Attorney R. T Willis is an experienced adoption lawyer. Adoptions are the 'happy' legal issue we love to represent. We handle both open and closed adoptions.
A closed adoption means that there is no contact whatsoever between the birthparents and the adoptive parents and child after the adoption takes place. An open adoption means the adoptive parents sometimes meet and sometimes stay in touch with the child's birth parents after the adoption process concludes. Adoptions can also be handled where the adoptive parents and birthparents know of each other at the time of the adoption but do not stay in touch after the adoption takes place. Many times adoptions are for family members such as grandparents adopting a grandchild. Adoption is not to be confused with guardianships.
There are pros and cons to each so you will need to decide what's right for you. Also understand that the courts will take into consideration what's in the best interest of the child. If the birth parents are drug addicts the judge may rule that the child have no communication with the birthparents.
The adoption process will require a home study, a criminal background check along with the court appointing an Amicus attorney (an attorney representing the child) to determine the child's best interest, along with some additional requirements depending on each court and judge.
How long will the adoption process take?
Every adoption is unique and there is no way to adequately estimate the time it will take. The court prepares what's called a scheduling order and attorneys work under the court's guidelines.
How much will it cost?
There is no way to determine exact costs of an adoption. Attorneys bill by the hour and depending on how much time is spent communicating with you, the courts, the other agencies that will be preparing reports, it is impossible to estimate an exact amount. Most attorneys receive a compensation fee up-front and then bill you monthly for any amounts required after the compensation fee is used.
Are any of our adoption expenses tax deductible?
You will need to consult with an accountant to determine any tax information.
Adoptions of step-children:
What about the birth father?
The stories which make the news and talk shows always seem to focus on birth fathers. Our office is concerned, as are our clients, about the rights of birth fathers. We want to create lasting and proper adoptions. We can only do that by affording birth fathers their rights and when appropriate lawfully terminating those rights. We seek at the earliest stage possible to determine the attitude and legal standing of the birth father. We prefer to obtain his cooperation and consent and to have him provide us with as much information as he can about himself and his family. If he does not wish to be involved and is not married to the birth mother we present him with ways in which he may end his involvement even before the baby is born. But we do not hide the facts about the birth father or pretend that we do not know where he is. We do not want to work with birth mothers who pretend that they don't remember who the birth father is so that they can avoid dealing with him. We encourage birth mothers to be honest about the birth father and to assist us so that we may properly terminate his rights or obtain his consent to the adoption plan.
What's involved in the step parent adoption process?
When a step parent wants to adopt their step child, the birth parent must agree to terminate their rights. There are legal documents that are required along with at least one hearing. Discuss your options with your attorney to determine what's needed in your particular case.
What happens if the absent parent refuses to cooperate?
There are some stepparent adoption cases where the absent parent refuses to cooperate for any number of reasons or the absent parent has vanished and cannot be found. Sometimes the absent parent has not seen or supported the child for years or the absent parent refuses to consent notwithstanding the fact that the best interests of the child would be served by the absent parent cooperating in the adoption plan. When that happens, we will arrange to terminate the absent parent's rights as required by law. Most often we have found that by dealing diplomatically and courteously with the absent parent we are able to obtain consents without appreciable expense or difficulty in the process.
What if I do not know where the absent parent is?
In many instances when stepparent adoption petitions are filed, they are filed by a stepparent seeking to adopt his or her spouse's child from a prior marriage or relationship. Quite often in those cases we find that the child has gone without contact and support from the absent biological parent for a significant period of time -- often a matter of many months or years. As such the absent parent can be treated by the Court under the law as an abandoning parent. The Court continues to look at the best interests of the child in deciding these cases. In evaluating what is in the child's best interests, certainly toward the top of the list is the need for continuity of parenting and the financial, educational, emotional and social support of both of the child's biological parents. We will prepare the necessary legal paperwork, contact the military as required by law if needed and arrange for the proper service of the citation on the absent parent either personally or by publication.
Guardianship is not to be confused with adoption. Guardianship is a legal procedure by which an adult is given court ordered and supervised responsibility and authority to care for a minor. Guardianship may be necessary if a child's parents die leaving the child orphaned, if the child has been abandoned, is being abused or if the child is not being adequately provided for by its parents. Guardianship may also be a precondition of the payment of life insurance benefits or litigation settlements to a child upon the death of its parents. Finally, guardianship may arise in cases where a child's parents are unable to take care of their child and call upon the child's grandparents or other relatives to raise the child until the parents can reassume their parenting roles.
Call our office today at 281-542-9555 to schedule your initial consultation!