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  • Adoption Lawyers/Independent Adoption

    Adoption Lawyer/Independent AdoptionWhen adopting a baby in the United States, in all but four states, prospective adoptive parents have a choice between using an adoption agency or an adoption attorney. Adoptions through an adoption lawyer are sometimes called independent adoptions.

    If you use an adoption lawyer, make sure you use one that specializes in adoption. Family law is not the same as adoption law.

    + Ten Differences Between Adopting Through an Adoption Agency and an Adoption Lawyer
    It is hard to make hard and fast distinctions between adopting through an adoption agency and adopting through an adoption attorney because there is a great deal of variation amongst adoption agencies and amongst adoption lawyers. Some agencies provide few of the resources expected of adoption agencies, while some attorneys provide more. There are some general distinctions and what follows applies to the typical, not the exceptions.

    1. In a typical independent adoption, the prospective parents take an active role in finding a birthmother, usually by networking, advertising, or by using the Internet. While adoptive parents may choose to do this in an adoption agency adoption, they may have the option of letting the adoption agency do this for them.
    2. In some states (in some circumstances) infants adopted through an adoption agency must first go to a foster home before being placed with their adoptive parents.
    3. Adoption agencies can handle infant domestic adoption, international adoptions, and foster care adoptions, and sometimes all three at the same agency. Adoption attorneys usually only handle independent domestic infant adoptions through birth parent relinquishment.
    4. Not all states allow adoption lawyers to help adoptive parents locate and screen expectant women who are considering placing their child for adoption.
    5. Usually the expectant woman or birthmother selects the adoptive family in both adoption agency adoptions and independent adoption attorney adoptions, but sometimes in an agency adoption, the agency will choose if the birth mother does not want to. This seldom happens with adoptions through adoption lawyers.
    6. As a general rule, adoption lawyers have fewer restrictions for adoptive parents (age, marital status, sexual orientation, number of divorces, religion), although it restrictions depend upon the agency and not all agencies have them.
    7. Adoption lawyers often do not have and do not require the same level of pre-adoption education as most adoption agencies. (I believe all adoptive parents should be well educated on the adoption and adoptive parenting before the adoption.)
    8. Most adoption agencies provide counseling to the expectant woman and the father and even her extended family throughout the pregnancy and after the adoption. Few adoption lawyer provide counseling as part of their service, although they should be able to refer the expectant woman to a counselor and bill the adoptive parents.
    9. Most adoption attorneys do not provide ongoing support for adoptive families after the adoption has been finalized, although some are able to refer families to a therapist specializing in adoption issues or other resources. Not all adoption agencies have post adoption support, but many do and adoptive parents can choose to select one that provides this service.
    10. It is possible to find an adoption agency that charges on a sliding fee scale or does not charge birth mother medical expenses directly to the adoptive family, thus saving the adoptive family money. These payment options are seldom available with independent adoptions via an adoption attorney. The average cost for adoptions, however, are about the same regardless whether you adopt through an adoption agency or lawyer.

    + How To Find an Adoption Attorney
    If adopting through an attorney, choose an attorney that specializes in adoption law. There are three primary databases for lawyers that specialize in adoption law.

    • The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA) is the first place to start. This national association of attorneys specializing in adoption law has a rigorous application process for attorneys wanting to join. They require attorneys to have practiced in the field of adoption for a specific number of years and require references from attorneys and judges who have worked with potential members. They also have two conferences a year providing ongoing education on adoption law for their members. They include a list of members at their site.
    • The American College of Assisted Reproduction and Adoption Lawyers (ACARAL), as the name suggests, specializes exclusively in reproductive and adoption law and maintains a list of members.
    • Attorneys specializing in reproductive law are not required to be a member of the American Bar Association Section of Family Law, but membership is evidence that they are up on the latest developments in this area of law.
    • You can also check the adoption attorneys that are sponsors of Creating a Family on our Adoption Service Directory. Their support of Creating a Family shows their belief in our mission of providing unbiased education and support before, during, and after adoption to help create strong families.

    Creating a Family has resources on adoption attorneys and independent adoptions. A few we think you will find particularly helpful are:

    Many more Creating a Family radio interviews with experts, videos, blogs, fact sheets, and Q and A’s with Experts on adoption lawyers can be found at the icons below.

    Image credit: smlp.co.uk


    Additional Resources

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    Creating a Family Radio Shows on Adoption Attorneys

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    Creating a Family Blogs on Adoption Attorneys

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    Creating a Family Factsheets, Tips on Adoption Attorneys

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    Creating a Family Videos on Adoption Attorneys

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    Q and A's with Experts on Adoption Attorneys

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    Content created by Creating a Family. And remember, there are no guarantees in adoption or infertility treatment. The information provided or referenced on this website should be used only as part of an overall plan to help educate you about the joys and challenges of adopting a child or dealing with infertility. Although the following seems obvious, our attorney insists that we tell you specifically that the information provided on this site may not be appropriate or applicable to you, and despite our best efforts, it may contain errors or important omissions. You should rely only upon the professionals you employ to assist you directly with your individual circumstances. CREATING A FAMILY DOES NOT WARRANT THE INFORMATION OR MATERIALS contained or referenced on this website. CREATING A FAMILY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS LIABILITY FOR ERRORS or omissions in this information and materials and PROVIDES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, implied, express or statutory. IN NO EVENT WILL CREATING A FAMILY BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, including without limitation direct or indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages, losses or expenses arising out of or in connection with the use of the information or materials, EVEN IF CREATING A FAMILY OR ITS AGENTS ARE NEGLIGENT AND/OR ARE ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.