Adoption: Where Do I Start?: Step 6: File Necessary Legal Documents

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This information was taken directly from Child Welfare Information Gateway

Step 6: File Necessary Legal Documents

What You Should Know

All domestic adoptions need to be finalized in court. The process varies from State to State. Generally a child must have lived with the adoptive family for at least 6 months before the adoption can be legally finalized. During this time, a social worker may visit several times to ensure the child is well cared for and to write up the required court reports. After this period, the agency (or attorney in an independent adoption) will submit a written recommendation of approval of the adoption to the court. You or your attorney can then file with the court to complete the adoption.

For intercountry adoptions, the actual adoption procedure is just one of a series of required legal processes. In addition to the laws of your State, you must also follow the laws of the child’s country of origin and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requirements (see If you adopt from a country that participates in the Hague Convention, the process carries further requirements to safeguard the parties involved. The process to finalize the adoption depends on the type of intercountry adoption, the type of visa the child has, and the laws in your State.

  • Information Gateway publishes resource lists of links to photolisting services in each State:

Some Places to Go

The National Foster Care & Adoption Directory provides an attorney referral service for each State:

Two Information Gateway factsheets provide more information about finalization of intercountry adoptions:

Continue to Adoption: Where Do I Start?: Step 7: Parent Your Child


Child Welfare Information Gateway. Available online at