Adoption laws throughout the country vary from state to state. What is allowed in one state may not be permitted in another when it comes to adopting a child.
Moreover, U.S. adoption laws are always subject to change and can be difficult to understand as they are voted on and passed in individual state congresses. Because of how complex the adoption laws in your state may be, you might have no idea how to proceed with adopting a child.
The outcome of your case will have a major impact on the structure and future of your family. You can get the legal result you want and adopt a child successfully by working with a qualified adoption attorney throughout the process.
However, how can you can find a lawyer who will put your family’s best interests first and work diligently toward the outcome that you want? You can use these strategies for locating and retaining an adoption attorney who will provide you with the experienced and empathetic legal representation you need during your adoption case.
Adoption Laws Overview
As noted, the adoption laws in each state can be complex and entirely different from those in other states. However, most states address factors about which you should be aware before filing an adoption case like:
- eligibility to adopt
- different types of adoptions (closed, open, familial, etc)
- single parent or stepparent adoptions
- adoption tax credits
- legal adoption terms
Depending on the type of adoption case you want to pursue, it can be vital that you know these different facets of adoption and understand how they can apply to your particular situation.
Rather than risk confusing or overlooking key details, you can pursue the adoption of a child by retaining an experienced adoption attorney. The attorney should know the adoption laws in your state and also what kind of case to file so that you can get the outcome that you want.
A skilled adoption attorney can also hasten the adoption process in some instances and navigate legal channels that may not be available to you without this representation. When you want to spare yourself a lengthy process fraught with worry and confusion, you should retain a knowledgeable adoption lawyer who can advocate for you and the child you want to adopt until the case is decided in your favor.
Finding a skilled lawyer to take your case can be simpler than you may imagine. The actual process of vetting any of the adoption attorneys in your area does not have to be a long and drawn out undertaking.
Instead, by using a few simple measures, you can narrow your search and get in contact with adoption attorneys who are best suited to handle your particular situation. These methods of researching adoption lawyers in your state only require a short amount of time and should come at no cost to you.
How an Adoption Lawyer Can Help
You might wonder why you should even hire an adoption lawyer to help you in the first place? After all, could you not file the paperwork with the courthouse yourself and simply await a hearing or trial date? Why would you want to pay an attorney to handle tasks that you could, in theory, take care of on your own?
It is true that you have the right to represent yourself in any legal matter. However, having that right does not necessarily mean that you should attempt to take on your own case especially when the future of your family and the life of the adoptive child are at stake.
An adoption attorney is going to save you time, worry, and possibly even a lot of money by filing your case and getting it through a complex legal process that could very well overwhelm you if you try to handle everything on your own. When you have a lawyer representing you, you get the peace of mind of knowing that all of the required paperwork is filed with the courthouse.
Further, all of the financial and legal records, as well as the home study required to prove that you are a good parent and ready to adopt a child, will present to the adoption agency or birth parents as well as their attorneys. You can relinquish control over these vital components of your case to someone who knows what is needed to get you the outcome that you need to successfully adopt a child.
An attorney can also be your best advocate and ally if your adoption is challenged. Your lawyer can protect you from threats, lies, harassment, and other risks that could undermine your case. He or she can also present evidence proving that you are fit to adopt a child and have the child’s best interests at heart.
Adoption cases are typically fraught with emotion and worry. You can spare yourself unneeded stress and look forward to a positive outcome by retaining a skilled adoption attorney to represent you in your own adoption case.
Successful Adoption Attorney Search Strategies
As mentioned, finding a good adoption attorney to handle your case does not have to be time consuming or expensive. You have everything you need to locate a skilled and ready lawyer right at home and within your own circle of friends and family.
You probably assumed already that the Internet will be one of if not your most important resource in finding an experienced adoption lawyer. Using the Internet, you can find out what attorneys practice in this specialty in your city and state. You also can consider attorneys who specialize in family law, which is one of the umbrella terms that can encompass adoption law itself.
You could consider adoption attorneys outside of your state. After all, many big name adoption lawyers are located in major cities like Dallas or New York City. However, when you want representation that knows every key detail of the adoption laws in your state, you should choose an attorney who is licensed and practices where you already live.
You do not have to worry that an out-of-state attorney will have to research the laws and delay your case because of not being familiar with the regulations and requirements of the local court system.
As you search online for a local adoption attorney, you should take note of any client reviews you find. These reviews are probably biased. Still, they can give you valuable insight into how an attorney practices law and what kind of outcome he or she can give you in your own situation.
