Do You Need a Lawyer to Adopt a Child in New York State? The simple answer is no. Hiring a lawyer to adopt a child in New York State isn’t required, but it will make the legal process of adopting easier to understand. And it is important to understand all of the laws during this process since it’s such an emotional time for both the adoptive parents and the birth parents.
Legal relationship of adoption
Adoption is the legally binding agreement that transfers all rights and responsibility to you as the parent(s). Before the adoption is official by the Court, the county social services, foster care, or adoption agency will remain as the child’s legal guardian.
Filing a petition for adoption
In order to be considered as an adoptive parent, you must first file a petition with the Court. It’s recommended during this time that you have a lawyer prepare the petition and file it on your behalf, along with other supporting documents.
Hiring an attorney for adoption
Keep in mind that hiring an attorney is a personal decision. There isn’t any organization or department that assigns an adoption lawyer for you, so selecting an attorney that is right for you requires additional care and research on your part – if you decide to hire one at all. To begin the process, it may serve you to ask other adoptive parents, the foster care agency, or the adoption agency for recommendations. If you have used a lawyer in the past, you could call and ask for a referral for a lawyer that specializes in adoption. Additionally, you could call the local Bar association referral service and request a list of names of adoption lawyers. If you are also part of a union, it may benefit you to talk to your union rep and ask them if you are entitled to a lawyer that can represent you during the adoption process. Regardless of how you conduct your research, the lawyer you ultimately select should be an attorney that specializes in Family Law and has prior experience with adoptions.
Paying an attorney
Since hiring an adoption lawyer is a personal choice, the lawyer fees are your responsibility. However, if the child you’re adopting is special needs you might be eligible to receive reimbursement for “nonrecurring adoption expenses”, this includes attorney fees. If you agree to it, the payment can be directly made to your attorney by the department of social services.
The basic steps of the New York State adoption process
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services has a lot of excellent resources for anyone considering adoption. The following process outlining the ten basic steps for adopting a child in New York is taken directly from the Adoption FAQ section of their website.
- Attend an orientation session and choose an adoption agency.
- Submit an application and medical history records, complete a national and state criminal background check, and also complete a check by the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
- Complete the home study process. You and your family will need to meet with agency staff in your home as part of the home study approval process.
- Attend agency-sponsored training.
- Work with a caseworker to find the right child for you.
- Visit with the child.
- After the child is placed in your home, work closely with the child’s caseworker for a period of supervision.
- Work with your agency to complete the necessary steps to receive adoption subsidies, medical subsidies, and reimbursement of nonrecurring adoption expenses, if eligible.
- Hire and work with your attorney to submit the adoption petition to finalize the adoption in court.
- Contact your local department of social services or a voluntary authorized adoption agency to learn how to obtain post-adoption services, if necessary.
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