Adoption can be a tricky process. There are a number of things to consider including eligibility to adopt, whether or not to use an adoption agency, and whether or not the courts need to be involved in the process.
Below you'll find key information about frequently asked questions regarding the adoption court and where to go to get legal help.
Does my adoption have to be handled by an adoption court?
Yes. Regardless of whether you're working through an adoption agency or on your own, your adoption must be approved by an adoption court. This process involves filing a petition with the court and then going through an adoption hearing. All of the people who have an interest in the adoption must receive notice of the hearing, prior to the hearing. These people typically include the biological parents, the adoption agency (if used), and the child, if he or she is of a certain age (12 or 14 in most states).
Often times the adoption court will appoint a legal representative for the child. This representative is a disinterested third party whose job it is to look out for the child's best interest. If the court does appoint a legal representative for the child, that representative must be given notice of the adoption hearing.
Typically, courts regarding custody of a child follow the best interest of the child standard (this is also used in divorce cases). This means that during an adoption proceeding, the prospective parents must show the judge that it's in the child's best interest to be adopted by them. If the adoption court judge does determine that the adoption is in the child's best interest, the judge will issue an order, called a final decree of adoption, approving the adoption. The final decree of adoption makes the new parent-child relationship legal and changes the child's name, per the parents request.
Are there any requirements regarding what my adoption petition should say?
Your petition should include, at least:
Along with the adoption petition, you should also file the written consents of the birth parents (or the court order of the termination of their parental rights) with the adoption court. When you file your petition, you should also file your request for the child's name change, if a name change is desired.
Does an attorney have to handle my adoption?
Yes, unless you are working with an adoption agency. If your adoption agency does not provide you with a lawyer, it is a good idea to hire one to write your adoption petition and to represent you in court. Legally, you could write your petition on your own and represent yourself in adoption court. However, drafting petitions and going through court hearings can be complicated; thus, it is in your best interest to let an experienced lawyer handle it, using his or her legal expertise.
What are the legal requirements for international adoption?
To qualify to adopt a child internationally, you must meet both the requirements of the United States, as well as, the requirements of the child's native country. You, or your lawyer or agent, may end up going to adoption court both in that country and in the United States.
Going to Adoption Court? Make the Process Easier with an Attorney
Filing an adoption petition in court can be a tricky task. There are a number of forms you will need to prepare and submit to the courts in addition to also understanding the laws of your state. While this can all seem overwhelming, it doesn't need to be. You can have a local family law attorney who specializes in adoption walk you through the process.