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.[9] 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.[10]
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.
There are certain people who may be ineligible to adopt a child based on a variety of factors. If a potential parent has a criminal record of a certain type then they may be precluded from adopting a child. In addition, if the potential parent or parents have a record of abuse of violence in their past, they may also be precluded from adopting a child. The process of adopting a child is incredibly complex and intricate and it cannot be stressed enough that before going through these proceedings you should contact an experienced attorney to be by your side.
2. PRIOR EXPERIENCE – Ask if they have done the type of adoption you are choosing (i.e.domestic interstate adoption, specific intercountry adoption, working with singles, etc.). How many have they done and how recently (i.e., intercountry adoption changes in 2014 may not be known by immigration attorneys without current adoption experience)? You want an attorney knowledgeable and up-to-date with the type of adoption process you are starting.
The cost of an adoption lawyer is a big concern for many people. In most cases, the attorney charges a flat rate for simple cases. However, for more complex situations, then they will likely charge an hourly rate. Keep in mind, this is something that is typically based on the situation, so it is best to discuss the charges for the case with an attorney before hiring them. This is how a person can be sure they have found the right lawyer for their case and situation.
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.
An open adoption agreement spells out the terms of the contact between the parties in an open adoption. An open adoption agreement can specify frequency and manner of contact between adoptive and birth families, and/or between siblings placed separately. However, while it may be drawn up in the form of a contract and signed by both parties, it is not legally binding.
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You mentioned PA... so Im guessing thats where you are (Im in PA as well). We are adopting a child from foster care and recently went to the lawyer's office. The first step the lawyer told us about the process was to file an "intent to adopt" letter with the court. It was a formal letter that had detailed information about the child, us, bios, etc. Additionally, attached to the letter of intent had to be a copy of our child abuse clearances and a homestudy. Based on how the lawyer walked us through the paperwork, the clearances and homestudy was a must (not just b/c of foster care). He did explain all the law references to us that were in the letter, but I don't have a copy of the intent letter yet that he was filing. (It was a rough draft that we were going over). I really think you will need a lawyer. If you still want to try to do it without one, call the local court and find out what papers you need to submit to request an adoption.
The adoptive parents can’t leave the state where the baby was born until they comply with ICPC and the ICPC offices in the sending and the receiving state has cleared the adoptive parents to come home. Clearing ICPC requires submitting several documents (in California this packet can be nearly 50 pages), including affidavits made by attorneys from each state that the state laws have been complied with. Submitting an incomplete packet will delay clearance, leaving the adoptive parents in limbo. Work with an experienced attorney to avoid the stress, delay, and cost of complying with ICPC.
Private Adoption – We assist aspiring parents in adoptions involving relatives, surrogates, and other private channels, and can provide the counsel needed to navigate the process and protect their rights when it comes to filing adoption petitions, surrogacy agreements, termination of parental rights, and compliance matters involving the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) with out-of-state adoptions.

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.
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) applies in any adoption when a baby is going to cross state lines. How long an adoptive family stays in the state of birth after the birth is entirely dependent on how quickly ICPC clears them to leave the state. Travel and lodging can be a very expensive aspect of an interstate adoption. An experienced adoption attorney should be able to get clearance within 3 to 5 business days after the birth mother has signed her consent paperwork.
You need to have a lawyer. You can't involuntarily reliquish. Relinquish means your are voluntarily giving up the child. Both parents have to voluntarily relinquish or have involuntary TPR done by a judge in court. The birthparents rights have to be terminated by a judge before you can begin the process to adopt. Usually an adoption agency handles the TPR signing. With an independent adoption, you have to have an attorney. First they will locate the birthmom & have her sign consent. Then they will attempt to locate the birthfather. If they don't know the whereabouts of the birthparents, they will have to make some kind of attempt to locate them. Usually it means sending a certified letter to the last known address, they can contact motor vehicles for address on a driver's license, and/or put a notice in newspapers in the areas where the birthparents might be living. If no one comes forward, the judge will usually TPR the parents based on abandonment and then you can adopt. The judge will need a homestudy since you are adopting a child who is not a relative of yours.
An open adoption agreement spells out the terms of the contact between the parties in an open adoption. An open adoption agreement can specify frequency and manner of contact between adoptive and birth families, and/or between siblings placed separately. However, while it may be drawn up in the form of a contract and signed by both parties, it is not legally binding.

In MO, where I live the legal age of adulthood is 17. Some states it is 17, some 18. If I were you I would check into that. If legal age in your state is 17, I would just wait a few months and do an adult adoption. Then you would not need anyone's consent other than yours, your husband's and your (now adult) daughter. Then you could complete your adoption without stirring up a hornets nest, although if your daughter is interested in meeting her birthparents....this would be the perfect opportunity to make that happen.
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.
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