To help you on your way there are a few people you will be in contact with. Here we will describe the roles some of these people play. To adopt a waiting child or teenager, you will work primarily with an adoption agency. It is only at the end of the process that you will need an adoption attorney / lawyer, who will prepare the paperwork to be filed and represent you in court.
Handling Challenges – Although adoption is in every way a heart-warming decision and tremendous benefit for children, it is not always the easiest legal process. That’s due to numerous requirements established by the court, as well as complex laws, extensive paperwork, and the potential for disputes or challenges, including those involving biological parents who contest an adoption. Having an attorney by your side can help ensure you take the proper steps, have the support to resolve challenges as they arise, and prepare for all that’s required of you from any agency or court.
An adoption attorney is a lawyer who either solely focuses on adoption-related cases or who takes on adoption clients alongside his or her other non-adoption-related clients. If you feel more comfortable with an adoption attorney who only works with adoption, that is perfectly fine. It is important that you feel comfortable with whomever you choose to represent you and your child. Keep in mind that there are no additional certifications to be an adoption attorney. It is simply whether or not the attorney deals with adoption-related cases. However, there are courses or classes available to help attorneys understand adoption laws, regulations, and policies.
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.
Personalized Service – For many parents, especially those who work with adoption agencies, legal challenges are only half the battle. This is why it becomes critical to work with professionals who take the time to personally understand your situation, needs, and goals and who are committed to advocating on your behalf at all stages of the process. Our attorneys place an emphasis on personalized service and support, and draw from not only our legal experience with adoptions, but also our understanding of this major life event. Clients who work with us receive the personalized service they deserve.
4. WHO IS FOLLOWING YOUR CASE? – Ask if you will be working with the attorney directly, or if a partner/associate or office staff member will be assigned to your case. What hours are they available? Do they prefer phone calls, emails, texts, etc.? It is important to know who is overseeing your adoption and, if other staff will be involved, who does what and when.
File the adoption petition. Once a child has been identified and the Home Study completed, your attorney will prepare and file the adoption petition with the court. The petition will identify you and your partner, the birth parents, consent to the adoption, and ask the court to grant the adoption. When the petition is filed, the court clerk will set it on the judge's calendar for an initial review.
Because of the complexities of the adoption process and the potential for negative consequences, it is not recommended that you attempt to do an adoption pro se. Even a consent adoption within the family, for example, an aunt and uncle adopting a nephew with full consent of the birth parents, should still be prepared and shepherded through the court by an attorney.
Adoption may be a new process for you. Since it is a legal process, you will need an attorney to guide you and ensure that the adoption meets all state laws and regulations. In some states, an attorney is needed from the start of the process (i.e., in New York State adoptive parents must be Pre-Certified through their local court prior to taking custody of a child). All adoptions need an attorney to finalize the parent-child relationship through the court.