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.
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.
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.
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.
The finalization hearing, sometimes held in the judge's chambers, usually lasts less than an hour, and is attended by the adoptive parents, the child, the family's attorney, and a social worker from the child's agency. The judge may review the family's homestudy, ask questions, and generally attempt to ensure that the child is being placed in a safe, loving home.
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.
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.
Now if you wish to go it alone, there are ways to do so. One such way is to utilize the services of a Do-it-yourself adoption service such as RapidAdoption.com. For a reasonable fee, the fine folks at RapidAdoption.com will complete all of the necessary paperwork for the adoption in your state. They will even do it if the child is in a different state than you. They have been doing legal paperwork since 1998 and have prepared 1000’s of legal documents in all 50 states. But their service is only available in the United States and only with domestic adoptions. So if you reside outside of the United States or are adopting from another country, then this is not an option for you.