One of the challenges of adoption is putting together a team of professionals who can be trusted to carefully take each and every step required by state law (sometimes more than one state’s law). A credentialed attorney is a key member of the team because creating a safe and permanent adoption may require court action. In addition, each state's adoption law is distinct and different.
Most domestic adoptions of a child under age 18, whether independent or agency adoptions, have two distinct steps. First the parental rights of the birth parents and/or legal parents must be terminated. This first step terminates the legal relationship between the child and parents. The second step is finalization of the adoption and is complete when a judge signs an adoption order. This event creates a legal relationship between the child and the new parent or parents.
Often clients ask us about the timeline to complete all of the requirements of an adoption. Although the timeline will vary state-to-state, below is a general list of steps your adoption attorney will take to make an adoption safe and legal:
- Attorney develops a plan to terminate the parental rights of any possible birth or legal parents.
- Child is born.
- Child is placed in home of prospective adoptive parents now or later (but prior to finalization of adoption).
- Birth mother signs a Consent to Adoption at least one day after birth (the number of days vary, but there is almost always a waiting period of at least one day).
- If necessary, any potential birth fathers sign Consent to Adoption or Denial of Paternity within the time frames of state law.
- In most states, paperwork is filed with a court based on documents that have been signed requesting the court to terminate parental rights. In some states, the birth parents are required to appear in court and sign a consent in the presence of a judge.
- In most states, judge signs termination of parental rights order.
- Paperwork is filed with a court to request the adoption of the child.
- A hearing date is set for “finalization” of the adoption.
- Adoptive parents appear in court with the child and their attorney for the official adoption day.
- Judge signs adoption order.