the department was considering. It failed to specify the type of adoptive parents and the characteristics of the home environment best suited to meet the specific needs of the child. The Court vacated the decree for Adoption insofar as it relates to the approval of the adoption plan.

Fineberg v. Suffolk Div. of Probate and Family Court Dept., 38 Mass. App. Ct. 907 (1995)
An adopted child "does not have an automatic right to access" identifying information about their biological parent, and can only access that type of information "upon a showing of good cause."

Magazu v. Dept. of Children and Families, 473 Mass. 430 (2016)
The denial of a couple's application "to become foster and preadoptive parents because of their use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline in their home" was OK, even though they held a sincere belief that "physical discipline is an integral aspect of their Christian faith."

Mohr v. Commonwealth, 421 Mass. 147 (1995)
Adoptive parents may recover in a "wrongful adoption" action based on adoption agency's material misrepresentations of fact regarding child's history prior to adoption.

White v. Laingoir, 434 Mass. 64 (2001)
Without the consent of the 12 year old child, under G.L. c.210 § 2, she could not be adopted.

Web sources

Adopting from DCF, Dept. of Children and Families.
Children of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds are waiting to be adopted in Massachusetts. Learn how to apply to adopt a child from DCF.

Adoption, Federal Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Includes information on many aspects of adoption including information for prospective adoptive parents, and sources on foster care adoption, supporting birth parents, search and reunion, and more.

Adoption, US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"Adopting a child from another country is often a complicated journey, and the information on this site is designed to help you as you move forward." Explains the different processes available to bring your adopted child into the US, with details and links to forms.

The adoption history project, University of Oregon Dept. of History.
Great site bursting with information on the social and historical development of adoption with links to primary sources.

Adoption questions and answers, GLAD, October 6, 2017.
Information for LGBT individuals and couples on "bringing unrelated children into the family or securing the legal relationship of a second parent to the child of his or her partner or spouse."

Apply for a pre-adoption birth record, Division of Vital Records.
Eligibility and forms.

Guide for foster and pre-adoptive parents, Mass. Dept. of Children and Families, August 27, 2017.
"Provide[s] you with some basic information about how the placement process works at the Department, some of the procedures and situations you can expect, the roles of various Department staff, available resources, and how to access assistance and support."

Intercountry adoption, US State Dept.
"Each year, thousands of Americans adopt a child from overseas. The process of adopting a child from another country, however, can be difficult. That's where we come in. This website aims to provide what you need to know about the adoption process."

Massachusetts adoption of children act, St. 1851, c.324
Credited as "the first modern adoption law, recognizing adoption as a social and legal operation based on child welfare rather than adult interests."

U.S. citizenship for an adopted child, US Customs and Immigration Services.
Explains how to get a Certificate of Citizenship for your foreign-born adopted child.

Print sources

ABA consumer guide to adopting a child: everything you need to know for a successful adoption, ABA, 2016.  
While not Massachusetts specific, this book provides an overview of adoption basics. 

Adopting in Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Center for Adoption Research, 2000.
An 84-page publication, this book provides clear information about the entire adoption process.

Adoption and reproductive technology law in Massachusetts, MCLE, 2018.

Adoption law and practice, by Joan Heifetz Hollinger et al. Lexis, 1988, loose-leaf. Updated with current supplements. Covers all states.

Family law and practice: with forms, 4th edition. (Mass. practice v.2, v.3), West Group, 2013 with supplement, § 25.5 Adoption of children by domestic partners. §85.1 Adoptions in general.

Kindregan's Massachusetts domestic relations rules and statutes annotated: with related federal statutes annotated, West, annual. Chapter 10: 10.1- Adoption of Children.

A legal guide for lesbian and gay couples by Frederick Hertz, Nolo, 2020.

LexisNexis practice guide: Massachusetts family law, annual. Chapter 9 Adoption: §§ 9.1-9.18.

Living together: a legal guide for unmarried couples by Frederick Hertz, Nolo, 2020.


Last updated: November 25, 2022