Domestic violence includes beatings, threats, stalking, other forms of intimidation, harassment, neglect, and physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Domestic violence may include any act by one family member that causes physical or emotional harm to another family member.
B. The Harmful Effects of Domestic Violence
In addition to the obvious immediate trauma caused by violence, domestic violence has long-term, far-reaching harmful effects on all members of the family. The lifetime harm to children is well-known.
Even when you decide to get help, being involved in domestic violence can make it harder for you to relate to your lawyer or others who might be able to help you. Domestic violence has long been considered a private matter, not to be discussed outside the family. Reluctance to talk about these problems is a direct result of the feelings of guilt and fear experienced by members of families marked by violence. It is ironic that even the victims of domestic violence, who have done nothing wrong, feel guilty about it.
In some states, domestic violence may be a ground of fault in the divorce proceeding. In others it affects only child custody and visitation.
The two most important points to remember about domestic violence are:
If you are committing it, stop!
If you are a victim of it, get help!
The most common form of adoption is that of children by stepparents. In these situations the adopting stepparent assumes financial and legal responsibility for his/her spouse’s child or children and releases the noncustodial parent of parental responsibilities, including child support.
This factsheet discusses legal issues in stepparent adoptions and how to proceed.
State laws on stepparent adoptions vary. Most States have a streamlined process for adoptions by stepparents whereby the judge hearing the adoption petition has the ability to dispense with the requirement in State laws for an adoption home study. Some States, however, will not approve a stepparent adoption unless the custodial parent has been married to the stepparent for 1 year or longer.
When a stepparent wishes to adopt a stepchild, the child’s parents (the stepparent’s spouse and the noncustodial or absent parent) are usually both required to consent to that adoption. In consenting to an adoption, the noncustodial parent relinquishes all parental rights and responsibilities, including child support. If the noncustodial parent objects to the proposed adoption and refuses to consent to it, State laws may prevent the adoption from proceeding.
Some State adoption laws specify special circumstances under which the noncustodial parent’s consent is not required. Other States have made special provisions in their adoption laws to allow stepparent adoptions to occur, even over the objections of the noncustodial parent, in cases where the noncustodial parent has failed to maintain communication with the child for a specified period of time.
WHO ARE "SPECIAL NEEDS" CHILDREN?
A child is considered to be "Special Needs" if he or she is in one of the following categories:
1. The child is of black heritage and 1 year or older;
2. The child is 8 years old or older and of any other ethnicity;
3. Any child with documented, physical, emotional or mental problems or limitations;
4. The child is one of a group of 2 siblings and at least one of the children meets the requirements of 1, 2 or 3 above; or
5. The child to be adopted is one of a group of 3 or more siblings (brothers and sisters) to be placed together.
IS THERE ANY TYPE OF ASSISTANCE FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS?
Yes. Adoption assistance may be available for "special needs children" under certain circumstances. This assistance is provided through the local Department of Family & Children Services.
WHAT TYPE OF ASSISTANCE IS AVAILABLE?
There are four types of assistance: