If you are interested in adopting a child, you will usually need to hire an adoption attorney. This is true even if you are working with an adoption agency, a government child welfare agency, or attempting to adopt a stepchild or other family member. The process of choosing the best adoption attorney is a matter of getting good referrals, meeting with and asking questions of the attorney, verifying the attorney's credentials, and becoming familiar with pertinent adoption laws in your area.
The adoption process is typically an emotional one, and for this reason it is important to get quality legal counsel. You should never rely on statements by well-meaning friends, social workers, or things you read in the media when it comes to making decisions about adoption. Adoption laws can be very complex and vary significantly between jurisdictions. When adopting a child, it is a good idea to hire a lawyer who specializes in adoption. While it is certainly a good idea to speak to your family lawyer about hiring an adoption attorney, it is often best to hire someone who routinely handles adoptions. Your friends and even your adoption agency may also be able to steer you in the right direction.
When you contact an adoption attorney for the first time, try to find out about his experience in adoption cases. Depending on where you live, a bar association or licensing agency for lawyers can verify whether or not the attorney is licensed to practice in your area. It's also a good idea to find out if he has been the subject of any disciplinary proceedings.
Ask the attorney, or his staff, about what services he provides as well. Some adoption lawyers provide matching services between potential adoptive parents and pregnant women, while others only handle adoptions after the parties involved have agreed to work together. It is also a good idea to find out about the lawyer's philosophy of adoption. For example, if you are interested in an ongoing relationship with the child's birth parents, you will want to hire an adoption attorney who is sympathetic to open adoption.
You can more easily spot red flags when you take the time to learn about adoption law for yourself. Many places have strict laws about payments of money or other types of support given to birth parents as well as laws that protect the rights of unmarried fathers. If the adoption attorney seems all too willing to disregard these laws or to find ways to skirt around them, be careful. If the law is not followed in an adoption case, a judge may stop the adoption process, and you could potentially lose custody of the child you hope to adopt.