Each person has their own set of reasons for wanting to adopt, but it's not a choice that anyone makes lightly. After all, adoption is a legally binding process, which will obligate you to provide for the child as if it were your own biological offspring. This means that you will be required to continue providing for the child even if you and your spouse divorce, and your spouse receives primary custody. Further complications arise from the various methods of adoption, and the ensuing costs, legal snags and waiting periods that can go on for years, especially if you desire an infant.
All your research and soul-searching may have led to you wondering whether you should work with an attorney. The short answer is "yes", but the extent to which a family law attorney is involved depends on the type of adoption you are pursuing. If you are adopting through the State of New Jersey Department of Children and Families, you will mostly need an attorney at the end of the process for filing paperwork and representing you in court. If you are working with a private agency or adopting directly from the birth mother/ parents, you should be consulting an attorney from the very beginning, since you will want to ensure that your rights are protected. An attorney can also help you stay in compliance with state laws, which is important if you are adopting from another state.
There is, of course, the option of adopting from outside of the United States. Some individuals, for example, want to adopt a child of their own ethnicity. Many adoptive parents have also found that wait times in certain countries are relatively short, with a greater availability of babies and toddlers. In this case, you will be mostly dealing with the laws and regulations of the country you are adopting from. You will also need to meet the requirements set out by the U.S. Department of State, including filing an application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and participating in a home study to determine your eligibility for adoption. The application procedure varies depending on whether you are pursuing a Hague Convention adoption, or a non-Hague Convention adoption. Thus, it is helpful to have an attorney assist you with the application process, as well as assisting you with any paperwork required by the other country.
An attorney can also be helpful if you are adopting as a single parent, step parent or same-sex
couple. While these factors do not preclude an adoption, you may be required to participate in a court hearing, for which you should retain qualified legal representation. Depending on your situation, you may also need to consider legal actions such as second parent adoptions, which is highly recommended for same-sex couples who are in domestic partnerships or civil unions. Our attorneys will be happy to discuss these and any other issues relevant to your adoption during a free initial consultation.