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.
From exploring your available options and addressing disputes or challenges that arise to ensuring your rights and interests are protected through finalization hearings, Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers can provide the step-by-step guidance to make your adoption experience a success. This includes facilitating a formal termination of parental rights (voluntary or otherwise), compiling the necessary documentation and legal work, meeting requirements and preparing for various studies and reports, and ensuring the best interests of a child are met. Although circumstances may vary, the adoption process can take months to complete, which is why having the support of caring and compassionate attorneys experienced in these matters can make all the difference.
Decide who you want to handle the legal side of your adoption. In a private adoption, the birth parents transfer their rights directly to the adoptive parents rather than the state or an adoption agency. However, the adoption is still governed by state law and there are many legal procedures and requirements you must meet for the adoption to be granted. Most adoptive parents work with an attorney to guide them through the process.
Court Familiarity – Adoption lawyers have the experience needed to navigate family court proceedings. For individuals looking to adopt a step-child, grandchild, or relative, for example, a formal petition will need to be filed and the parental rights of biological parents terminated. In addition to helping complete petitions and advocate for your rights, adoption lawyers can also address other legal matters involved – including eligibility, discrepancies between jurisdictions or adoption agencies, parental disputes, and more.
They may not provide matching services. You may need to work with another adoption professional, such as an adoption agency, to be matched with a waiting adoptive family. Alternatively, you may need to independently identify an adoptive family that you would like to pursue an adoption plan with. This can potentially limit the number of families you have to choose from. In addition, there are other services your attorney may not be able to provide throughout the adoption process, such as counseling and support. If adoption counseling is offered, it is normally through an unlicensed paralegal with little adoption counseling experience. The attorney also will not usually be able to keep up with post-adoption agreements, such as receiving pictures and letters, whereas adoption agencies often have programs in place to coordinate these services.
Under Texas law, a child may only have one set of legal parents. In a simple definition, an adoption is a type of legal proceeding in which a parent or parents who are interested in adoption, ask the court to deem them the legal parents of a child. When a potential parent or parents decide to adopt a child and bring them into their home, the process of adoption begins when the child meets legibility factors set forth under Chapter 162 Sections 162.001, 162.501, and 162.504 of the Texas Family Code. The eligibility factors of the child are paraphrased below:
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.
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:
To claim your adopted child or teenager as a dependent for tax purposes, he or she must have a social security number. If your child already has a number when he or she is adopted, you may either keep the same number or have a new number assigned. If your child is receiving Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income payments, or if the child has worked, the Social Security Administration will not assign a new number, but will update the child's record. In any case, you will need to contact the Social Security Administration to be sure the number is registered correctly, reflecting you as the child's parent. To find the nearest local office, visit the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov.
Once all of these steps and reports are complete the court will evaluate all of the information provided in an effort to determine what is best for the child. The judge will make this decision after hearing the testimony of involved parties, examining the required reports and studies and then applying the law that applies to your particular situation.
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.