An adoption attorney is necessary to provide the legal services required in every adoption. If you are pursuing an agency adoption, your adoption agency can coordinate attorney services for you, and you will not need to hire an adoption lawyer separately.
Adoptive parents who choose to work with an attorney or law firm as their primary adoption professional are pursuing an independent adoption. In this case, the attorney might provide additional adoption services or refer the adoptive parents to other professionals who can provide these services at an additional cost. In many independent adoptions, the adoptive family and birth parents find each other independently of an adoption professional’s screening and matching services. In some states, adoption lawyers are not legally able to perform these screening and matching services. Available services will vary from one adoption attorney or law firm to the next.
Why work with an adoption attorney?
There are several reasons to consider working with an adoption attorney throughout the adoption process, as well as some disadvantages to take into account. Here are some of the top pros and cons to consider before choosing to pursue an independent adoption with an adoption attorney:
- Adoption attorneys are required in every adoption to reach finalization. They can provide expertise in adoption law and will be able to complete the necessary legal work to finalize the adoption. You can be assured that your legal rights and interests are being represented throughout the adoption process and that the adoption is legally sound.
- They may be the only adoption professional required for an independent adoption. If you have already matched with a birth mother, your attorney can help you complete the adoption without use of an adoption agency or other adoption professional. If you do need additional support or resources, your attorney should be able to partner with an adoption agency or other adoption professionals to provide these services.
- Their fees may vary based on the amount of time it takes to complete the adoption. Adoption attorneys typically do not charge a set fee like an adoption agency. The longer the adoption takes to complete, the more work is required by the adoption agency, meaning the cost of your adoption may increase. It may be difficult for the attorney to provide an accurate estimate for the total cost of the adoption at the beginning of the process, and you likely will not receive a refund if the adoption doesn’t work out.
- They may not provide all necessary services. Your attorney will likely offer little or no assistance in finding a match with prospective birth parents, and you may need to work with another adoption professional, such as an adoption agency, to be matched with an expectant mother. If you choose to advertise your family individually, you will likely spend more money for less effective advertising mediums than those that are available to adoption agencies. In addition, counseling and support services will either be provided by an unlicensed paralegal or outsourced at the adoptive family’s expense. The attorney also will not usually be able to keep up with post-adoption agreements, such as sending pictures and letters to the birth parents, whereas adoption agencies often have programs in place to coordinate these services.
- Communicating with prospective birth parents may be more difficult. Families often must answer initial birth mother calls from their advertisements, as attorneys do not provide matching and screening services. In addition, because law firms lack a social services department skilled in evaluating, educating and guiding expectant mothers through the adoption process, families are often matched with birth mothers who aren’t strongly committed to adoption, aren’t emotionally prepared and don’t understand the process, increasing the chances of the adoption disrupting. In the early stages of the adoption process, many birth parents may be intimidated to talk to an attorney.
- They may not be available when you need them most, as attorneys are typically busy with other cases. Many large adoption agencies provide 24/7 counseling and support and have large staffs available to work closely with adoptive families throughout the adoption process. You may not receive these services if you choose to work with a local attorney to pursue an independent adoption. Your attorney could be distracted from your adoption by other pending adoptions or cases and may not offer afterhours or weekend availability.
Who adopts through adoption attorneys?
Adoptive families each have their own reasons for deciding to work with their chosen adoption professional. Adoption attorneys are needed to complete the legal requirements of every adoption; however, clients who choose to work with adoption attorneys or law firms as their primary adoption professional:
- are seeking an independent adoption
- have friends that are attorneys
- want control of the adoption process and don’t trust adoption agencies’ evaluation processes
- are trying to save money and have not taken into account the attorney’s hourly fee, the costs associated with adoptions that don’t work out, and medical and living expenses
- must be available to answer birth mother inquiries
Choosing an adoption lawyer
If you have decided that working with an adoption attorney or law firm is the best choice for your family, there are several questions you may want to ask the law firms you are considering before making your final decision:
- What states are you licensed in?
- Do you or your law firm specialize in adoption law?
- How many adoptions did you legally complete last year?
- In time-sensitive situations, how will you handle my case among your other pending cases?
- Do you provide any matching services, or do I have to find a birth mother first?
- On average, how much does an adoption with you cost?
- How much do you charge per hour, and what happens if my adoption takes longer than expected?
- What factors could increase or decrease wait times and cost?
- What adoption services are performed by your law firm, and which services are outsourced?
Adoption attorneys provide a valuable service in making sure the adoption is completed legally in accordance with state adoption laws. If you are seeking an independent adoption, an adoption attorney is the only adoption professional you will likely need.
However, for many other families who require matching, counseling and other adoption services, an adoption agency is likely a more logical choice.
Find an adoption attorney
Find a reputable adoption attorney in your state by searching the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA) directory. Every AAAA member is an expert in the complexities of adoption law and has acted as counsel in at least 50 adoption proceedings, including 10 interstate placements.