Adoption Court FAQs

Adoption can be a tricky process. The federal government and the states regulate adoption law. Prospective adoptive parents must meet eligibility requirements and undergo an adoption home study.

Below you'll find the following frequently asked questions about the adoption process, types of adoptions, and finding legal advice.

Does My Adoption Have To Go Through Court?

Yes. Whether working through an adoption agency or doing a private adoption, you must complete it in adoption court. An adoption case involves filing a petition with the court. The family law judge conducts a finalization hearing with everyone interested in the adopted child. Parties to the case may include:

  • The biological parents
  • The adoptive parents
  • The child, if the judge feels it is appropriate
  • The child's social worker or guardian ad litem
  • The child's foster parent, if there has been foster care before the adoption
  • Other family members
  • A representative from Child Protective Services or the Department of Social Services

All these people must be present to ensure the best interests of the child. In an adoption proceeding, all parties need an opportunity to object or assert their legal rights. The legal process is tedious, but it ensures the best outcome for the child.

What Should the Adoption Petition Include?

petition for adoption should include:

  • The adoptive parents' names, ages, and address
  • The relationship between the adoptive parents and the child
  • The legal reason behind the termination of the biological parents' rights
  • The reason the adoptive family is best for the child
  • The reason permanent adoption is in the child's best interests

If available, the adoption petition should include written consent from the birth mother and biological father. You should also have a court order terminating parental rights if that is part of the adoption process.

If the child's name changes, the court files an amended birth certificate after the adoption.

What Is an 'Open Adoption'? What Is a 'Closed Adoption'?

In an open adoption, the adoptive parents maintain contact with the birth parents before the child's birth. They may provide child support to the birth mother during her pregnancy. In an open adoption, the adoption records remain unsealed and are available to the adoptee when they reach adulthood.

In a closed adoption, a court order seals the adoption records. No one, not even the adopted child, may access them. The child cannot learn about their birth parents even when they are adults without a court order.

Does an Attorney Have To Handle My Adoption?

You should have an adoption attorney. If you are working with an adoption agency, it may provide an attorney to represent you. You can use legal self-help and represent yourself, but family court is complicated. There are more court hearings than many people realize. You can sign a waiver of appearance so your attorney can handle them for you.

The only time you need to appear in court is for the finalization hearing when the judge signs the decree of adoption and makes the adoption official. There are many steps before that where an attorney's help is essential.

What Are the Legal Requirements for International Adoption?

To qualify for foreign adoption, you must meet the requirements of the United States and the requirements of the child's native country. You and your attorney may need to appear in adoption court in the U.S. and the child's home nation. You may also need an attorney in that country who understands the legal requirements of that country.

Adoptive placements from foreign countries can be attractive because they are less expensive. There are fewer legal hoops to jump through. Private agencies who broker placement of children in war-torn or developing countries take care of details. As unfortunate experience has shown, children from foreign countries may have emotional or physical disabilities that are not evident at first. Families wanting international adoptions should proceed with caution.

What Are Some Special Adoptive Situations That May Need Legal Help?

Some types of adoption have a few extra steps in family court. These can include:

  • Special needs children. Children with physical or mental disabilities need special adoptive parents. The courts will review such cases carefully to ensure a perfect fit.
  • Grandparent or interfamily adoption. Because adoption requires the termination of parental rights, adoption by another family member can be difficult. It means the birth parent cannot have any relationship with the child. When the birth parent is absent or unavailable, grandparent adoption can ensure the child has a stable family member.
  • Out-of-state adoption. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (“The Compact") is a law drafted to ensure children's safe and uniform placement during adoption and foster placement. The intent is to protect the parent-child relationship and provide a mechanism for the transition of services between the home state and the receiving state.

Going to Adoption Court? Make the Process Easier With an Attorney

Filing an adoption petition in court can be difficult. You need to prepare and submit many forms to the courts. You must understand your state's adoption laws. While this seems overwhelming, it doesn't need to be. You can have a local family law attorney specializing in adoption walk you through the process.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • It is a good idea to have an attorney for complex adoptions
  • An attorney can ensure you meet all legal requirements and that your adoption is finalized appropriately
  • An attorney can help protect the best interests of adoptive children, adoptive families, and birth parents
  • For simple adoptions, you may be able to do the paperwork on your own or by using an agency

Get tailored advice at any point in the adoption process. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

 Find a local attorney

Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Adopting a child is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

Start Planning