When Should You Hire an Adoption Attorney?
When Should I Hire an Adoption Attorney?
The adoption process can be long and stressful. Sometimes there’s so many hoops to jump through, you aren’t sure what the next step is. If you are an adopting parent and want to know when is the right time to hire an adoption attorney? read on to find out.
The timing of when you hire an attorney depends on what kind of adoption you are pursuing. Each type of adoption is discussed below, with general guidelines for when you should hire an attorney.
Related or Stepparent Adoption. These cases can be filed at almost anytime. Typically, the child and adoptive parent(s) are already living together by the time they see an attorney. In other cases, relatives want to adopt a child not currently living with them. This typically happens when there is abuse or neglect. In either situation, you can contact an attorney as soon as you know you want to adopt.
Contested Adoption. As soon as you know an adoption will be contested, you should contact an attorney. It can take months to prepare a contested adoption for hearing with a court, so the sooner you start, the better.
International Adoptions. If you adopt a child from a foreign country, you have 30 days after you return to the US with your child to file in court for adoption. You should contact an adoption attorney as soon as possible when you return home with your child.
If you like, you can hire an attorney before you leave to finalize the adoption overseas. The attorney can begin preparing your paperwork for court, so you have a head-start on things. However, the paperwork cannot be finalized or filed with the court until you return home with your child.
International Readoption. In international readoptions, you can start the readoption process as soon as you arrive back in the United States with your child. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after you arrive home to start the process. In some cases, you may need adoption paperwork for school enrollment, doctor’s appointments, etc., so it’s better to start the process immediately when you return. As discussed above, you can also hire an attorney to get started before you’ve finalized the adoption in the foreign country.
Adoption from Foster Care.
Adopting from DCFS: If you are adopting from DCFS, you should hire an attorney as soon as the child is placed in your home and you know you want to adopt the child. The process takes a minimum of 6 months to complete, so its best to get started as soon as possible.
Adoption from Another State (Interstate Adoption): If you are adopting from another state (interstate adoption), you should contact an attorney once you have been matched with a child. Your attorney will coordinate with the agencies involved to ensure you can legally bring your child across state lines. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children applies to most interstate adoptions, and your attorney can help ensure you comply with this law.
Domestic Adoption (Including Private Adoption, Agency-Assisted Adoption, and “Traditional” Agency Adoption). In these situations, you should contact an attorney as soon as you have identified the child you would like to adopt and have reached a verbal agreement with the birth parent(s). While an agency can help you with many parts of your adoption, only an attorney can represent you in court and prepare the legal paperwork needed to finalize the adoption. Your attorney will coordinate with an agency if you are working with one.
The above guidelines are intended to give you a general idea of when to contact an adoption attorney. However, if you are working with an agency and they recommend that you contact an attorney sooner than listed above, then follow the advice of your agency; there may be time-sensitive issues that need to be addressed.