If you are considering adoption, you may be wondering if you need an attorney. What does an adoption attorney do?
Adoption attorneys process and file all paperwork with the courthouse, as well as oversee the adoption to ensure that legal requirements are being met. Adoption attorneys also provide legal counsel and representation during all court hearings, as well as provide peace of mind to the adoption party.
You may think that you do not need an adoption attorney. Your adoption situation appears nonproblematic, so why bother?
Even the most straightforward, uncomplicated adoptions benefit from the assistance of an attorney.
We could point out Murphy’s Law that refers to this: If something can go wrong, it likely will.
Or, we could cross our finger, hope for the best, and wing it. Why take a chance at something as important as adding a member to your family?
You deserve the assurance that your adoption will have no loopholes that could come back around to bite you later.
Did you know there are different types of adoption? Learn about why open adoptions are the most popular type of adoption today.
What Does an Adoption Attorney Do?
So why are adoption attorneys so important, anyway? What does an adoption attorney do?
Adoption attorneys assist in coordinating all aspects of the adoption or work alongside an adoption agency that they are in partnership with to ensure all requirements are met. Adoption attorneys will help the adoption party through any unexpected challenges that may arise to ensure a smooth process.
With all of the adoption legalities to keep track of and requirements that must be met, most find that hiring an adoption attorney is worth the additional expense.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the things an adoption attorney does. Although this is not an all-inclusive look, you’ll have a better idea.
What adoption attorneys do:
1. Filing the adoption petition with the courthouse
Before obtaining the necessary paperwork for the adoption, a lawyer first needs to make sure that all parties involved meet the mandatory state-specific requirements to participate in an adoption.
Once all initial legalities have been checked, paperwork will begin.
2. Processing required forms and finalizing documents
As with the initial set of paperwork, there will be ongoing legal documents that will need to be reviewed for accuracy and compliance.
Those involved in adoption can do this themselves if they do not have an attorney.
However, adoption attorneys offer priceless peace of mind knowing that the legal documents are done correctly with no loopholes to be discovered later.
3. Working with social workers to ensure a legal process
As with the adoption agency and other adoption liaisons, adoption attorneys will coordinate efforts with social workers to establish timelines within the adoption process as well as to get feedback on the process of home studies, training compliance, and more.
4. Scheduling and confirming court dates
Adoption attorneys handle the scheduling of all court appearances, as well as coordinate what may be needed or required for an upcoming court date.
Having a legal team behind you helps to alleviate the worry and stress of feeling solely responsible for crossing all T’s and dotting all I’s.
5. Communicating with birth parents’ legal counsel
There will be times when uncomfortable conversations need to take place. An adoption attorney can do this for you on your behalf.
For example, most adoptions today are what we consider open adoptions.
The prospective parents and the birth parents will need to decide at what level of communication after the adoption is acceptable.
This can often be an uncomfortable and awkward time, but having a liaison on your side to help you communicate can help relieve some of your anxieties.
The importance of having all agreed-upon boundaries outlined by an attorney who has your best interest in mind is priceless.
6. Guidance during unexpected roadblocks
We all hope for the best yet want to prepare for the worst. Hiring an adoption attorney can help navigate unexpected roadblocks, which takes the pressure off of you.
Based on the abundance of responsibility and guidance that an adoption attorney provides, you may want to strongly consider that hiring an adoption lawyer is worth every penny.
Most of us know what adoption is, but did you know there are different types of adoption? Read our full adoption resource here.
What Do International Adoption Attorneys Do?
Perhaps you are open to international adoption. What does an international adoption attorney do?
International adoption attorneys assist prospective parents in intercountry adoptions. They are educated about the Hague Convention and work with Hague-accredited international adoption agencies. An international adoption attorney ensures all international adoption rules and regulations are met.
If you’re considering international adoption, you will most certainly want to make sure that the agency you choose is Hague-accredited.
The Hague Convention is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions.
International adoption attorneys work with Hague-accredited international adoption agencies and are extremely familiar with the Hague Convention.
The legalities of international adoption are complex, and the value of an international adoption attorney cannot be stressed enough.
Each country has its own rules and regulations, and an international adoption attorney works to ensure that all aspects of the international adoption are adhered to legally.
Do You Need a Lawyer for an Adoption?
Many adoption agencies include the services of a lawyer in their adoption service fees. Do you need a lawyer for an adoption?
You need an adoption lawyer to ensure that all requirements are being met and the adoption is done legally. During a contested adoption, a lawyer is needed to help win your case. Lawyers are not required to adopt a child, yet you are highly encouraged to hire one to protect your family’s investment.
Many adoption agencies work hand-in-hand with an adoption lawyer to ensure the adoption process meets state laws and requirements. If your adoption agency works with a lawyer to oversee the legalities, ask to meet with them directly.
In short, you can certainly adopt a child without a lawyer.
Many courthouses have facilitators and information packets for those wishing to proceed with court hearings without a lawyer.
Specific adoption forms are required to be filled out and then submitted to the courthouse, and court appearances will be a part of that process.
Due to the costs, you will likely endure during your adoption experience, is it not worth it to spend just a bit more so you have that peace of mind knowing the process is done legally so as not to bite you in the end?
Learn how long adoption takes and why adoption takes so long.
How Much Do Adoption Lawyers Cost?
When you consider the costs to hire an adoption lawyer in addition to the other adoption expenses, it can feel a bit overwhelming. How much do adoption lawyers cost?
Adoption lawyers charge an hourly rate of between $200 to $300 per hour on average. The fee structure for an uncontested adoption typically involves a flat rate averaging around $2,000, providing there are no complications involved. Adoption attorney fee structures can vary depending on the attorney.
You are strongly encouraged to hire an adoption lawyer when going through the adoption process. The upfront costs of obtaining an attorney can often save you time, more money in the long run, and heartaches down the road.
It is not uncommon for an adoption agency to provide the services of an attorney which is included in the overall costs to the agency for the adoption.
Adopting a child can be a significant financial investment; one that requires making sure the process is done legally in every way so as not to cost you more money in the long run.
How Do You Vet an Adoption Attorney?
Where do you begin if you decide that hiring an adoption attorney is the right decision for you and your family?
With a little research and time, you will be able to find an adoption attorney that you feel proud to have on your side.
1. Verify that the lawyer specializes in the practice you need.
2. Visit the State Bar website for your state or give them a call. Any previous disciplinary actions?
3. How long have they been in practice?
4. Google them to look for online reviews, articles written by them, etc.
5. Have a consultation. Is the office clean, put together, and professional?
6. Is the attorney punctual and confident? Do you feel rushed?
7. Do you feel listened to, or are they doing most of the talking?
8. A lawyer should never promise an outcome with your case.
9. Are they upfront about their rate structure and practices?
10. Will you be billed on a contingent basis or hourly? If hourly, get specifics.
We are confident that if you follow the above guidelines to research your chosen adoption attorney, you will walk away proud knowing you did your due diligence to ensure their credibility.
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.