Lawyers are almost invariably involved in adoptions, although the extent of typical legal involvement varies from state to state.
Lawyers may be involved in an agency adoption by preparing and filing the appropriate court papers to finalize an adoption. Attorneys may also be heavily involved in an adoption by overseeing all phases of an INDEPENDENT ADOPTION-from offering advice to prospective parents or birthparents to preparing finalization papers.
In the case of an independent adoption, in those states that do not allow attorneys to advertise their adoption services or to seek out pregnant women considering adoption for their babies, attorneys may advise prospective adoptive parents on how they might search for a birthmother and what legal and practical matters they should consider, for example, what expenses of the birthmother may be paid by the adoptive parents and what risks are involved in an independent adoption. In addition, the attorney will also advise the prospective adoptive parents of their options if the birthfather refuses to consent to the adoption or if there are other concerns or problems.
In some cases, the attorney will also represent the birthparents while in others the attorney will represent only the birthparents or the adopting parents. If the lawyer works with the birthparents, legal advice will be provided and information, such as medical and ethnic background, will be collected on the birthparents.
In the case of an INTERSTATE ADOPTION, attorneys from each state work with interstate compact offices to ensure state laws are complied with.
Attorneys may also be appointed when state or county social workers attempt to terminate parental rights so a child can be placed for adoption. In some cases, there may be an attorney assigned for the birthparents, another attorney for the child and a third attorney for the social services agency as well.
The primary role of the attorney in a SPECIAL NEEDS adoption is to finalize the adoption in court. Lawyers may also represent the state, when social workers are attempting to terminate the parental rights of abusive or neglectful parents. In addition, some states require that minor children be represented by counsel in court hearings on adoption.
Lawyers may also be involved in lawsuits. An example is WRONGFUL ADOPTION suits in which the adoptive parents allege they were not provided with sufficient information about a child when they were considering whether or not to adopt. Lawyers are also providing services to those interested in adopting internationally.
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©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.
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