If you are adopting a child, you will need to work with an adoption lawyer at some point in the process.
Adoption attorneys can be either lawyers who limit their practices exclusively to adoption matters or lawyers who assist with adoption as a part of their overall scope of practice. Although there are specialized courses that lawyers can take to learn about specific adoption law, there is no specialty certification in adoption. The level of expertise you will need from your adoption attorney depends upon the type of adoption you are pursuing.
If you are working through an adoption agency toward an international adoption, the agency generally prepares information for the adoption court. The adoption attorney will be filing papers and appearing with you during the proceedings. Many general practice attorney perform this type of service. Fees range from several hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars so it pays to shop around. Your adoption agency may have an attorney who routinely performs this service (with fees included in the agency fees) or may be able to recommend someone who has a good reputation and handles their cases on a regular basis.
If you intend to pursue a domestic adoption, your needs may be greater. A domestic adoption through a state social services agency is usually straightforward, again assisted by the agency, and probably requires a general practice attorney. However, if you will be involved in a search for a child to adopt domestically, an open adoption or surrogate situation, or some other situation that is largely a private matter not involving licensed agency assistance, you must retain a lawyer who is skilled and experienced in that particular area. Domestic adoption is complex and correct agreements between the parties are critical. It is very important to be sure that your adoption attorney understands the complexities of adoption law in your state and can be an effective advocate for you with birth parents and the judiciary.
You can find an adoption attorney by:
- Speaking with licensed adoption agencies in your area;
- Contacting the American Association of Adoption Attorneys at www.adoptionattorneys.org;
- Calling the Bar Association in your state;
- Yellow Pages listings;
- Speaking with local members of support groups such as Open Door Society or Families with Children from China;
- Searching online through directory.adoption.com which lists attorneys specializing in adoption.
When searching for an adoption attorney, keep in mind that you are shopping for a service and you should be a critical buyer. Have an introductory meeting and be sure you are comfortable with your attorney and that he or she has demonstrated sufficient skill and experience to help you.