Adopting a child can be a wonderful experience and fortunately, most adoptions work out well for everyone involved. Adoption is a legal process that ends the rights of the biological parent and gives you sole decision-making power. Once the adoption is final, you are the child’s legal parent and have all the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. Adoption legal services usually take about 2 years from start to finish, depending on the details of your case. Since adoption is such an important and emotional decision, it is in your best interest to acquire the assistance of an adoption attorney who is familiar with the laws and process of adoption.
Although all states regulate their adoption agencies, requiring them to comply with a strict code of ethics, it is important to remember that an adoption agency is not your advocate. The main responsibility of an adoption agency is to determine if you are a suitable parent for the particular child you plan to adopt. Adoption attorneys must be state-licensed to practice law, but do not necessarily need to be licensed in adoption law. Therefore, you would want to make sure that the adoption attorney you hire has experience with adoption cases. If you are looking into an international adoption, you should know that there are significant legal barriers to such adoptions including arranging for the child to be issued a United States visa. For international adoptions, it’s usually easiest to work with an international adoption agency that is based in the United States or have a facilitator in the respective country.
Adoption laws vary significantly from state to state and compliance with such laws is very important. For example, some states seal the adoption records while other allow the adopted child to access their records once they reach a certain age. Some states have ‘grandparent’s rights’ statutes in which the grandparents can maintain contact and possibly visitation with their grandchild post-adoption. The National Adoption Center and Adoption.net are two sites that provide excellent insights and resources related to adoption.
Adoption situations can raise child custody issues, which is another reason as to why it is to your benefit to entrust an experienced attorney. Adoption/Child Custody lawyers can explain your legal rights, options, and responsibilities to you; represent you in court; advocate on your behalf; and negotiate an acceptable arrangement with the other parental figures in the child’s life. Lawyers with this specific experience can be invaluable during such an important decision and process.