Stepparent Adoption – Stepparents who adopt a spouse’s child often solidify pre-existing bonds, and engage in a legal process that provides them and the child with legal rights, including the same parental rights as if they were the child’s biological parent and the child’s right to inherit from the stepparent, among others. Our legal team can assist stepparents looking to adopt a child with only one living biological parent, or when the other biological parent consents or objects to the adoption.
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.
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.
Because our firm prioritizes personalized service and wants to provide the highest quality representation possible, we ask that prospective parents take the time to complete our adoption questionnaire form prior to an initial consultation. This can help us get the information we need to better understand your situation and options (all of which is confidential), and begin the process as swiftly as possible.
Each state makes its own laws in the area of adoption, according to state statute. While some federal laws do apply, practices and policies can vary widely from one state to another or even from one county to the next. To learn about laws specific to your state or jurisdiction, visit the website of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, at http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/ or contact your county's Department of Children and Youth.
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.
Handling Challenges – Although adoption is in every way a heart-warming decision and tremendous benefit for children, it is not always the easiest legal process. That’s due to numerous requirements established by the court, as well as complex laws, extensive paperwork, and the potential for disputes or challenges, including those involving biological parents who contest an adoption. Having an attorney by your side can help ensure you take the proper steps, have the support to resolve challenges as they arise, and prepare for all that’s required of you from any agency or court.
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.
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.
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.
One point that Matt mentioned that I found interesting, and certainly gives the service credibility, is that they have lawyers that use their service as well. The lawyer will sell the service to a client for thousands of dollars and then pay RapidAdoption.com to prepare the paperwork for them. There are some that they work with regularly and have an agreement with and some that just purchase the service from their website and give the paperwork to their clients as if they had done it.