Based on what kind of information you find online about local adoption attorneys, you can narrow a list of legal contenders you would like to vet more thoroughly. You can then take the next step of setting up initial consultations with them.
Make Use of Free Initial Consultations
Many attorneys regardless of their legal specialty offer free initial consultations to interested clients. These early meetings last about 30 minutes to an hour and serve as an opportunity for both the attorney and the clients to get to know each other and find out what kind of legal outcome could be possible with the case.
After you create a list of adoption attorneys with whom you would like to speak, you should call or email each lawyer to set up that first session. Of course, you may want to make sure that you will not be charged for the meeting. Second, you also want to ensure that you will be given ample opportunity to find out the key details you need to know before pay the retainer fee.
It is not uncommon for the lawyer to introduce himself or herself when the meeting first starts and provide you with some basics about what he or she can offer you in terms of adoption services. The attorney might tell you about his or her educational training, professional prowess, and other basics that could help put you at ease or convince you to look elsewhere for representation.
You then should be given the chance to ask questions you may have or to go into more detail about what kind of case you plan to pursue. An hour should be enough time for you to get a feel for what the attorney can offer you as a potential adoptive parent.
However, if you are still unsure of whether or not to put the attorney on retainer, you may consider asking for advice and input from other people. Objective insight from people outside of your own particular adoption case could help you discover your best options for hiring legal representation that will serve you best.
Input from Others
So whom should you ask for input before you hire an adoption attorney? Your logical first choice should be people who have utilized the services of adoption lawyers and know what to expect from a good adoption attorney.
Many prospective adoptive parents network with people who have successfully adopted children of their own. Especially with the advent of the Internet, you can easily find adoption support groups online. These groups can be invaluable resources of information about the adoption process and finding good legal representation to help you in court.
If you know people who have adopted children in the past, you should ask them what criteria they used to hire an adoption lawyer. You should listen to their stories, whether they be good or bad, and use those details to create your own list of qualifications that you should look for in a good attorney.
Of course, you also can ask for help from trusted friends and family members. Your friends, in particular, can help with the vetting process primarily because they may be removed enough from your case and your family to detect signs that you might miss when interviewing potential attorneys.
You may be so eager to adopt that you inadvertently overlook behavior or discussions that could spell trouble for your case later. Your friends can give you the objective yet empathetic direction you need to choose a better adoption lawyer.
Finally, you should not discount the input of your own family members like your parents or siblings. They want the best outcome just as much as you do.
Their vested interest in your case gives you ammunition that you can draw on to continue with a vetting process that might seem overwhelming or expensive. Rather than give up on finding a good adoption lawyer or deciding to represent yourself, you can rely on the input from your loved ones to keep you going in a direction that will lead you to sound counsel and get you the legal results you want with your case.
Valid Legal Adoption Questions to Ask an Attorney
When you meet with adoption lawyers you want to consider hiring, you should be given the chance to ask as many questions as needed to help you make up your mind. If you are not sure what to ask, you should focus on what kind of results you want your lawyer to win for you in court and what kind of future you want to build with your family after the adoption.
Some of the common questions that adoption case clients typically ask before retaining an attorney include:
- What is a typical adoption case like?
- How long have you been an adoption attorney?
- How many cases like mine have you handled?
- What other experiences with adoption do you have outside of your practice?
- What approach or philosophy will you use to resolve my case successfully?
- How will you communicate with me while my case is being built and decided?
- What do you think the likely outcome of my case will be?
These initial queries can give you valuable insight into whether an attorney is ready and able to represent you or if you need to continue your search for the right representation. A good adoption attorney will not take offense to these questions and may even address them when he or she introduces himself or herself to you.
Costs and Payments for Legal Adoption Services
Adoptions themselves can be very pricey and require a vast amount of financial resources. The money that you are spending on the adoption may leave you with little money to spend on hiring a lawyer.
Regardless of what your financial situation is, however, you should find out how much the adoption attorney will charge to represent you and work your case. Along with the retainer fee, which can cost upwards of $200 or more, you also should expect to pay for the attorney’s services by the hour. You should discover what the by-hour rate is and how much you could be looking at paying once the case is finished once and for all.
Once you know the final tally, you can then consider different ways to pay for your legal representation in the adoption case. Depending on the lawyer’s payment and pricing policies, you may be able to reach an agreement that would let you make monthly payments on your account with the law firm or the attorney.
