Choose an attorney with experience in private adoptions. When you interview attorneys, ask if they are a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys or an equivalent state accreditation. If your attorney is not accredited, question her about her specific experience handling private adoptions. The AAAA maintains a directory of accredited adoption attorneys in the United States.
If you choose an adoption attorney as your primary adoption professional, this is considered an independent adoption. In many independent adoptions, the birth parents and adoptive family find each other independently of an adoption professional’s screening and matching services. In some states, adoption lawyers are not legally allowed to perform these screening and matching services.
Actually from what I gather it is quite easy [sometimes] to adopt and a birthparent never even know. This is particularly true with birth fathers. In our adoption case (with my now adopted son) the absent birth parent was willing to sign and so it was quite easy. I have heard of many cases though in my research down the adoption path where the adoptive parents did searches with the OAG, DMV (as mentioned), used paid internet investigator searches, and even hired PI's then presented the evidence to the court and had the TPR signed. The truth is that none of those routes yield astounding results necessarily. I don't agree that the birth parents (the fathers in particular because these are the ones that it usually happens to) are being treated fairly but it does happen. Hmm, I guess they aren't really being treated badly they are just not being found. Maybe they don't even know? And, of course the cases I'm aware of are dealing primarily with step-adoption because this is what I'm familiar with being that it was my situation. Judges are far more leniant in these cases I imagine because at least one biological parent is present. I don't know for sure but it would be my guess.
Whether your pregnancy is planned or unplanned, exploring your options can be confusing, overwhelming, stressful, and hectic. It can be especially confusing if this is your first time progressing through the placement and adoption process. When starting along this journey, it is important to learn and completely and clearly understand the basics. You may find that working with an adoption attorney is a fantastic way to better understand the adoption process, retain your parental rights, and help you navigate through the long process. An adoption attorney is just one of many adoption professionals you’ll work with. And before you begin, below is a list of common questions about an adoption attorney.
You should expect to end the process with a child who is a legal member of your family. The entire adoption can take up to 5 years including waiting periods, but it’ll take less time depending on your case. If there are any legal complications or you don’t pass some of the qualifying examinations, the process could take longer. An adoption attorney can guide you through this and potentially expedite the process by knowing who to talk to and what paperwork to file.
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.
Home visit: Expect a home visit from a DFPS caseworker to review your personal history, lifestyle, experience caring for children and many other factors designed to determine whether you are an appropriate candidate for adoption. Each member of your household, including other children, will be interviewed, so that a complete picture of the prospective family unit can be developed.
This is a legal process involving a court hearing during which a judge issues a decree that permanently ends all legal parental rights of a birth parent to a child. This must occur before a child is considered to be legally free for adoption. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary, that is, with or without the birthparents' agreement. In some states, there is a period during which the birthparent may appeal, if rights have been terminated without his or her consent. The length of that period varies from state to state.
The services offered by adoption lawyers vary from one attorney to the next. If you choose to work with an adoption attorney, you may need to take a more active role throughout the adoption process, and you may have to consult additional adoption professionals for some services not provided by your attorney. However, the right adoption attorney should be able to refer you to professionals that can assist you with these services.
A private adoption where the adoptive parents and the birth mother have not agreed beforehand can cost over $20,000. Before you make the financial and emotional investment in the adoption, you want an attorney who is familiar with all federal, state, and local laws and procedures. Depending on your location, expect to pay $100 to $200 per hour for skilled legal assistance.
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.
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.
The finalization hearing, sometimes held in the judge's chambers, usually lasts less than an hour, and is attended by the adoptive parents, the child, the family's attorney, and a social worker from the child's agency. The judge may review the family's homestudy, ask questions, and generally attempt to ensure that the child is being placed in a safe, loving home.
Future Focused – Adopting a child is a major life event, and one that will impact the lives of families and children for the foreseeable future. Even when a case is not contested or considered complicated, the process itself can be challenging. Ensuring all issues are promptly and correctly addressed is essential to establishing the legal parent-child relationship you have for the rest of your life, and to avoiding the possibility of complications arising in the future.
They may not be available when you need them most, as attorneys are typically busy with other cases. Many large adoption agencies provide 24/7 counseling and support and have large staffs available to work closely with expectant mothers throughout the adoption process. You may not receive these services if you choose to work with a local attorney to pursue an independent adoption.