3. PROFESSIONAL LICENSING AND CONSUMER RATING – Check if they are licensed in your state. You can also look at www.adoptionattorneys.org which lists attorneys who have been vetted by the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and have a minimum amount of related adoption experience. Find a local adoptive parent group and talk to adoptive parents about whom they used and if they were satisfied with the legal services they received.
They may not provide matching services. You may need to work with another adoption professional, such as an adoption agency, to be matched with a waiting adoptive family. Alternatively, you may need to independently identify an adoptive family that you would like to pursue an adoption plan with. This can potentially limit the number of families you have to choose from. In addition, there are other services your attorney may not be able to provide throughout the adoption process, such as counseling and support. If adoption counseling is offered, it is normally through an unlicensed paralegal with little adoption counseling experience. The attorney also will not usually be able to keep up with post-adoption agreements, such as receiving pictures and letters, whereas adoption agencies often have programs in place to coordinate these services.
Megan Cohen is an adoption and assisted reproductive technology attorney. She is the owner of Family Formation Law Offices in Lafayette, California representing birth parents, adopting parents, intended parents, surrogates, and gamete donors. She serves on the board of the birthmother-focused On Your Feet Foundation of Northern California. She is also a birth mother. Vist her website www.helpwithadoption.com.
From exploring your available options and addressing disputes or challenges that arise to ensuring your rights and interests are protected through finalization hearings, Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers can provide the step-by-step guidance to make your adoption experience a success. This includes facilitating a formal termination of parental rights (voluntary or otherwise), compiling the necessary documentation and legal work, meeting requirements and preparing for various studies and reports, and ensuring the best interests of a child are met. Although circumstances may vary, the adoption process can take months to complete, which is why having the support of caring and compassionate attorneys experienced in these matters can make all the difference.
5. WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF THE ADOPTION? – You will want to know who helps guide you in appropriate adoption fees, what is legal and what is paid to whom and when. For the attorney specifically: How do they bill? Do they have a consultation fee, a retainer, a set rate or do they bill by the hour? You should have an estimated adoption budget before you begin the process, and know what part is for legal fees.
To claim your adopted child or teenager as a dependent for tax purposes, he or she must have a social security number. If your child already has a number when he or she is adopted, you may either keep the same number or have a new number assigned. If your child is receiving Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income payments, or if the child has worked, the Social Security Administration will not assign a new number, but will update the child's record. In any case, you will need to contact the Social Security Administration to be sure the number is registered correctly, reflecting you as the child's parent. To find the nearest local office, visit the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov.
Court Familiarity – Adoption lawyers have the experience needed to navigate family court proceedings. For individuals looking to adopt a step-child, grandchild, or relative, for example, a formal petition will need to be filed and the parental rights of biological parents terminated. In addition to helping complete petitions and advocate for your rights, adoption lawyers can also address other legal matters involved – including eligibility, discrepancies between jurisdictions or adoption agencies, parental disputes, and more.
A judge's role in the adoption process is to make any needed changes in the child's legal status. While a waiting child is in foster care, the child's case is usually reviewed periodically in court, to determine whether the goal should be reunification with the birth family or adoption. If the goal is changed, it must be done by a judge. A family court judge will make the decision to terminate parental rights of the birthparents and will preside over the finalization hearing and issue the adoption decree.
You mentioned PA... so Im guessing thats where you are (Im in PA as well). We are adopting a child from foster care and recently went to the lawyer's office. The first step the lawyer told us about the process was to file an "intent to adopt" letter with the court. It was a formal letter that had detailed information about the child, us, bios, etc. Additionally, attached to the letter of intent had to be a copy of our child abuse clearances and a homestudy. Based on how the lawyer walked us through the paperwork, the clearances and homestudy was a must (not just b/c of foster care). He did explain all the law references to us that were in the letter, but I don't have a copy of the intent letter yet that he was filing. (It was a rough draft that we were going over). I really think you will need a lawyer. If you still want to try to do it without one, call the local court and find out what papers you need to submit to request an adoption.
So when exploring ways of controlling the cost of an adoption, one has to ask if all of these lawyers are really necessary. I am told that there is no legal requirement to seek legal representation. A quick search of the internet will try to convince you that there is but the majority of these websites are owned by attorneys. Of course, the laws differ in each state and so it is incumbent upon those involved to ensure that they are aware of their particular state laws and are in compliance with them.
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