Hopeful adoptive parents and women considering adoption have a lot of choices when it comes to an adoption professional. Some families, in an attempt to simplify their adoption experience, might choose to make an adoption attorney their one and only professional. This situation is also known as an independent adoption.
But, like with any adoption professional, there are some advantages and disadvantages to working with an adoption law attorney or a law firm in place of an adoption agency. Keep reading to learn more about adoption attorneys and law firms, the services they can provide, and how they compare to an adoption agency.
What are Adoption Attorneys and Adoption Law Firms?
Adoption lawyers are professionals who specialize in adoption‐related legal services. In an adoption law firm, a group of two of more attorneys will specialize in adoption and family law or other related services. Their job is to protect the legal rights of hopeful adoptive parents and women considering adoption and to make sure that each adoption is completed according to state and federal laws.
To make sure that your adoption meets all legal and ethical standards, you will need to work with an adoption attorney. Most adoption agencies will connect you to a trusted attorney for adoption, so you won’t need to research adoption lawyers and choose one on your own.
Adoption attorneys are a necessary part of every adoption process and often work alongside professionals at the adoption agency to provide all the services you need. However, you can also choose to work solely with an adoption lawyer and forego an adoption agency’s services. This is common in situations where an adoptive family wants to find an adoption opportunity on their own and just needs legal services to finalize their adoption. However, even in these circumstances, it is usually recommended that adoptive and birth parents work with an agency in addition to their lawyer for adoption (more on that below).
What Does an Adoption Lawyer Do?
While adoption agencies do a great job handling important services like 24/7 counseling for prospective birth parents and helping families find adoption opportunities, there are some aspects of an adoption that they’re not exactly equipped for on their own. That’s where an adoption lawyer comes in.
This professional takes care of the legal side of adoption, like walking prospective birth parents through the consent paperwork and helping adoptive parents finalize their adoption in court, and will help you complete a successful adoption. They are in charge of making sure that every step in your adoption, from filing necessary paperwork to finalization, meets all legal requirements. Adoption attorneys are also regulated by their state bar organization, ensuring that they are up to date on all adoption laws and regulations.
How do Adoption Law Firms Compare to Adoption Agencies?
Generally, working with an adoption agency alongside your attorney is the recommended option, but there are some situations where it can be easier and more cost-effective to have an adoption attorney as your primary adoption professional. Below are some examples of to the benefits of working with an adoption attorney instead of an agency in certain circumstances.
- It can be more cost-effective: It’s no secret that adoption can be an expensive endeavor. For families who have fairly straightforward adoptions and don’t need help finding an adoption opportunity, working with one professional instead of two may help them cut costs. However, adoption attorneys often charge for their services hourly instead of with a flat fee, so if any unexpected legal complications arise, your expenses can quickly add up.
- You might not need everything that an adoption agency offers: Adoption attorneys can be a great resource in stepparent, relative or identified adoptions. In these circumstances, an adoption lawyer could be the only professional that you really need.
While there are a few benefits to working with an adoption lawyer as your primary professional, there are some services that an adoption agency might have a better handle on. This list isn’t meant to deter you from working with an adoption attorney for an independent adoption, but to give you a better idea of what is and isn’t possible when you work solely with an adoption law firm. Below are some setbacks that both hopeful parents and women considering adoption should consider.
- Lack of advertising: If you’re not pursuing an identified adoption (an adoption in which you have already located an adoption opportunity on your own), it’s hard to recommend an adoption law firm. In most situations, you will need to work with another professional, such as an adoption agency, to be matched with an expectant mother or hopeful parents. Families that are advertising on their own and working with an adoption law firm might actually end up paying more for this necessary service than they would with an adoption agency.
- Lack of support: Many lawyers specializing in adoption do not have licensed social workers on staff to provide the counseling services adoptive families and prospective birth parents need during the adoption process, not to mention ongoing support after the adoption is finalized. This can lead to a greater risk of an adoption disruption when potential birth parents don’t receive the support and counseling they need to stay committed to their adoption plan. It can also mean adoptive parents don’t have the guidance they need during the emotional highs and lows of the process. On the other hand, with any adoption agency, and especially larger national adoption agencies, you’re more likely to get the help you need throughout the process and even after placement.
- Cost may vary: For adoptive families, cost can be a big deterrent when it comes to choosing an adoption professional. One thing that you should take note of is that, unlike adoption agencies, adoption attorneys don’t have a set fee. You might not know the total cost of your adoption until much later, and an adoption law firm might not have a risk‐sharing program in the event of an unfortunate disruption.An adoption agency will make sure that you know all costs up front, so you never have to worry about where your investment is going.
An Adoption Attorney and Your Adoption Agency
An adoption law attorney is required in every adoption — regardless of whether or not another professional is used. But having the support of both an adoption attorney and an adoption agency together will almost always guarantee a successful adoption. You will have the legal expertise of an adoption attorney along with the support, education, and guidance of an adoption counselor. If you choose to work with an adoption agency, they can do the heavy lifting when it comes to finding an adoption attorney in your area. If not, it might be time to start looking elsewhere.
Find an Adoption Attorney
If you’re set on using a lawyer specializing in adoption as your chosen professional, then it’s time to look for professionals in your state. Choosing an adoption professional is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make, so it’s important to take your time with this decision. A great place to start is by searching the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys for more information.