The first step in preparing a strong adoption case is to hire an experienced adoption attorney. An attorney will be familiar with the court, the process, and the requirements for adoption.
Adoption is a process that requires court approval. Through adoption, an adult who is not the biological parent of a child becomes their legal parent. Both married and single adults may adopt children. Additionally, an adult may be adopted, if they consent.
The requirements and conditions for prospective adoptive parents vary by state. Adoption services are offered by both private and public agencies, and/or by a private process that does not involve an agency.
Adoption establishes a formal legal parent-child relationship. This applies to child support obligations, custody obligations and/or rights, and inheritance rights, including rights under the laws of intestacy, and/or rights under a will or a trust. An adopted child is treated under the law as if they were the parent and/or parents’ biological child.
The types of adoptions are as follows:
- Agency adoptions;
- Independent adoptions;
- Open adoptions; and
- Stepparent adoptions.
There are both public and private agencies and offer adoption services. Public adoption agencies are run by the state. Private agencies are overseen by the state. Both types of agencies can place children with adoptive parents. These adoptions may be less costly, but often take more time than other types of adoptions.
An independent adoption, or a private adoption, occurs between a biological mother and the adoptive parents. This process may cost more because government subsidies and support services that agency adoptions can provide are not available. These types of adoptions are also extensively regulated. In some states, they are prohibited.
An open adoption is an adoption where the birth mother may maintain contact with the child, even after the adoption. In this type of adoption, the adoptive parents possess parental rights.
A stepparent adoption occurs when a remarried parent and their new spouse adopt and child and/or children from a previous relationship. This type of adoption requires the other birth parent to consent. In some states, when the other biological parent consents to the adoption, the law requires the parties to be married at least one year prior to the stepparent adoption. If consent is denied, the stepparent may file a petition in family court that orders the termination of the parental rights of the biological parent.
In general, the process of adoption includes the following steps:
- Filing a petition with the court to approve the adoption;
- Providing notice to all parties that have an interest in the child and/or children; and
- The adoption hearing, where a court will approve or deny the adoption and, if approved, issue a final decree of adoption.
What Type of Documents and Questions Should I Bring to My Adoptions Attorney?
It is important to gather any relevant documents and compile a list of questions prior to a consultation. Relevant documents will include information regarding the child and/or children being adopted. This may include birth certificates and any other documents.
Information that is usually necessary to file an adoption petition includes the names, ages, and addresses of the birth parents, the child, and the adoptive parents. Other information will include financial and medical information from prospective adoptive parents. It may seem like the process digs very deeply into personal matters, but it is to ensure the child is placed in a good home.
It is important to compile a list of questions an individual has regarding the adoption process prior to the consultation with an adoption attorney. This will provide a better understanding of what will be required during the process, what the results will likely be, and how that will affect the adoptive parents.
What Makes a Strong or Weak Adoption Case?
A strong adoption case begins with the help of an attorney. An attorney will be familiar with the process and know what evidence is important to present in favor of the adoptive parents. The court will examine the following legal factors when determining whether to grant an adoption request:
- The potential parents financial situation;
- The potential parents physical health;
- The potential parents mental health; and
- The potential parents criminal record.
In general, individuals and/or couples who are seeking to adopt must demonstrate that they have the financial capacity to care for a
- child. This includes providing:
- Education; and
The prospective parents physical health is also taken into account. In some cases, one or both parents may be chronically and/or seriously ill. In these cases, a letter from a physician that states the potential parent is capable of caring for the child may be needed.
The prospective parents mental health is a consideration. If one and/or both parents has a psychiatric illness, and/or if there is a history of a disorder, a statement from a mental health professional may be needed. It should state that the parent is sufficiently emotionally stable to raise a child.
The prospective parents criminal history will also be reviewed. Some criminal charges and/or convictions may prevent individuals from adopting. In general, if there are any child abuse convictions, that will likely bar the adoption.
It is important to note that there may be factors involved in selecting adoptive parents that are not legal in nature. For example, many adoption agencies require that an adoptive family does not have an infant and/or a child under a certain age. While this may be upsetting to a prospective adoptive family, it is not a legal factor and cannot be considered illegal and/or discriminatory.
All adoptions, whether they are agency-based or independent, must be approved by a court. The potential parents must file an adoption petition and attend an adoption hearing. If the court determines that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, it will issue an order approving and finalizing the adoption.
What Types of Adoption Cases Benefit the Most from an Attorney’s Help?
All adoption cases benefit from an attorney’s help. Adoption is a major decision for any individual. An attorney can help examine the types of adoption and determine which may be the best for all parties. If an adoption type has already been chosen, an attorney can guide the prospective parents through the process.
Prospective adoptive parents will want to demonstrate to a court that they are prepared and able to care for the child they wish to adopt. Having an attorney at the adoption hearing is essential.
The court will be posing questions to the prospective parents regarding their situation and ability to care for the adopted child and/or children. An attorney can help the prospective parents prepare for this, as most individuals have not been questioned in a court of law and can find the process intimidating.
When Do I Need an Adoption Attorney?
It is essential to hire an experienced adoption attorney for any adoption issues. An attorney will be familiar with adoption laws and requirements in your area and be able to further explain the different types of adoption that are available.
Your attorney will be able to assist you in all steps of the adoption process as well as represent you in court during the adoption hearing. An adoption attorney may be the difference between the court approving and denying your adoption petition.