Get Legal Help with Adoption

While adopting a child is a journey full of anticipation and joy, the legal process of adoption can cause stress and confusion during this happy time. A reputable and experienced attorney or adoption facilitator can alleviate undue anxiety, make sure necessary paperwork is handled properly, and guide prospective adoption parents through the legal process of adoption. While parents working with a state agency or private adoption agency generally do not hire private attorneys, those who desire private adoptions, relative adoptions, or step-child adoptions usually require legal assistance. Some ways of finding experienced adoption attorneys are:

  • Parents Who Have Adopted Previously: Parents who have already gone through a private adoption are one of the best resources for finding quality legal assistance. Compiling a list of attorneys with whom other adoptive parents have had positive experiences is a good way to begin finding an attorney you will be comfortable with.
  • Online Adoptive Parent Groups: Online networks of adoptive parents are easy to find with a quick internet search, and most parents are more than happy to help other prospective adoptive parents find legal assistance in their area. This is particularly true of international adoption groups, where parents often seek a "re-adoption" of the child in the United States through a private attorney, even though the adoption was formalized in a foreign country.
  • The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys: Adoption is a specialized area of law with strict paperwork requirements and should not be entrusted to an attorney with little or no experience in the adoption process. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys maintains a database of attorneys who specialize in adoption in each state.
  • Social Workers: Social workers are often in court with private adoption attorneys, and are in one of the best positions to recommend attorneys who are especially adept in the adoption process. Frequently, social workers in the local public guardian's office maintain a list of adoption attorneys to whom they refer prospective adoptive parents.
  • State and Local Bar Associations: Most bar associations maintain referral lists of attorneys to whom they regularly refer cases in specialized areas. Many attorneys referred by bar associations offer free initial consultations or work on a sliding scale depending on the prospective client's income.

In addition to private attorneys, several states allow "adoption facilitators" to become involved in the adoption process. Adoption facilitators are individuals, who are neither associated with an adoption agency or private attorneys, who participate in matching birth parents and adoptive parents, and who may play a role in the adoption process. Currently, only California and Pennsylvania allow adoption facilitators to charge for their services. Adoptive parents should be careful when working with an adoption facilitator, as the improper use of a paid adoption facilitator could make it more difficult to finalize an adoption.

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