Adoption is a wonderful, loving way to build a family. But as you may be aware, adopting or placing a child can be quite complicated, with laws differing from state to state. So it is important to become as knowledgeable as possible as you begin to build your family through adoption.
- How can an attorney actually help me in the adoption process?
- How can an attorney help me develop an adoption plan?
- What are some of the specific legal issues that may arise? And how can an attorney address them?
- I am already working with an adoption agency. Do I still need an attorney?
- We are considering adopting a child from another country. We understand that the adoption will be finalized in that country. Do we still need an attorney here?
- How can an attorney help me regarding the issues of post-placement contact with the birth parent(s)?
- How do I go about finding an experienced adoption attorney?
Q. How can an attorney actually help me in the adoption process?
A. A knowledgeable, experienced adoption attorney can help explain, simplify, and organize the adoption process and outline your options. The attorney can clarify the relevant adoption laws and regulations in your state. If you are considering adopting or placing a child from another state, your attorney can consult with an experienced attorney who is familiar with the laws of that state, then explain them to you and/or refer you to that attorney.
Q. How can an attorney help me develop an adoption outreach plan?
A. Your attorney can assist you in weighing the advantages and difficulties involved in adoption. These include: using the Internet as a resource for finding birth parents; conducting an advertising campaign; utilizing other networking techniques; and working with in-state and out-of-state agencies and attorneys. Your attorney can help you to develop a practical and legally secure plan that is specifically tailored to your needs.
Q. What are some of the specific legal issues that may arise? And how can an attorney address them?
A. Your attorney can give legal advice regarding issues that may arise during the pregnancy and after placement, such as:
1. Determining what, if any, payments to birth parents during pregnancy are legal and permissible under the laws of your state or other applicable jurisdictions; and provide an attorney's trust account to safely pay these expenses.
2. Making sure all the birth parents' rights are fully and legally terminated.
3. Providing resources for appropriate adoption counseling to help the birth parents through this difficult time.
4. Helping with the legal steps necessary to transport a baby from the state of birth to your home state (see ICPC section).
5. Assisting unique state-by-state issues faced by single and gay and lesbian adoptive parents.
Q. Because I am already working with an adoption agency, do I still need an attorney?
A. Adoptive parents must have a home study, which the state Department of Social Services or a private adoption agency can provide. While some agencies can help find expectant mothers, our law office limits the number of clients looking for a baby at any one time, and can provide personalized outreach nationwide. It often helps to have an attorney to represent your interests and manage your case from beginning to the final hearing to make sure all appropriate legal work is done for a safe adoption, from finding the birth mother, terminating parent rights to finalization of the adoption.
Q. We are considering adopting a child from another country. We understand that the adoption will be finalized in that country. Do we still need an attorney here?
A. I advise parents who adopt a child overseas to re-adopt their child in their home state. This protects you and the child from any possible retroactive changes in the law of the country from which you adopted your child. It also enables you to obtain a United States birth certificate for your child once your child had been re-adopted in your home state and provide the U.S. courts with formal jurisdiction over the child. Additionally, domestic re-adoption is typically required if you did not see your child prior to his or her adoption in the foreign country.
Q. How can an attorney help me regarding the issues of post-placement contact with the birth parent(s)?
A. Post-placement contact between the adoptive and birth parent(s) varies from none to periodic letters and photographs exchanged through your adoption agency to more open agreements involving phone calls and scheduled visits. Your attorney can help you understand these options and, if appropriate, draft an applicable agreement between you and the birth parents. An attorney can file this post-placement agreement in court if the parties want this to be a legal document rather than just an informal agreement.
Q. How do I go about finding an experienced adoption attorney?
A. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA) is the nationally recognized organization for adoption attorneys. It is composed of approximately 300 adoption attorneys in the United States and Canada. Currently, applicants for membership must have successfully completed at least 50 adoptions to be considered. While there are excellent experienced attorneys who are not members of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the Academy is the largest and most easily available resource of experienced adoption attorneys.
The Academy of California Adoption Lawyers is a California organization for California lawyers who have completed more than 200 adoptions.
Attorney Susan Romer is a member of both AAAA and ACAL.