To help you on your way there are a few people you will be in contact with. Here we will describe the roles some of these people play. To adopt a waiting child or teenager, you will work primarily with an adoption agency. It is only at the end of the process that you will need an adoption attorney / lawyer, who will prepare the paperwork to be filed and represent you in court.
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.
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.
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.
In MO, where I live the legal age of adulthood is 17. Some states it is 17, some 18. If I were you I would check into that. If legal age in your state is 17, I would just wait a few months and do an adult adoption. Then you would not need anyone's consent other than yours, your husband's and your (now adult) daughter. Then you could complete your adoption without stirring up a hornets nest, although if your daughter is interested in meeting her birthparents....this would be the perfect opportunity to make that happen.
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.”
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.
Processing an adoption can be a scary prospect. For those who’ve never done it before, you don’t know what you don’t know. A lot is at stake and a lot can go wrong. Issues can crop up as new information comes to light. An experienced adoption attorney can anticipate and preclude these issues. A good adoption attorney will help preclude problems, issue spot risks and potential legal roadblocks, and manage the relationship with the biological family. An attorney is also able to help all parties find appropriate resources depending on their circumstances.
Home visit: Expect a home visit from a DFPS caseworker to review your personal history, lifestyle, experience caring for children and many other factors designed to determine whether you are an appropriate candidate for adoption. Each member of your household, including other children, will be interviewed, so that a complete picture of the prospective family unit can be developed.
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.
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.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) protects the break-up of Native American families through adoption. Every state has its own rules about how to comply with ICWA, and the laws that regulate this are specific and serious. The main thrust of ICWA is that you must ask the biological family about their potential Native American heritage and document their answers. The courts will want proof that this inquiry was made and completed correctly according to the law. This usually involves completing specific, preprinted forms that vary from state to state. If a birth parent has heritage, notice of the adoption must be provided to every band and tribe of eligibility. Identifying and researching the proper person for notice can be laborious and time consuming, especially if you’ve never done it before. An experienced adoption attorney will know which forms must be completed and by whom. She or he will also know where and with whom to file the forms so as to be in compliance with ICWA. The attorney will also know the proper consent documents a birth parent must sign if the child is deemed Native American. The adoption is at risk if ICWA isn’t properly complied with. (See in re Baby Veronica).
The laws of the state in which the child was adopted determine who has access to the original birth certificate or other adoption records, and whether those records are sealed (unavailable). For information about the law in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, see the: http://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/. This links to the Child Welfare Information League’s numerous publications on the legal aspects of adoption.
Adoption attorneys or adoption law firms are best for prospective birth mothers who have already identified an adoptive family and who feel they don’t need much adoption counseling and support. It is important to carefully consider the resources and services you’d like to have available before choosing an adoption attorney as your adoption professional.