This article is provided to you by Michael R. Anderson, Esq., Utah Adoption Lawyer.
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 adoption courts need to be involved in the process. Below you will find key information about frequently asked questions regarding the adoption court and where to go to get legal help. We’ve previously explained the Adoption Process in Utah here. We hope that we can answer some of your questions about adoption in this post.
Does my adoption have to be handled by an adoption court?
Yes. Regardless of whether you are 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 adoption 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 adoption court judge that it is 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, he or she 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.
What should my adoption petition have in it?
Your petition should include, at least:
- the adoptive parents names, ages, and address;
- the relationship between the adoptive parents and the child;
- the legal purpose behind the termination of the child’s rights;
- that the adoptive parents are the right people to adopt the child; and
- that the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
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?
It is always recommended to have an adoption attorney, even if 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 adoption 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.
Free Consultation with Adoption Lawyer in Utah
If you have a question about a stepchild adoption or if you need a lawyer in Utah, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506
There are a number of benefits that come with choosing an agency to help with your adoption. For instance, agencies typically are skilled at matching children to families in addition to being familiar with the various legal matters that go along with adoption. In most instances, an adoption agency can help prospective parents with a wide range of services, such as finding the biological parent of the child to organizing and filing the adoption paperwork. In addition, adoption agencies can help with home inspections, getting the necessary consents, and even helping parents understand various state laws that deal with adoptions.
Private and Public Adoption Agencies
Most adoption agencies can be broken down into two categories—private and public. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so review your options carefully before deciding.
Private Adoption Agencies
One of the main benefits of a private adoption agency is that it will provide the extensive counseling that normally goes along with adoptions: for adoptive parents, children (if old enough), and even the biological parents of the child. In addition to helping smooth the transition to a new family, counseling has the benefit of protecting the adoptive parent later on in the process. Generally, biological parents who do not receive counseling have a higher probability of not signing the paperwork when it comes time for the adoption to take place.
However, there are also disadvantages to private agencies. Private agencies are often very selective when it comes to the parents that they work with, since there are many parents looking to adopt, so the private agencies can be choosy. In addition, private agencies usually only find infants or pregnant women that do not want their babies. This means that there are generally few non-infant children adopted through private agencies. They use many screening factors to pick and choose which parents they like to work with. Typically, these factors include:
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Personal history
- Family size
Public Adoption Agencies
Unlike private agencies, public agencies normally have many children that need to be adopted. Many of these children are older, having spent their lives in various group homes and foster families, or have special needs (history of abuse, born to drug-addicted mothers, etc.). We outline the Adoption Process in Utah in other articles as well as explain the costs of adoption here.
Couples looking to adopt a newborn baby or an infant may want to look into private agencies. Additionally, public agencies often don’t have the resources to provide other services, such as counseling, that help the adoption process. But with fewer services, public agencies can charge much less than private adoption agencies. Adopting through a public agency may even be free, or the agency could even provide you with a small stipend during the process, whereas private agencies can cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Parents that use agencies to adopt will generally find the process much easier if they retain the services of an attorney with experience filling out adoption paperwork. Even though there is no requirement for legal counsel during the adoption hearings, it may be useful as hearings often become legally complex. You should look for an attorney who has dealt with a number of adoption proceedings and has some experience with contested adoptions, as well.
Expenses of Agency Adoptions
If you choose a private agency for your adoption, you can expect to pay a high premium for their services. If you have been matched with a pregnant woman through the agency, you may end up paying for the medical and living expenses of the mother during her pregnancy.
How much a private agency will charge for an adoption is determined by their fee structure. Some agencies charge a flat fee for each adoption. This fee can vary, depending on the age of the child. However, according to some sources, an adoption through a private agency can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $40,000.
If you choose to go through a public agency for your adoption, you will probably not be required to pay any fees, as these agencies typically receive their funding through the state.
Finally, aside from adoption agency fees, keep in mind that you may still have to hire and pay an attorney to prepare the adoption paperwork and attend court for your adoption proceedings. Paying an attorney anywhere between $50 and $500 an hour will add to the cost of your adoption.
Waiting Period and Agency Adoptions
Some agencies require a waiting period before a child can be placed in the home of his new adoptive parents. This waiting period is usually in place to ensure that all the necessary consents have been given and signed and for any other formalities to be taken care of. During this waiting period, the child may be placed in foster care, depending on state law. Many adoptive parents do not want their child to go into foster care and often opt for a “legal risk placement.” This is where the child is placed in the new home despite not having all the consents given. The downside here is that if the birth mother decides not to give her consent, the child will removed from the adoptive home.
Finding the Right Adoption Agency
There are thousands of adoption agencies to choose from across the U.S. If you live in a densely populated state, like California, you will have more options than if you live in a less densely populated state. A good place to start when searching for an agency is the Child Welfare Information Gateway. In addition, if you know anyone that adopted through an agency, it would be good to talk with them to discuss their experience.
If you have found an agency that you think might work for you, be sure to check their reputation as well as accreditation. Your state should have a licensing department for adoption agencies, which you can check to make sure the adoption agency’s license is current and under no conditions.
There are a number of American adoption agencies specializing in international adoptions. Even though you are allowed to directly adopt from a foreign country, many people choose to go through an agency, as it can be quite difficult and risky to do it yourself. Agencies that specialize in international adoptions will know the relevant immigration laws as well as the laws of the foreign nation that you are adopting from.
According to the immigration laws of the United States, any parents seeking to adopt from another nation must either be married or single and over the age of 25. Additionally, the parents seeking to adopt must file a Orphan Petition form with the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) to show that the child’s parents have died, disappeared or abandoned the child, or that the one remaining parent cannot care for the child and consents to the adoption. If the foreign child has two parents, he or she cannot qualify for international adoption.
In addition to the Orphan Petition, there are some other documents that you will need to submit before you can proceed with an international adoption. One of these documents must be a favorable home study report from the adoption agency. If the USCIS approves your petition (and there are no other factors that will stop the adoption), you can proceed to get the child an immigration visa.
One of the advantages of international adoption is that much of the required paperwork can be completed even before you have been matched with a child. Indeed, it is often a good idea to complete the paperwork before you select the child because it can delay the adoption process if you wait to file it.
Finally, some states have their own pre-adoption laws. For instance, some states require the written consent of the birth mother before the state will approve the entry of the child into the state. To this end, some adoption agencies recommend that parents who adopt from another nation also adopt under state laws when the child enters the state. By doing so, the child should also get a birth certificate that is in English.
Free Consultation with an Adoption Lawyer
If you have a question about an adoption or if you need a lawyer in Utah, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506