If you are planning on adopting a child, you may need an adoption lawyer. This particularly goes for adopting privately rather than from state foster care. Wait times are often shorter for younger children and infants (although they can be longer for older children).
What do Adoption Lawyers do?
An adoption lawyer will help you through the process. They can help you find the right agency, especially if you are a non-traditional family (some adoption agencies are religious in nature and will only adopt to heterosexual married couples). They can also help you pursue an independent adoption and can assist in intrafamily adoptions (such as adopting your niece after something happens to her parents).
The lawyer will walk you through the process, prepare the paperwork for you, attend any necessary court appearances, and make sure you comply with your state’s laws and requirements. While it’s absolutely possible to pursue adoption without a lawyer, there are pitfalls along the way which can lead you to end up losing the child, even after you have already painted the nursery. Here are some adoption basics in North Carolina.
A private adoption is one in which the birth parents or birth mother voluntarily place their child. They often choose the family. Adoption agencies assist the process by helping prospective families find birth parents with a suitable infant. This differs from public adoption, where children are adopted from foster care. Public adoption can be a fast way to adopt an older child, but infants are less likely to end up in foster care. If you are looking to adopt a newborn, then you are most likely looking for private adoption.
Most private adoptions do go through agencies, but it’s also possible to do a completely independent adoption. Most often these are intrafamily or with people the parents know. Independent adoption is not available to everyone, and can be a lot cheaper, however it’s even more important to seek legal counsel, especially if friendships are at stake. It’s also worth considering an open adoption in these cases, which requires a more complicated legal arrangement to ensure that the child’s best interests are preserved. An attorney can advise on whether an adoption should be open or closed.
Sometimes you may have to look further to find the right child. Adopting a child across state lines is more complicated (unfortunately, in some cases, “across state lines” can be a very short distance) because of something called the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children. This was put into place to protect children being moved because of a shortage of foster care placements, but extends to adoptions. Because of the complicated requirements (which can result in the new family having to stay in the child’s state for days or even weeks), it’s very important to have a qualified adoption attorney with experience in interstate adoptions. Additionally, every state has different laws on interstate adoption. In an interstate adoption, the laws of both states apply (also called the “sending state” and “receiving state” apply. The attorneys at Apple Payne Law have experience in interstate adoptions and can help walk you through this.
This may mean that your attorney will have to work with one in the sending state. In many adoptions, the birth family’s lawyer or the agency will be able to help with this, but it can’t be guaranteed. You may also have a choice as to which state to file your adoption petition in, and a good attorney will advise you on the best choice in terms of fees, revocation periods, etc. In other cases, the laws of the states involved may require that you file in one state or the other. It can get very complicated, and you should hire a good lawyer to help you keep everything straight.
Termination of Parental Rights
For an adoption to go forward, the birth parents’ parental rights have to be terminated. For most private or agency adoptions, termination is done by consent – the birth parents’ can sign a form allowing the adoption to proceed. Bear in mind that a birth parent can change their mind at any time prior to signing the papers. A good lawyer may be able to help guide you during this situation. Involuntary termination often results in the child being placed in foster care, but intra family adoption is often encouraged when possible (such as a step-parent adoption). In some states, a parent may apply for their parental rights to be reinstated, but this doesn’t happen after adoption in North Carolina. See what you need to know for Adoption in North Carolina.
One of the tasks of an adoption lawyer is to ensure that the birth parents’ parental rights have been properly terminated (either by court process or consent) and that there is no question about the legality of the adoption. TPR is an important part of the process, and if it is not completed the birth parents could reclaim their child.
The most stressful circumstance outside of interstate adoptions is a contested adoption. This most often happens when one parent wants to put the child up for adoption, but the other doesn’t. Often, the mother may try to get the child adopted and the father will say “Wait a minute, I want this baby.” Another situation is when the birth father does agree, but the mother was legally married to another person, and they don’t agree to the adoption. Unfortunately, it’s often the case that these things don’t come out until the adoption process has already begun, entangling the prospective adoptive parents in the mess.
In some cases, the best answer is to walk away and look for another child. In others, it may be worth contesting the adoption. The judge will consider the laws of the state as well as the actions and rights of the parents. If the birth father seems to be a good prospect, then the court may well find in their favor. In North Carolina, though, he has to demonstrate that he has an interest in parenting the child by overcoming the termination of parental rights petition. For example, if he has abandoned the mother and child for a year, failed to pay ordered child support, or he has lost rights to other children, the court may grant the termination of his parental rights and allow the adoption to proceed.
It’s wise to make sure you have as much information as possible about your child’s bio parents – the biological father, the legal father, and the mom, and you should do due diligence in trying to locate them. You should also communicate with them ahead of time, which may give you a better chance to avoid a contested adoption or, alternatively, help you make the decision not to pursue. This is another thing an adoption lawyer can help with, and if it does end up in court they will argue the case on your behalf.
Adoption lawyers help prospective parents through the entire process from finding an agency or a child to finalizing the adoption. It’s vital for prospective parents to have a good lawyer who focuses on adoption and family law as a practice area so that they can get through things smoothly and with less stress. If you are looking to adopt a child or learn more about the process anywhere in North Carolina, then contact Apple Payne Law today.