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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Some expectant mothers need help covering expenses. Each state has different laws about what expenses can be covered, who can distribute the funds, and whether the funds must be paid directly to the provider. Failing to follow the laws regarding expectant mother expenses can potentially result in criminal liability. An experienced adoption attorney will know what expenses are permitted, how they can be disbursed, and who can disburse them.
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.