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.


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:

You mentioned PA... so Im guessing thats where you are (Im in PA as well). We are adopting a child from foster care and recently went to the lawyer's office. The first step the lawyer told us about the process was to file an "intent to adopt" letter with the court. It was a formal letter that had detailed information about the child, us, bios, etc. Additionally, attached to the letter of intent had to be a copy of our child abuse clearances and a homestudy. Based on how the lawyer walked us through the paperwork, the clearances and homestudy was a must (not just b/c of foster care). He did explain all the law references to us that were in the letter, but I don't have a copy of the intent letter yet that he was filing. (It was a rough draft that we were going over). I really think you will need a lawyer. If you still want to try to do it without one, call the local court and find out what papers you need to submit to request an adoption.
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.
The adoption process can be arduous, forcing you to clear many hurdles before you can finally bring a child home. We will be there with you at every step, providing counsel as you complete applications, advising you regarding home studies and helping you obtain all the necessary documentation to finalize the process. We will handle all matters related to the termination of parental rights, if required, to finalize the adoption. When necessary, we will act as your advocate with birth parents, negotiating agreements to cover medical or other expenses incurred by the birth or care of the child before the adoption.
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 child is not an asset like a house that gets willed to whoever you choose. In these situations, a court and/or child services will protect the child's rights and well being, if there are no legal guardians. If the child's mother has died, you are still one of the two legal guardians. If your mother becomes the second, that doesn't mean you stop being a legal guardian. If your mother then dies, you are still a legal guardian. The two slots do not have to be filled, one is enough. If you are stripped from your parental rights, your mother adopts, then dies, then the court will decide. If she wills that you again become a legal guardian, that does not undo the stripping of your rights.
Adoption is one of the most selfless ways to grow a family and provide a child with a loving home. Because it is also a legal endeavor subject to numerous regulations, paperwork, requirements, and proceedings, however, adoption can be a challenging process to navigate. With the assistance of proven family law attorneys like those at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, families can gain the support of caring and compassionate advocates who have the experience, resources, and determination needed to make their adoptions dreams a reality.
The cost of an adoption lawyer is a big concern for many people. In most cases, the attorney charges a flat rate for simple cases. However, for more complex situations, then they will likely charge an hourly rate. Keep in mind, this is something that is typically based on the situation, so it is best to discuss the charges for the case with an attorney before hiring them. This is how a person can be sure they have found the right lawyer for their case and situation.
They may not be available when you need them most, as attorneys are typically busy with other cases. Many large adoption agencies provide 24/7 counseling and support and have large staffs available to work closely with expectant mothers throughout the adoption process. You may not receive these services if you choose to work with a local attorney to pursue an independent adoption.
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.

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.

They may not be available when you need them most, as attorneys are typically busy with other cases. Many large adoption agencies provide 24/7 counseling and support and have large staffs available to work closely with expectant mothers throughout the adoption process. You may not receive these services if you choose to work with a local attorney to pursue an independent adoption.


The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) applies in any adoption when a baby is going to cross state lines. How long an adoptive family stays in the state of birth after the birth is entirely dependent on how quickly ICPC clears them to leave the state. Travel and lodging can be a very expensive aspect of an interstate adoption. An experienced adoption attorney should be able to get clearance within 3 to 5 business days after the birth mother has signed her consent paperwork.
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 adoptive parents can’t leave the state where the baby was born until they comply with ICPC and the ICPC offices in the sending and the receiving state has cleared the adoptive parents to come home. Clearing ICPC requires submitting several documents (in California this packet can be nearly 50 pages), including affidavits made by attorneys from each state that the state laws have been complied with. Submitting an incomplete packet will delay clearance, leaving the adoptive parents in limbo. Work with an experienced attorney to avoid the stress, delay, and cost of complying with ICPC.

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.
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.
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