Not only should you use an adoption attorney to complete your family’s adoption, but it’s actually required.

Regardless of whether you adopt through foster care or an adoption agency in the US or pursue an international adoption, you will need an attorney to finalize the adoption in a court of law.

Because adoption laws vary from state to state, it is important to find an attorney who is familiar with family law, particularly legal proceedings such as Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC), birth parent rights and relinquishments, and in some cases, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Not all attorneys are versed in these proceedings, so it is crucial to ensure the attorney you are hiring to finalize your family’s adoption has knowledge and a strong understanding of adoption-specific terminology and applicable laws. You want to be confident your child’s adoption is completed thoroughly and correctly to the letter of the law.

While you’re researching an adoption attorney for your family, it may be a good idea to connect with other families who have gone through the adoption process. Often times, folks who have gone before you will be able to give you an honest perspective regarding how legal proceedings were handled by a specific attorney, how much those legal proceedings cost, and whether they would recommend their particular attorney.

Before hiring an attorney who practices family law in your state and can finalize your child’s adoption, consider asking how many adoptions he or she finalizes each year. Also, make sure you have a clear understanding of the path ahead and how much you can expect to pay in fees for all required and potential legal proceedings. It’s also a good idea to ask if someone else in the office can handle court hearings and legal proceedings in case the attorney you’re hiring would need to be absent. A reliable attorney will have a back-up plan ready, particularly since court hearings can be difficult to reschedule.

If you aren’t sure where to start searching for a reliable, trustworthy attorney to complete the adoption process for your family, ask your adoption social worker, adoption agency, or social network for recommendations.  

Shelley is a former award-winning television journalist who traded in suit coats and red lipstick for a messy bun and yoga pants. She’s a freelance writer who stays at home with her three daughters who are all ((gasp)) under the age of three and came to her via adoption and birth. She’s the woman behind the blog Shelley Writes, and she can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.