An installment agreement can be broken into a year’s worth of payments, allowing you to make 12 equal installments on your total legal debt. This agreement might be a solution for you to consider as long as you can afford to pay the retainer fee in cash.
If your attorney does not offer an installment agreement plan, you may discuss whether or not you can surrender a liquid asset as collateral for payment. For example, many attorneys will agree to file clients’ cases as long as those individuals have some sort of money, such as a significant tax refund, coming to them in the next few months.
If you have a large refund owed to you by the IRS, you could offer it up as collateral on your legal fees. You can then sign a waiver to that money and allow the IRS to mail the check directly to your attorney instead of you. If there is any money leftover after the lawyer deducts the fees, it will be sent back to you.
However, if your lawyer expects payment in full and refuses to accept collateral like a tax refund, you should consider other financing options available to you. These options could include using a credit card to pay for your legal fees.
You also could take out a bank loan to cover what you will owe to the attorney or law firm. If you plan to finance your case, you should get what you will owe in writing so you know how much money to borrow.
Disciplinary Infractions and Record for Success
Finally, your last step for finding the best adoption attorney to help you involves researching what kind of disciplinary record the lawyer has and how many adoption cases he or she has won for other clients. Each courthouse and state bar association should have records of attorneys’ disciplinary infractions. These records are typically available upon request and should be made available at little to no cost to you.
They indicate if an attorney has been censured or disciplined for offenses like contempt of court or fraud. If the attorney who are interested in hiring has a clean record, you can proceed with the retainer with a higher degree of confidence.
You should also take a look at how well the attorney has served other clients before you, however. You want an attorney who knows how to win and can give you the results you want. You do not want to invest money in a lawyer who could lose your case or not even put in the effort needed to win.
If the attorney has lost more cases than he or she has won, you should keep looking for better legal representation. You also should choose an attorney who is on good terms with the local court system and has avoided being disciplined by the judges in your city and state.
Adoption cases require the utmost legal skill and prowess that you may not find with lawyers who practice outside of family law. When you want to adopt a child and achieve your desired goals for your family, you need an experienced adoption attorney to build your case and represent you during the adoption process. Using these measures, you can narrow your search for the best adoption lawyer and retain legal counsel that will be to the advantage of your family and the child you wish to adopt.
The Importance of Choosing an Experienced Adoption Attorney
Adoption law differs in critical ways from other aspects of family law. Judges in charge of adoption cases require specific information that could result in your success or lead to your case being delayed or dismissed altogether.
Because of the impact that adoption has on your family, it is crucial that you retain an experienced adoption attorney to assist you. You can act in your own best interest and play an important role in the outcome of your case by learning why a skilled lawyer is your best ally and resource in and out of court.
Knowledge of State Adoption Laws
Chances are that you are unfamiliar with the intricacies of your state’s adoption laws. You may know the basics, such as what constitutes an open adoption versus one that is closed. However, you may know very little about what specific legalities are involved in successfully adopting a child.
A skilled adoption attorney will know these specifics as well as what legal avenues are available to you to help resolve your case successfully. For example, if you want to adopt a step child, you may not have to go through the extensive home studies required of people who are adopting a child from an orphanage or from overseas.
Likewise, if you are pursuing an open adoption instead of one that is closed, you may not need to file as much paperwork with the court’s clerk. Your lawyer will know exactly what laws apply to your case so that you get the results without having to refile, appeal, or face an unfair loss.
Expedition of Your Case
An experienced adoption attorney also may know how to expedite your case so that you can start your future with your adopted child and your family. It used to be that adoptions took years to complete. Today, however, many cases can be expedited as long as they meet certain criteria.
For example, if your adoption is not being challenged by a non-custodial parent or another family member, there is no need for it to be tied up for months in court. Your lawyer can have it pushed through open legal channels available to you. This expedition saves you time, money, and worry.
An experienced adoption attorney can be your best resource to achieving the desired outcome of your case. You can choose a skilled lawyer with confidence by learning how his or her expertise works to your advantage.
The Benefits of Choosing a Dedicated and Involved Adoption Attorney
Adopting a child can be an emotional process that challenges your patience and budget. Even if everything is working to your advantage, you still may worry about how your case is proceeding and if you have the legal representation that best suits your needs.
Rather than find out too late that your lawyer does not have your case’s best interests at heart, you can sidestep a potential disaster by looking for and retaining an adoption attorney who will commit to your case. You can ensure your attorney’s dedication to your adoption matter by learning what criteria to consider before putting one on retainer.
