If you’re a pregnant woman considering adoption, the process can seem complicated enough — and involving an adoption lawyer may make it even more overwhelming for you.
But just like your adoption specialist and adoption agency, an adoption lawyer is here to respect your rights and help you make the best decision for you. Involving a legal aide in your adoption process does not mean you no longer have the right to change your mind. Adoption lawyers are actually here to help you better understand your legal rights, whether or not you end up choosing adoption.
But, what is working with an adoption attorney like? What should you know before starting?
One of American Adoptions’ attorneys, Kevin W. Kenney, has detailed what every prospective birth mother should know about the legal adoption process, whether you’re in the middle of an adoption or still considering it. His advice may help you feel more comfortable pursuing the adoption process.
Remember, your adoption attorney is always on your side, no matter what choice you ultimately make.
Here’s what Kevin wrote about what he wants you to know:
1. “How much adoption financial assistance you receive will depend on several factors.”
Payment of your living expenses by your adoptive family is legal and customary in most states. However, the amount that can be paid varies from state to state and even county to county. The acceptable budget for your living expenses will be determined in part by the state and county where the adoption case will be filed.
2. “In many states, your adoption consent is final and can’t be revoked.”
Some of my clients think they can withdraw their written consent for a certain period of time (for example, a few days or a few months after signing). In many states, adoption paperwork is final when signed. You cannot change your mind after you sign it. Your attorney will always help you understand the intricate details of when your consent becomes final in your state.
3. “An adoption attorney needs to know the whole truth about your baby’s birth father.”
You must be open and honest about the birth father. However you feel about him, he has rights, too. Those parental rights can be terminated under the right circumstances, if he fights the adoption.
4. “You always have the right to choose an open adoption.”
Open adoption is normal. Openness follows a spectrum. Photos and written updates are the least you can expect. Some birth mothers have visits with the child. Whatever your arrangement, know that if the adopting family goes back on their promises, you can’t (1) withdraw your consent or (2) take them to court to enforce the open adoption agreement, unless your state laws allow for this.
5. “Your services from an adoption attorney will always be free.”
As a prospective birth mother, you get a free lawyer. Usually the adopting family pays your lawyer’s fees. However, your lawyer cannot let who pays his or her fees influence how you are advised.
6. “Whether you have to appear in court will depend on your state laws.”
Every state’s adoption laws are different. For example, for birth mothers I work with, they don’t have to go to court in Kansas. In Missouri, they might have to go to court. Regardless of where you are, the adoption judge is usually very nice and the court appointment takes less than 20 minutes.
7. “Your adoption costs will be absolutely free to you.”
You don’t have to pay any medical bills for your pregnancy and delivery. If you don’t have insurance, someone will help you apply for Medicaid. Any bills not covered by insurance will be paid by the adoptive family.
8. “You can always talk to someone if you are re-considering your choice.”
Talk with your social worker or other professional about how you’re feeling. They will help you “stay ahead of” your emotions so that you may think clearly.
9. “Your adoption counselor does not stop working with you after placement.”
Remember that counseling is available to you in the future. Take advantage of this invaluable resource.
10. “You and your rights will always be respected during your adoption process.”
Everyone involved in the adoption (the adoptive family, the social workers, the lawyers and the judge) respects and admires you and your brave and noble decision.
Your adoption lawyer will be there for you throughout the legal process of adoption. They can be instrumental in helping you understand your adoption rights moving forward and, ultimately, whether it’s the right path for you. If you choose to pursue adoption, they will inform you of your rights even as you’re giving your adoption consent.
By helping you understand the legal process involved, an adoption attorney will allow you to focus on what’s really important — finding the best option for you and your baby.