When my husband and I began our adoption journey, I remember being quite overwhelmed. We had that feeling where the world was spinning around and we were just looking for something to hang onto for the ride. We were presented with a sudden opportunity to adopt and did not know where to turn. I knew that an adoption agency might be able to help, but due to the immediate nature of our need, I wanted to see if there was someone a little more private, like an adoption attorney, who could advocate for us in our situation.
Not all situations will require you to hire an adoption attorney. Many agencies have adoption attorneys who handle all of their cases. However, like in our case, there may be some situations where you feel more comfortable hiring an agency for some parts of the adoption, such as the education and home study, but choosing your own attorney for the legalities. If you have an adoption where you are starting from scratch and have not yet been matched, it is often best to start with an agency and then make a decision if you would also like to or need to hire outside counsel. If you have a more urgent situation, it may prove beneficial for you and the timeline you are facing to seek immediate counsel from an attorney.
It is easiest to begin your search for an adoption attorney simply by Googling “Adoption Attorney Near Me.” This will likely generate a laundry list of adoption attorneys and agencies in your area. If you live near a major city like I do, you will often have many options. From there, I take the time to check out the website of each attorney. There you may find reviews, services, fees, etc. While it is not a requirement, my husband and I then narrowed our list down to attorneys who specialize solely in adoption. This made us a feel a bit more at ease knowing that our attorney would be knowledgeable about our case.
Once you have a list narrowed to possible candidates, check out the reviews on Google as well as their websites. You can also search their names individually, as this may bring up forum reviews and reviews from other sites from those who have used each attorney before. Another great tool for review is simply asking for recommendations or reviews of specific attorneys through adoption groups on social media. It is a safe bet that some of these groups have at least a few people who have used your adoption attorney before and can vouch for or warn you about the attorney’s work.
After you have picked an attorney you are interested in, place a call and see if he or she might have a free consultation. We were lucky that our attorney offered a free one-hour phone consultation. It was during this conversation that I felt totally at ease with our choice, as she answered all of my questions and came up with a game plan in that first call. If you make a call and do not feel at ease or have any doubts, contact the next attorney on your list. Typically free consultations offer no commitment until you sign paperwork to officially hire an attorney.
Once you have made the decision to hire an attorney, the attorney will have you sign a client contract. This contract is often mailed or emailed to you so that you may read it over and sign in order to commit to a attorney-client relationship. This paperwork will often outline information such as hourly rates, legal processes, and what services will be rendered. By signing this contract, you enter into an exclusive relationship with this attorney. Many attorneys will often require a retainer, which is an upfront free to secure their services. This retainer fee can vary but will likely be outlined in the contract you sign prior to representation. According to the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, “A clear, written understanding between the attorney, the client, and the payor allows for better planning, prevents misunderstandings, and documents the parties’ intentions and responsibilities. In most states, a written agreement is required by attorney ethics rules…” Once this contract has been signed and submitted and the retainer paid, you will meet with or speak with the attorney to discuss next steps and begin the process of putting your case into motion.