Megan Cohen is an adoption and assisted reproductive technology attorney. She is the owner of Family Formation Law Offices in Lafayette, California representing birth parents, adopting parents, intended parents, surrogates, and gamete donors. She serves on the board of the birthmother-focused On Your Feet Foundation of Northern California. She is also a birth mother. Vist her website www.helpwithadoption.com.

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.

Thank you for all your help. I do have one adopted child and that was private and we used a lawyer. I do know about trying to find the mother and I am in touch with the birth mothers father ( the child's grandfather) He told me she moves around alot and goes from state to state and friends to friends and that she never leaves an address or phone number. Since the father is unknown and the birth mother originally told me he died ( not sure if that's true) what will happen with that? My husband still wants to try and do this without a lawyer. We have all the papers from our local courthouse but just need to know the order in which to do them. I'm not sure we will be required to have a home study, my husband is reading up on the laws in PA a little each evening but this takes time and patience.
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.

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.


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.
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.
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.
The process is detailed and tedious. While an attorney is not required, it’s recommended. It could take longer and complications may occur if there is not attorney involved. Many people are not aware of the complications of the process until it’s too late. You should always err on the side of caution with the adoption process. It’s an emotional decision and not everyone can handle the logical aspects of the process effectively when emotions are involved. Prospective parents may find some useful information to help with the process online.

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.
There are many methods available for finding an adoption attorney that is best for your specific situation. If you know of anyone who has been in a similar situation, ask him or her for referrals and contact information for the adoption attorney he or she used. You can also contact local adoption agencies. They should have a list of adoption attorneys they’ve worked with before. Consider joining and actively participating in a support group. This is another great way to receive contact information or adoption attorney referrals. And one of the easiest ways to receive contact information is through our professional directory. Your search can be state-specific and professional type-specific.
The adoption process can be arduous, forcing you to clear many hurdles before you can finally bring a child home. We will be there with you at every step, providing counsel as you complete applications, advising you regarding home studies and helping you obtain all the necessary documentation to finalize the process. We will handle all matters related to the termination of parental rights, if required, to finalize the adoption. When necessary, we will act as your advocate with birth parents, negotiating agreements to cover medical or other expenses incurred by the birth or care of the child before the adoption.
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.
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.
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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