Adoption Legal Help
Adoption is a rewarding journey that unites prospective adoptive parents with children needing loving homes. It's also a complex legal process. It requires court filings, lots of documents, and compliance with many legal procedures. Some, but not all, of these steps, need the help of an attorney.
The following general information and tools will help you locate, hire and effectively work with an attorney during your adoption case.
Adoption laws vary from state to state. Different state laws have different requirements. For example, most states have a minimum age to adopt. It ranges from 18 to 25. California law requires prospective parents be at least 10 years older than the adoptee.
For those thinking about international adoption, rules vary from country to country. China wants prospective adoptive parents that are physically fit. As a result, an adoptive parent cannot have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more. Other countries do not have this requirement.
Some adoption agencies apply certain criteria to prospective adoptive parents they are willing to represent. This includes marital status, religion, and sexual orientation.
Finally, in a non-agency or independent adoption, birth parents may have their own preferences for adoptive parents.
Our Eligibility Questionnaire can help you understand your potential for adoption based on general criteria. This tool can guide you to uncover potential issues that may arise in your adoption journey.
When considering adoption, an initial consultation with an attorney is advisable. Having these documents at hand enables your attorney to quickly and easily evaluate your case's potential benefits and challenges. To make this meeting easier, gather critical documents, including:
- The adoptive parent(s) birth certificates
- Marriage and divorce certificates
- Statement from prospective adoptive parents' health insurer that their plan will cover the adoptee
- Local police department letter of good standing
- Health information statement from your doctor
- Home study (if completed)
Coming to the meeting prepared will help create a productive client relationship.
Our Adoption Intake Form is a handy tool to streamline your consultation with an attorney. It asks for basic information commonly required by adoption attorneys. Filling this out in advance allows more time to discuss the significant aspects of your process of adoption during your consultation.
Types of Adoptions
There are several types of adoption. You may already know what type of adoption you want. If not, your adoption attorney will give you information on each and help you decide which is best suited to your circumstances.
- Private adoption/independent adoption/non-agency adoption. Adoption handled by an attorney.
- Agency adoption. Adoption handled by an adoption agency.
- International adoption. Adopting a child from a foreign country.
- Adoption from foster care
- Stepparent adoption. Stepparents adopt their stepchildren.
- Adult adoption. Adopting a person over 18.
Steps in an Adoption
Legal procedures vary depending on the type of adoption you choose. But several steps are common to the adoption process in almost all types of adoption.
- Choose an adoption agency or adoption law firm
- Get an adoption home study completed by the adoption agency or a social worker
- Choose a child or get chosen by a birth parent
- Get consent from the biological parents
- Birth of the child (which may be a shared experience with the birth mother in some adoptions)
- Travel to a foreign country to bring your child home if you are adopting from a foreign country
- Termination of parental rights
- Birth parent relinquishment of the adoptee
An adoption attorney can spot and resolve legal issues that might derail your adoption.
State Court Legal Process
Domestic adoptions and some international adoptions need a petition to the appropriate state court to finalize the adoption.
Some international adoptions require readoption. This is because some countries only award legal guardianship when a child has been adopted. Finalizing the adoption in the United States means that you receive a final adoption order declaring that you are the adoptive child's parent. It also gives you a birth certificate from your home state.
The petition identifies the parties and requests to terminate the birth parents' parental rights. It also asks that the adoptive parents be granted custody of the child. The court issues an order declaring that the adoptive parents are the legal parents of the adopted child. This creates a new parent-child relationship.
Because of the importance of this type of legal filing, it's advisable to have an adoption attorney prepare and file the paperwork for you.
How an Attorney Can Help
An adoption attorney can help you in several ways. An experienced adoption attorney will evaluate your case, explain what you can expect at every stage in the adoption process, and identify your options.
An adoption lawyer will represent you and your adoptive child's interests while protecting your legal rights. This will help smooth the transition from birth to the adoptive family.
Learn About Adoption Legal Help
Primer on how an adoption attorney can help you with your legal issues, such as explaining the different types of adoption and ensuring that you meet all the requirements.
Listings for experienced and well-qualified adoption attorneys near where you live or work. It may be searched by state, city, or metropolitan area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory).
Information to help you choose the right lawyer and understand legal and contingency fees and retainer agreements.
You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer's Help
A family law attorney can help you understand your options, give you legal advice, and advise you on protecting your legal rights. Visit our attorney directory to connect with an experienced adoption attorney near you. Remember, you don't have to navigate these waters alone.
Learn About Adoption Legal Help
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.