Adoption agencies handle important services such as counseling for prospective birth parents and helping families find adoption opportunities. However, some aspects of adoption are better equipped to be handled by an adoption lawyer.
The attorney manages the legal side of adoption, like familiarizing prospective birth parents with the consent paperwork and helping adoptive parents finalize their adoption in court.
Moreover, they can guide you in completing a successful adoption. They are essentially in charge of making sure that every step in your adoption, from filing the necessary paperwork to finalization, meets all legal requirements and standards. Furthermore, adoption attorneys are regulated by their state bar organization, ensuring that they are up to date on all adoption laws and regulations.
What is the Difference Between Adoption Law Firms and Adoption Agencies?
Typically, working with an adoption agency alongside your attorney is the recommended option, but there are some situations where it can be easier and more cost-effective to have an adoption attorney as your primary adoption professional. Below are some examples of the benefits of working with an adoption attorney instead of an agency in certain situations.
It is well known that adoption can be an expensive endeavor. For families who have fairly straightforward adoptions and do not need help finding an adoption opportunity, working with one professional instead of two may reduce some costs. However, adoption attorneys usually charge for their services hourly instead of with a flat fee; therefore if any unexpected legal complications arise, your expenses can quickly add up.
While there are a few benefits to working with an adoption lawyer as your primary professional, there are some services that an adoption agency might have a better understanding of. Keep in mind that this information is meant to inform you of your options when it comes to adoption and not deter you from a certain path. Below are some setbacks that both parents and women considering adoption should be aware of.
Firstly, there is a lack of advertising. If you are not pursuing an identified adoption, which is an adoption in which you have already located an adoption opportunity on your own, it is difficult to recommend an adoption law firm. In most circumstances, you will need to work with another professional, such as an adoption agency, to be matched with an expectant mother or parents. Families that are advertising on their own and working with an adoption law firm might end up paying more for this necessary service than they would with an adoption agency.
Secondly, there is a lack of support. Many lawyers specializing in adoption do not have licensed social workers on staff to provide the counseling services adoptive families and prospective birth parents need during the adoption process. This is crucial in the adoption of any kind.
Additionally, the families require support till after the adoption is finalized. It is important to note that this can lead to a greater risk of an adoption disruption when the potential birth parents do not receive the support and counseling they need to stay committed to their adoption plan. But with an adoption agency, you are likely to get the help you need throughout the process and even after placement.
Lastly, the cost may vary. For adoptive families, the cost can be a big factor to consider when it comes to choosing an adoption professional. Unlike adoption agencies, adoption attorneys do not have a set fee. An adoption agency will make sure that you know all costs upfront, for you do not have to worry about where your investment is going.
What are Adoption Attorneys and Adoption Law Firms?
Adoption lawyers are professionals who specialize in adoption‐related legal services. In an adoption law firm, there is a group of two or more attorneys that specialize in adoption and family law or other related services. Their main job is to protect the legal rights of prospective adoptive parents and women considering adoption and ensure that each adoption is completed according to state and federal laws.
For your adoption to meet all legal and ethical standards, you will need to work with an adoption attorney. Most adoption agencies can connect you to a trusted attorney for adoption, so you will not need to research adoption lawyers and choose one on your own.
Furthermore, adoption attorneys are a necessary part of every adoption process and often work alongside professionals at the adoption agency to provide all the services you need. However, you have the option to work solely with an adoption lawyer and forego an adoption agency’s services.
This is common in scenarios where an adoptive family desires to find an adoption opportunity on their own and only needs legal services to finalize their adoption. However, even in these circumstances, it is generally recommended that adoptive and birth parents work with an agency in addition to their lawyer for adoption.
What Does an Adoption Lawyer Do?
An adoption lawyer is someone that will guide you through the entire legal process of infant or child adoption. They will assist you in finding the right adoption agency or independent adoptee while protecting your rights through the process.
Here is what an adoption lawyer does:
- Finds an adoption agency or private adoption;
- Prepares paperwork on behalf of clients;
- Provides ongoing legal counsel and support;
- Helps clients meet contractual obligations;
- Negotiates terms and conditions of the adoption;
- Handles disputes or legal actions if they arise;
- Attends all necessary court appearances;
- Stays knowledgeable on local, state, and federal laws;
- Communicates with adoption agencies and;
- Other tasks to lawfully facilitate an adoption.
Due to adoption system complexities, parents may feel reassurance when hiring an adoption attorney. Long waiting periods can make the expectant parents feel anxious and wary about the process. Hiring an adoption lawyer ensures you are taking the necessary proactive steps to bring your child home. The entire adoption can take up to 5 years, including waiting periods, but it may take less time depending on your case as well. If there are any legal complications or you do not pass some of the qualifying examinations, the process could linger longer.
An adoption attorney can help you through this and potentially expedite the process by knowing who to talk to and what paperwork to file. For example, in DC, before a person can file a petition for adoption through a local court, they must first identify the child that they wish to adopt. The law mandates that prospective parents include the following information on adoption petitions:
- The child’s name, birth date, sex, and place of birth;
- Names and addresses of the child’s biological parents;
- Personal identifying information of the petitioner;
- A description of the relationship between the petitioner and adoptee and;
- The races of the child or their biological parents and that of the petitioner.
Once the petition is filed, the court will then refer it for investigation, report, and recommendation. A child-placing agency or the Mayor’s office would be responsible for conducting this investigation, according to DC adoption regulations. The primary goal of an investigation is to determine the truth of the allegations in the petition as well as the suitability of the petitioner’s home for the prospective adoptee. Upon completion of the process, the investigator will report the findings of the investigation to the court and make a recommendation regarding whether the petition should be granted or not.
When Do I Need To Contact a Lawyer?
If you are contemplating adopting a child and are overwhelmed by the legal aspects of it. It is advised to contact a local adoption attorney to assist you with the process.