Should You Hire an Adoption Attorney

It is always helpful to have a skilled and experienced adoption attorney in your corner during the adoption process. In some cases, such as in private adoptions not involving a licensed adoption agency, you will absolutely require the assistance of an adoption attorney. In other cases, the decision of whether (and when) to hire an adoption attorney should be made based on your needs.

What is an Adoption Attorney?
An adoption attorney is any lawyer licensed in your state who handles adoption cases. Since adoption is a specialized area of the law, you will want to hire an attorney who has experience in adoption cases. If your case is complex, you may want to hire an attorney who handles only adoption cases. An attorney whose sole focus is on the practice of adoption law is more likely to be familiar with all aspects of the process, and is likely better equipped to handle unforeseen contingencies.

If your case is not complex, you may decide to hire an attorney with a general practice. Even so, your general practice attorney should be familiar with adoption law and should have experience in adoption cases similar to yours. To determine whether an adoption attorney possesses the necessary qualifications, you should ask him several relevant questions, including how many adoptions he has completed. Also ask for references from past clients. Finally, ask the attorney approximately what portion of his practice is devoted to adoption cases. The adoption attorney you decide to hire should be the one who makes you feel most comfortable and confident.

What Can an Adoption Attorney Do?
Adoption laws vary from state to state, and there are many different types of adoptions. For instance, you may be able to choose between an open adoption and a closed adoption. In an open adoption, you are afforded the opportunity to meet and maintain contact with your adoptive child's biological parents. In a closed adoption, your adoptive child's biological parents remain anonymous.

The adoption attorney plays a different role in different types of adoptions. For example, your adoption attorney may have a larger role in an international adoption, or in an adoption involving a child of a different race or ethnicity than yours. If you are adopting a special-needs child, you may be reimbursed for some expenses in connection with your legal representation.

How Do I Find an Adoption Attorney?
If you are adopting through a licensed adoption agency or a foster care agency, that agency may provide you with a list of attorneys who have worked with the agency in the past. You do not need to use one of the adoption attorneys the agency suggests, but it is often a good place to start.

If you know other adoptive parents, you can ask them for recommendations. You also can contact a local foster parent support group. If you received satisfactory representation from an attorney in another field on a previous occasion, you may wish to contact that attorney and ask her for a referral. You can also contact the American Association of Adoption Attorneys or your state Bar Association and ask them for a list of lawyers who handle adoption cases.

What are My Rights as a Client?
The rules governing the practice of law vary from state to state. In general, as a client you have the right to:

  • Be treated with courtesy and professionalism
  • Your attorney's undivided loyalty
  • Have your attorney-client business kept private
  • Meet with your attorney in person
  • Receive a prompt response from your attorney when you contact his office
  • Discuss the length of the legal process
  • Be kept informed as to the status of your case
  • Discharge your attorney
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