One of the most frequently asked questions we hear is “When do we call an attorney?” after a family has made a connection with a birth parent.
There may be a number of points during your adoption when you will need legal advice. Yet after you begin talking to a birth mother, the need will become evident. Don’t jump in too fast though – knowing when to call and retain an attorney can save you time and money as you move forward.
Here are some basic guidelines about when to get in touch with a qualified adoption attorney:
- When your birth mother has been screened and you are both ready to take the next step.
Once you have gathered all the information and received our assessment of this opportunity as a positive one, it is time to begin compiling your legal questions and speak with an attorney about your legal options based on the situation, your state laws, and the laws of the state that the birth parents live in. Prior to doing this, chat with your birth mother to let her know that this is the next step and see what her reaction is. This is a step that cannot be avoided for a safe and successful adoption, so if you get any push back, speak with your coordinator. There may be a reason for her reluctance to want to speak with an attorney but you want to know this up front.
- Prior to paying out any birth parent expenses.
Whether or not you know enough about a birth parent to match, never give money without the advice and counsel of a qualified adoption attorney. This can jeopardize your entire adoption because, simply put, it is illegal in some states for any money or help to transfer between parties in an adoption. This includes gifts, food, lodging, and more.
- Prior to making any commitments, financial or otherwise, to a birth parent.
Be careful about any commitments you make to a birth parent prior to speaking with your attorney. This includes things like help after the adoption or responsibility for medical expenses. You don’t want to be in a position of having to go back on your word because you made commitments that you legally were unable to.
- Prior to taking any type of custody of the child.
There are legal forms that you should use, even just for a babysitting type of relationship. You don’t ever want concerns about kidnapping to come into play. Always know your options and take advice for every situation. It can seem easy to just take guardianship of a child but if it is not processed legally, it can lead to trouble down the road.
At times, it can seem attractive to cut legal corners in order to save money. Remember, adoption is a matter of the heart and you never want to cut corners where hearts are involved. An adoption attorney may seem expensive, but the cost to correct an adoption done improperly can be prohibitive. Do it right the first time.