As an adoptive parent, you have likely just experienced an already-long road to get to this point. Your family has had to make so many decisions along this journey. Some of those decisions are more stressful than others. Some of the choices were harder than others. The unknowns seem to outweigh the knowns. There have been joys and disappointments and sweet, sometimes heartbreaking anticipation.
Now you need an attorney to help with your adoption. Can’t you just use your uncle who practices law? Or your best friend from undergrad who just passed the bar? This seems like the one place you can use someone you know and trust and also save money. Why add another stressful, potentially expensive decision to your long list?
Very few attorneys practice adoption law exclusively, and you are not alone in thinking you can ask a general practitioner to help with your adoption. Many adoptive families do just that. The problem arises when your non-specialized attorney neglects to appropriately address all of the applicable laws in conjunction with an already-stressful process. Mistakes made by a non-adoption attorney can jeopardize your placement. Adoption attorneys are specialized in understanding applicable state laws, which usually govern the adoption for the most part, as well as all federal laws pertaining to adoption. There are commonalities applicable to all adoptions; however, there are differences in laws by state.
Certain factors also make it necessary to have an attorney who is an expert in adoption cases.
Interstate adoptions are very common and are governed by the Interstate Compact for Placement of Children (ICPC). Adopting parents may not bring the child they are adopting across state lines into their home state to adopt until they receive the go-ahead from the ICPC administrators in both states. An adoption attorney can help you understand and comply with the ICPC regulations of the states involved in the adoption.
Birth parent rights.
An adoption attorney will ensure that the birth parents’ rights are legally terminated before placement is finalized. It can be complicated sometimes in regards to the rights of the biological father. An identified biological father who has not established his legal parenthood may be terminated in most states based on being notified that his rights will end. This is unless he takes steps to establish his legal rights as the father to parent the child. Many states have a putative father registry, which is a tool you can use if you are uncertain of the biological father’s identity.
Currently, in the United States there are very few closed adoptions outside of inter-country adoptions. An adoption attorney can counsel clients about open adoption and what is involved in an open adoption, including helping them navigate the ins and outs of any post-adoption communication agreements that are involved.
An adoption attorney can help navigate the contracts with agencies, costs, and tax credits involved with your adoption. The Federal Adoption Tax Credit is a tax credit for adoption expenses. Being nonrefundable means it is limited to your tax liability for the year. The maximum amount for 2015 is $13,400 per child.
These reasons scrape the surface on all of the many benefits an experienced adoption attorney can bring to your adoption process. This is the one decisions where cutting corners can make your adoption more costly, time-consuming, and risky. Finding a specialized adoption attorney is also easier than you think. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA) is a wonderful resource for finding a qualified adoption attorney and to answer the many more questions you may have in your adoption journey.
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