All adoptions require an adoption attorney to complete the legal services. If you choose to work with an adoption agency, they can coordinate adoption attorney services for you, and you will not need to hire an adoption lawyer separately.
However, some women choose to work only with an adoption attorney. Some adoption attorneys can also provide other necessary adoption services or refer you to other professionals who can provide such services.
If you choose an adoption attorney as your primary adoption professional, this is considered an independent adoption. In many independent adoptions, the birth parents and adoptive family find each other independently of an adoption professional’s screening and matching services. In some states, adoption lawyers are not legally allowed to perform these screening and matching services.
The services offered by adoption lawyers vary from one attorney to the next. If you choose to work with an adoption attorney, you may need to take a more active role throughout the adoption process, and you may have to consult additional adoption professionals for some services not provided by your attorney. However, the right adoption attorney should be able to refer you to professionals that can assist you with these services.
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:
Pros of Having an Adoption Attorney Complete Your Adoption
- Adoption attorneys can provide the necessary legal work to safely and legally terminate your and the birth father’s parental rights. Your adoption attorney should have considerable experience with adoption law, and you can be assured that your legal rights and interests are being represented throughout the adoption process.
- You may be able to meet the adoption attorney in person to decide if he or she is best for your adoption plan. Because you will likely choose to work with an adoption attorney from a local law firm, you will be able to meet your attorney face-to-face throughout the adoption process.
- Usually, an adoption attorney is all you need for an independent adoption. If you do need additional support or resources, your attorney should be able to partner with adoption agency or other adoption professionals to provide these services.
- Attorneys are reviewed by the state every year, ensuring they comply with their state’s adoption laws. In addition, your adoption attorney may be a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, ensuring he or she is up-to-date on the latest adoption laws.
Cons of Having an Adoption Attorney Complete Your Adoption
- They may not provide matching services. You may need to work with another adoption professional, such as an adoption agency, to be matched with a waiting adoptive family. Alternatively, you may need to independently identify an adoptive family that you would like to pursue an adoption plan with. This can potentially limit the number of families you have to choose from. In addition, there are other services your attorney may not be able to provide throughout the adoption process, such as counseling and support. If adoption counseling is offered, it is normally through an unlicensed paralegal with little adoption counseling experience. The attorney also will not usually be able to keep up with post-adoption agreements, such as receiving pictures and letters, whereas adoption agencies often have programs in place to coordinate these services.
- 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 expectant mothers throughout the adoption process. You may not receive these services if you choose to work with a local attorney to pursue an independent adoption.
Choosing an Adoption Lawyer
If you have decided that working with an adoption attorney or law firm is the best choice for you and your baby, there are several questions you may want to ask the law firms you are considering before making your final decision:
- Can you explain the adoption legal process?
- Are you a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys?
- Do you have a list of waiting families?
- If you don’t have waiting families, how do you help birth mothers match with adoptive families?
- When will you be available in person or by phone?
- Who will provide adoption counseling, and how much experience does he or she have?
- How do you facilitate living expenses?
- How much control do I have over the adoption?
- What is your stance on open adoption?
- How do you facilitate post-placement contact, like pictures and letters, from the adoptive family?
Adoption attorneys or adoption law firms are best for prospective birth mothers who have already identified an adoptive family and who feel they don’t need much adoption counseling and support. It is important to carefully consider the resources and services you’d like to have available before choosing an adoption attorney as your adoption professional.
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.