The adoption finalization hearing is a turning point in the life of a family. After a long and challenging process, you finally come to the moment when your family is legally official. You’ve probably seen lots of pictures and videos from these hearings — they can be emotional and celebratory occasions.
But, now you’re facing an issue. COVID-19 has drastically disrupted nearly every area of life, and it’s beginning to appear as if your adoption finalization hearing won’t be able to happen in person. Of all the things you thought might happen on your journey, preparing for a virtual finalization hearing most likely wasn’t one of them.
How do you prepare for a virtual finalization hearing? Is it any different from being at the courthouse in person? And how can you still celebrate this incredibly meaningful day?
American Adoptions’ specialists have been hard at work providing guidance and support for families preparing for virtual adoption finalizations. Based on the experience of our team, here’s what we recommend for any family getting ready for their finalization online.
What to Expect With Your Virtual Adoption Finalization
If you’ve been working from home during some or all of life during COVID-19, then you’ve already experienced plenty of virtual meetings. They can be convenient, but also a bit awkward, and it seems like someone is always spending the first five minutes trying to get their mic to work.
Your virtual adoption finalization hearing will be a bit like this — although, hopefully, with fewer technical issues.
Each courtroom uses the platform of their choice. You may end up using Zoom, Skype, WebEx, or any other video conferencing software. Typically, you’ll get a heads up on information like this from your judge’s clerk a couple days before your scheduled hearing, which is also when you’ll get a link to join the hearing at the scheduled time and date.
Once you’re on the video call, the hearing basically progresses as it would if you were actually in the courtroom. The judge will ask questions, confirm a review of required documents, and share some of their own thoughts about the importance of your commitment to your child. At the end, the judge will issue your final decree of adoption.
How to Prepare for Your Virtual Adoption Finalization
Preparing for a virtual adoption finalization hearing vs. an in-person hearing has some similarities, and some differences. Let’s cover the similarities first.
Your finalizing attorney will be your most important resource during this part of the process. Just like with any other finalization hearing, your attorney will review all required documents, ensure deadlines for submission to the court are met, work with the court to schedule a hearing, and provide support as you work toward your final decree of adoption. The best way to prepare for your virtual finalization is to work closely with your finalizing attorney.
Additionally, part of your preparation will be completing the required post-placement visits. Depending on where you live, these “visits” may also be virtual. In that case, your social worker will call in using Skype, Zoom or another video app to conduct your post-placement visits.
You should also be aware of the different preparations required for a virtual hearing so that you can be proactive in creating the best experience for your family.
Once you learn which software your hearing will use, you will want to download any required applications and test your computer’s equipment. You can go into the settings of any video software app to test your camera and microphone. Additionally, this is a good time to try out different spots in your house to find the best lighting and backdrop for your hearing.
Even though you’ll be in your home, this is still a legal proceeding. Make sure your backdrop is appropriate, and plan to wear something nice, as if you were going to the courthouse. Talk to your specialist about any other preparations you may need to make, like having a notary present or preparing signatures ahead of time.
Ways to Celebrate Your Finalization
Missing out on the opportunity to be at the courthouse, have video of the hearing and take photos with the judge can be a massive disappointment. Still, there are ways to give this day the proper celebration.
The easiest (and most common) way to capture the moment is by grabbing a screenshot with the judge. If you don’t know how to take a screenshot on your computer, here’s a guide for Macs and PCs.
Want to go above and beyond? You could set up a separate camera to record the whole virtual hearing, and you could also plan on bringing in multiple family members on a video conference call once the final decree of adoption is issued.
There are plenty of ways to get creative and celebrate this big day, all while staying within the comfort and safety of home.
Speak With Your Adoption Specialist and Finalizing Attorney
The most important way to prepare for your adoption finalization is to speak with your specialist and attorney. Rely on these professionals during this confusing time. They will guide you in the right direction and provide the support you need to successfully receive your final decree of adoption — even if it’s over a video call.