During the home study, the child welfare agency will review your case and provide the courts with evidence that you are capable of caring for the child. A lawyer is not required for this stage, but it’s nice to have one available. You’ll be asked to supply copies of your birth certificate, income tax returns, medical report, and marriage licenses. All adoptive parents will need to be fingerprinted.
However, this process is quite often a long and arduous process and requires a number of studies and reports to be conducted and submitted to the courts before the court will grant an adoption. The goal of these reports is to establish that an adoption either is or isn’t in the best interest of the child, which is the legal standard for an adoption. These studies generally include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was wondering if anyone has ever attempted to adopt a child without using a lawyer. I have a child, she is almost 16 years old and I've had custody of her since she was 5 1/2 months old. She is not a foster child, she was given to me by her birth mother because she couldn't care for her and she was young. She hasn't seen her birth mother or had any contact since she was 1 year. My husband and I want to adopt her and she wants that to. I need to know what steps to take to do this. The birth father is unknown. I'm not sure where to begin but think it might be with involuntary relinquishment of rights. Does anyone have any help? Thanks in advance.
If you are adopting an infant through private adoption, your attorney will play a larger role, and you will want to take care in selecting the right individual. You may want to read the documents found at: http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/adoptive/considerations.cfm. This links to the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s numerous publications on the legal aspects of adoption.
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.
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.
Decide who you want to handle the legal side of your adoption. In a private adoption, the birth parents transfer their rights directly to the adoptive parents rather than the state or an adoption agency. However, the adoption is still governed by state law and there are many legal procedures and requirements you must meet for the adoption to be granted. Most adoptive parents work with an attorney to guide them through the process.
Throughout this process, remember that your adoption attorney is there to help, assist, and guide you. He or she should know of all your state’s adoption laws, rules, and regulations. Working with an adoption attorney is a great way to progress through the placement process because of the step-by-step and hands-on help that your adoption attorney should offer. Make use of the resources around you as you explore your options.
When my wife and I adopted our son, we were told that we needed to hire multiple attorneys. One to represent the birth mother. One to represent the child. One to represent the birth father. And one to represent us. When we adopted our daughter we needed even more. One for the child. One for the birth mother. One for us. And one for each of the three possible birth fathers! We were outnumbered! Since no agency was involved, the attorney fees, the home study and the court costs were our only expenses. And when it came time to file our income taxes we claimed the adoption tax credit and were reimbursed the entire amount. Both times. We were fortunate. Adoptions can be, and in most cases are much more expensive.