The role of an adoption attorney includes filing the appropriate paperwork to begin, continue, and finish the placement process. Another duty or responsibility of an adoption attorney is to appear with you during adoption proceedings. Your adoption attorney should also help you with completely understanding your state’s specific adoption laws. This is something you’ll want to look for when you begin your adoption attorney search– someone who knows the applicable regulations and laws and how they will apply and affect you.
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.
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.
The law limits the amount of time a child may stay in foster care by establishing shorter timelines for determining when she or he must have a plan for permanency. The law states that permanency court hearings must be held for children no later than 12 months after they enter foster care and the law also states that termination of parental rights proceedings must begin for any child who has been in the care of a state agency for 15 out of the most recent 22 months. Exceptions may be made to this requirement if the child is in the care of a relative or for other compelling reasons.
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.
Once all of these steps and reports are complete the court will evaluate all of the information provided in an effort to determine what is best for the child. The judge will make this decision after hearing the testimony of involved parties, examining the required reports and studies and then applying the law that applies to your particular situation.
The process is detailed. If you don’t adhere to every particular in the process, you may get a rejected application, and you’ll incur added expenses. Most adoptive families do not have money to waste on unnecessary fees. Therefore, you need someone who will get it right the first time. Furthermore, adoption law differs from state-to-state. If you’re adopting in a state outside of your home, the laws could be different from what you expect. It’s better to hire an attorney.
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.
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