|Posted on November 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM|
Every day, adoptions go through probate court fluently; however, sometimes adoptions hit a glitch or result in full-blown litigation. So, before you hire the very first attorney with whom you speak to assist in your adoption journey, do a little research to ensure you are picking the right attorney for your case. There is a common misconception that because someone is an attorney, they know "all" the laws regarding every type of legal proceeding. This is not likely. Choosing an attorney experienced in adoption naturally lends confidence to your choice of counsel. When interviewing prospective adoption attorneys, ask questions so that you can make an INFORMED choice that leaves you feeling confident.
The earlier you retain an attorney in your adoption process, the more understanding of the (adoptive) legal process you will likely have. I speak with families in Ohio regularly who are pursing an agency adoption and say, "we don't need an attorney." Sometimes the families aren't notified until 3-4 months after placement that they need to hire an attorney to finalize the adoption. Unfortunately, this means that they missed out on several months of legal advice. I always recommend retaining an attorney before you take placement of the child to ensure you have access to someone who can answer your questions throughout the process.
Below are some questions to consider asking the attorneys you contact. This list is not intended to be exhaustive but is intended to give you an idea of conversation topics with adoption attorney candidates.
1. What percentage of your practice is devoted to adoption law?
2. What other area(s) of law do you practice?
3. What times of day are you available to receive telephone calls?
4. Do you provide your cell phone number to your clients?
5. What is your fee for this type of adoption (i.e. independent, private agency, interstate, step-parent, re-adoption, etc.)?
6. Are you experienced in the county where my adoption will be filed?
Adoption is not an area of law for a practitioner to "dabble" in. The law can change swiftly, and there are many federal laws that must be taken into consideration with every adoptive placement, in addition to State laws. Before hiring your attorney, it is important to know how often your attorney practices in this particular area of law. Someone who handles only a couple of adoptions per year may not be as "up" on the current law as someone who works primarily in the area of adoption. Also, someone who has handled only uncontested step-parent adoptions may not be familiar with the significantly different requirements and expectations of an independent adoption or a contested adoption.
While finances are certainly an area of consideration, rushing to hire the attorney who quoted the lowest fee may result in additional expenses to you in the long run. Although it is important to hire an attorney that you can afford, you should not sacrifice experience to save a few dollars. Choosing an attorney who is right for your situation is a very important decision, so speak with more than one attorney. Ask the questions that allow you to determine with confidence whether this is the right attorney to help with your unique situation. You can search for experienced adoption attorneys by state here: http://www.adoptionattorneys.org/aaaa/home.