Future Focused – Adopting a child is a major life event, and one that will impact the lives of families and children for the foreseeable future. Even when a case is not contested or considered complicated, the process itself can be challenging. Ensuring all issues are promptly and correctly addressed is essential to establishing the legal parent-child relationship you have for the rest of your life, and to avoiding the possibility of complications arising in the future.
An adoption is a happy time in the life of the adopting family and in the life of the child being adopted. However, adoption is a complex and intricate area of family law. Adoption in Virginia is solely the product of statutory law and therefore compliance with all of the statutory requirements is a must to make the process proceed as seamlessly as possible. Adoptions can be stressful even at the best of times because of the legal hoops an adopting family must jump through even when an adoption is not contested. When there is conflict in an adoption, the stress levels can go through the roof. For these reasons, adoption is an area of law where it is almost always recommended that a skilled and experienced family attorney be involved.
Thomas J. Baker of Baker & Tisdale PLLC principally practices in the Central Texas area, including Bell, Coryell, McLennan, Milam and Williamson counties. The advice given here is not and ahould not be taken as a substitute for in-personal consultation with counsel, particularly where legal documents, such as court orders need to be reviewed. I am Board-Certified in Family Law but not in any other areas of practice.
Adopting a child or baby is a big decision, and it’s one that needs to be done right. Hiring a family lawyer that provides services in this sector of law can help give a person confidence they are doing everything right. For those who are thinking about hiring a lawyer for adoption in West Virginia, there are a few things they should consider. Being informed and knowing what this legal professional has to offer is the best way to know if they should be hired.
Explore your eligibility to adopt a child. There is not a constitutional right to adopt a child. As a result, all adoption rights, procedures, and requirements are governed by state statutes with some guidance from the federal government. In general, under current state laws, any single adult or married couple is eligible to adopt if they meet certain criteria.
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.
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.
A judge's role in the adoption process is to make any needed changes in the child's legal status. While a waiting child is in foster care, the child's case is usually reviewed periodically in court, to determine whether the goal should be reunification with the birth family or adoption. If the goal is changed, it must be done by a judge. A family court judge will make the decision to terminate parental rights of the birthparents and will preside over the finalization hearing and issue the adoption decree.
5. WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF THE ADOPTION? – You will want to know who helps guide you in appropriate adoption fees, what is legal and what is paid to whom and when. For the attorney specifically: How do they bill? Do they have a consultation fee, a retainer, a set rate or do they bill by the hour? You should have an estimated adoption budget before you begin the process, and know what part is for legal fees.
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.
A private adoption where the adoptive parents and the birth mother have not agreed beforehand can cost over $20,000. Before you make the financial and emotional investment in the adoption, you want an attorney who is familiar with all federal, state, and local laws and procedures. Depending on your location, expect to pay $100 to $200 per hour for skilled legal assistance.
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.
We talked with Widrig Law PLLC about using lawyers during the process, and they explained, “Many adoption attorneys will offer a flat fee service. The fee may include document drafting, reviewing, and filing. When the issues are more complex, attorneys will charge by the hour. The rates will vary depending on the complexity of your issue and also based upon the country in which you’re located. You should negotiate the rate up front to avoid any adverse issues later.”
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.
Adopting a child or children is one of the most loving things a family can do. Adoption creates new families and provides children with a loving and nurturing home. At Queenan law, our Dallas, Texas adoption attorneys provide comprehensive legal services in all types of adoptive placements, private or agency, open or closed, domestic, interstate, and international.
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.