An adoption is a happy time in the life of the adopting family and in the life of the child being adopted. However, adoption is a complex and intricate area of family law. Adoption in Virginia is solely the product of statutory law and therefore compliance with all of the statutory requirements is a must to make the process proceed as seamlessly as possible. Adoptions can be stressful even at the best of times because of the legal hoops an adopting family must jump through even when an adoption is not contested. When there is conflict in an adoption, the stress levels can go through the roof. For these reasons, adoption is an area of law where it is almost always recommended that a skilled and experienced family attorney be involved.
Thomas J. Baker of Baker & Tisdale PLLC principally practices in the Central Texas area, including Bell, Coryell, McLennan, Milam and Williamson counties. The advice given here is not and ahould not be taken as a substitute for in-personal consultation with counsel, particularly where legal documents, such as court orders need to be reviewed. I am Board-Certified in Family Law but not in any other areas of practice.
There are three types of non-agency adoptions: adult adoptions, stepparent adoptions and parental placement adoptions. Adult adoptions typically do not result in the conflict and controversy that can be created in the latter two types of adoptions. The rights of the biological parents are implicated in both stepparent adoptions and parental placement adoptions. If these types are done with the consent of the biological parents then their parental rights must be terminated before the child can be placed with the adoptive family. Further, in almost all parental placement adoptions, an investigation must be completed as regards the child’s biological parents, the prospective adoptive parent(s) and the home situation of the child. There may be hearings as well to determine the best interests of the child in both stepparent and parental placement adoptions. There can even be a full trial where there are disputes over parental rights, the best interest of the child and/or the qualifications of the adoptive parents. Above all else in an adoption, the entire process is governed by a quest for determining the best interests of the child.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) protects the break-up of Native American families through adoption. Every state has its own rules about how to comply with ICWA, and the laws that regulate this are specific and serious. The main thrust of ICWA is that you must ask the biological family about their potential Native American heritage and document their answers. The courts will want proof that this inquiry was made and completed correctly according to the law. This usually involves completing specific, preprinted forms that vary from state to state. If a birth parent has heritage, notice of the adoption must be provided to every band and tribe of eligibility. Identifying and researching the proper person for notice can be laborious and time consuming, especially if you’ve never done it before. An experienced adoption attorney will know which forms must be completed and by whom. She or he will also know where and with whom to file the forms so as to be in compliance with ICWA. The attorney will also know the proper consent documents a birth parent must sign if the child is deemed Native American. The adoption is at risk if ICWA isn’t properly complied with. (See in re Baby Veronica).
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.
Adoption attorneys or adoption law firms are best for prospective birth mothers who have already identified an adoptive family and who feel they don’t need much adoption counseling and support. It is important to carefully consider the resources and services you’d like to have available before choosing an adoption attorney as your adoption professional.
An acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASA volunteers are trained community volunteers who speak for the best interests of a child in court. They are assigned by a judge to research an abuse or neglect case, and provide the judge with information to help in making a decision for the child's permanency. To learn more about CASA, visit its website at http://nationalcasa.org.
Finalization is the legal process which transfers custody of the child from the adoption agency, county, or state to the adoptive parents. In a court hearing, an attorney represents the family and presents the case to the judge, resulting in the adoption decree. This is the moment when the adoptee becomes the permanent, legally adopted child of the adoptive parents. This process cannot occur until the adoptive parents have had the child in their home for the time determined by state statute, usually at least 6 months.
Step-by-Step Guidance – Working with an adoption attorney provides you with the guidance of professionals who understand the process, eligibility requirements, and legal proceedings involved. With assistance through every step of the process, you can ensure you take the right steps to meet qualifications, prepare for various interviews or evaluations, and handle the necessary work to finalize an adoption successfully.
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.