This is a legal process involving a court hearing during which a judge issues a decree that permanently ends all legal parental rights of a birth parent to a child. This must occur before a child is considered to be legally free for adoption. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary, that is, with or without the birthparents' agreement. In some states, there is a period during which the birthparent may appeal, if rights have been terminated without his or her consent. The length of that period varies from state to state.
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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.
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.
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:
3. PROFESSIONAL LICENSING AND CONSUMER RATING – Check if they are licensed in your state. You can also look at www.adoptionattorneys.org which lists attorneys who have been vetted by the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and have a minimum amount of related adoption experience. Find a local adoptive parent group and talk to adoptive parents about whom they used and if they were satisfied with the legal services they received.
Many adoption attorneys have flat fee services for simple issues like document drafting, review, and filing. For more complex issues like talking to an adoptions agency or going to court, most lawyers charge an hourly rate. Rates will vary depending on the complexity of your issue and where in the country you live, so negotiate a rate up front with your attorney to avoid costly surprises.