Adoption Attorneys and Why You Need Them
The Role of Legal Professionals in Adoption
The adoption process is guided by laws and regulations from start to finish. There are state and federal laws that apply for adoptive families and prospective birth mothers. This means not only conducting the adoption in the proper way, but also filling out mountains of paperwork and filing it with the right department at the right time.
Sound stressful? It can be. But, there’s good news for anyone considering adoption: it’s not your job to handle the legal aspects of adoption. An adoption attorney, or an adoption law firm, can assist you throughout the process and help you complete a successful adoption.
The role of adoption attorneys in the process, ideally, is to step into the complicated legal matters that the staff of your adoption agency may not be equipped to handle. In this role, the adoption lawyer is an important part of the adoption but is not the primary professional involved in the process.
However, in your research of adoption, you may also hear about adoption lawyers playing a different role. Some families, in an attempt to lower adoption costs and simplify the process, decide to use a private adoption attorney as if they were an adoption agency. In these cases, an adoption lawyer leads the whole process. This type of arrangement is generally referred to as an independent adoption.
Is this a good way of doing things? There are advantages and disadvantages to working solely with an adoption law attorney. As you’ll see, using an adoption lawyer without an adoption agency is not ideal, even with the most talented of adoption attorneys.
What Does an Adoption Attorney Do?
Adoption attorneys are legal practitioners with expertise in family law, specifically adoption. Adoption law firms are a group of two or more attorneys who practice law. Some of these law firms have an attorney who specializes in adoption law. This specialty can range from stepparent to independent adoptions. Most adoption attorneys handle the legal process but do not locate potential birth parents for their clients, making them an ideal professional for processes like stepparent, relative and identified adoptions.
In some cases, however, attorneys can attempt to provide services like locating birth mothers, facilitating communication, overseeing living expenses and protecting families’ financial investments. These are typically services provided by an agency professional who has expertise in these areas, whereas an attorney for adoption is not always trained in these matters that fall outside the legal elements of adoption.
Advantages of Adoption Law Firms:
Provide crucial legal services: The main benefit of adoption law firms is the safe and solid legal work they provide, which makes the adoption more secure. This advantage is seen when adoption attorneys handle the legal side of adoption that they specialize in. In this capacity, an adoption attorney is required in every adoption, regardless of the other professionals (such as adoption agencies) involved.
Can complete identified adoptions: If a family has already located a potential birth mother to adopt from (such as a pregnant friend or family member), an adoption attorney may be the only professional they need to complete the process, which can be more cost effective than working with an agency.
Disadvantages of Adoption Law Firms:
These disadvantages are not meant to put down adoption attorneys or be overly critical of their work. Rather, it is simply an issue of working with adoption attorneys in the proper context. They play a vital role in the adoption process. Really, it couldn’t happen without adoption lawyers. However, most are not equipped to fulfill obligations of the adoption process outside of that role. Families who decide to adopt solely through a lawyer for adoption typically run into a variety of issues that wouldn’t be present when working with a full-service adoption agency.
These are issues like:
Lack of advertising: An important part of the adoption process is finding adoption opportunities for hopeful parents. This means reaching out to prospective birth mothers with family profiles through a process called adoption advertising. While adoption agencies typically have processes and staff members dedicated to this kind of advertising, adoption attorneys do not. Because of this, a family may feel the need to try to advertise by themselves, which is problematic. In some states, it is illegal for families to advertise on their own. When it is illegal, it can be costly and ineffective. For perspective, the largest national agencies carefully track marketing success and have major networking contacts, but still spend an average of $8,000 to $10,000 in advertising for each successful adoption. A family can expect to potentially pay more in advertising through an adoption law firm, especially if the ad is placed on your own.
Longer wait times: On top of increased expenses and lower efficiency, this can also lead to longer wait times and less opportunity for a successful adoption placement. This is not necessarily because adoption attorneys lack skill. Rather, it is because this part of the adoption process is not something most are fully equipped to handle.
Unpredictable costs: The total cost of adoption can fluctuate drastically with an adoption law firm. Many lawyers specializing in adoption bill hourly, meaning the adoption can become more expensive the longer it stretches out. Alternatively, some adoption agencies offer fixed fees so that the cost will not steadily increase with the length of the process.
Less support for potential birth parents: Trained and licensed social workers are vital to successful adoptions. Sometimes, families get frustrated with adoption law firms because they lack a social service department skilled in evaluating, educating and guiding prospective birth mothers through the adoption process. As a result, families can end up in an adoption opportunity with birth mothers who aren’t strongly committed to adoption, aren’t emotionally prepared or don’t understand the process, which can result in an adoption disruption.
Less availability: Availability with adoption lawyers and adoption law firms can be limited. This can be because most adoption attorneys are working on a handful of cases at once, but also because adoption law firms do not have the staff to answer calls or respond to questions after work hours. As any family will quickly find, the needs of an adoption don’t always come up between 9–5, and having someone who answers the phone is important.
As you can see, there are many concerns that a family considering adoption should take into account when thinking about working solely with an adoption law firm for their adoption process.
Conversely, a family can choose to work with an adoption attorney in conjunction with a full-service adoption agency that has expertise, experience and resources dedicated to each aspect of the adoption process. Not only can an agency like American Adoptions meet your needs at every step of the way, we also connect families with trusted adoption attorneys for the legal aspects of adoption; that way you don’t have to go out interviewing attorneys on your own.
Choosing the adoption professional to work with is one of the most important decisions in an adoption. To speak with an adoption specialist about this choice, you can call 1-800-ADOPTION at any time, or you can request more free adoption information as you continue to research.
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