Direct Involvement with the Case
Attorneys in all legal specialties typically have a staff full of assistants and paralegals working for them or the law firm. These secondary professionals perform important tasks like couriering documents to and from the courthouse to drafting letters and emails for clients.
As important as these assistants and paralegals are, you do not want them doing the majority of the work on your adoption case. You are paying for the services of the adoption attorney, and it is not unreasonable to expect him or her to do the majority of work building and working the case.
As such, you should find out how much the lawyer will be directly involved in the case and how much work will be delegated to paralegals and assistants. If you are uncomfortable with the involvement promised by the attorney, you can look elsewhere for legal counsel.
Response to Communications
You can also gauge how involved your lawyer is with your case by how quickly he or she answer your communications. Your adoption attorney understandably is busy throughout the day helping other clients as well as working your case.
Still, it is not out of the question to expect your lawyer to return phone calls or emails within a day or two after you reach out to him or her. If your attorney delays getting back to you or ignore you entirely, you should take that lack of communication as a sign to hire another adoption lawyer.
You want your adoption attorney to be committed to your case. You can determine his or her dedication to your adoption matter by learning what behaviors signal the attorney’s commitment to you as a client.
Simple Tips for Finding the Best Adoption Attorney
Hiring the best adoption attorney to represent you requires that you put in the right amount of research and effort to find one who suits your needs. If you have never before hired an attorney, you may have no idea how to look for one in your immediate area. You can use these search tips to locate an adoption lawyer who will be a valuable ally to you and the child you want to adopt.
Use the Internet
The Internet has become many people’s de facto resource for locating any range of information that might elude you through other search methods. You can go online and find a slew of legal and professional review websites dedicated to categorizing and reviewing attorneys not only in your city but also throughout your state and the U.S. as a whole.
These sites provide in-depth reviews from other clients who have retained adoption attorneys’ services and can tell you in detail what you can expect if you put a particular lawyer on retainer. Based on the information in the reviews, you can proceed confidently with hiring an adoption lawyer or bypassing that one in favor of another who has better client reviews.
Many reviews may be full of bias, which is why you should pair online research with other methods for finding and vetting a good adoption attorney. You can start by asking for your friends and relatives for their input on your adoption lawyer search.
Input from Loved Ones
Your friends and relatives want the best outcome for your case as much as you do. They want you to succeed as an adoptive parent, which is why they may take your search for a good adoption attorney in earnest.
You can ask for their input about what lawyers to vet before you put one on retainer. Your friends and loved ones may be able to offer a more objective viewpoint on a lawyer’s expertise. You can listen to their advice and decide what attorney you would like to interview and hire.
You can also ask for a referral from the state bar association, which should have a list of practicing adoption attorneys in your area. The referral should be free and available during regular business hours by phone. You can also search for skilled adoption lawyers in your city on the state bar association’s website.
Getting the Best Return on Your Adoption Attorney Investment
When you retain an adoption attorney to represent you, you are making an investment not only in the child you want to adopt but also your family and your future. You want to know that the money you pay for the attorney’s services will be worth every penny and that your lawyer will help you successfully complete your adoption.
Because so much can depend on the adoption attorney himself or herself, it is crucial that you find out if the lawyer is worth the money that you will pay for the retainer fee and the by-hour services you will be charged. You can start by considering what kind of win and loss record the attorney has and in what standing the lawyer enjoys with the local court system and judges.
Record for Success or Failure
You undoubtedly want to hire a lawyer who wins more cases than he or she loses. When you go to court, you want the judge to approve your adoption rather than delay it for bureaucratic reasons to throw it out of court entirely.
A lawyer with a record for winning can be a valuable asset in getting your case heard in court and decided in your favor. This individual will know what paperwork needs to be filed, what records need to be compiled and presented to bolster your standing, and what avenues to pursue to win the court’s favor. An adoption attorney with a good win record could be worth the investment and give you the results you want with your case.
You should also check the lawyer’s disciplinary record to find out if he or she has been disciplined or censured by the court. An adoption attorney who has been fined or jailed for offenses like contempt of court or defrauding clients is not worth the money that you have to pay for his or her adoption services.
Instead, you should look for one with a clean disciplinary record and one who is in good standing with local judges, clerks, prosecutors, and other local attorneys. This lawyer will give you the return on the investment you put into hiring him or her for your adoption case.
An adoption attorney is an investment in your family’s future. You can choose one that will be an asset and help you realize your adoption goals by reviewing win and loss as well as disciplinary records.