Building Families Through Adoption
In many ways, adoptions are quite unlike any other family law proceeding. Divorce is a good example of the difference. Most marriage dissolution matters feature a mixture of financial and emotional issues. Adoptions are different. There are some financial questions in some cases, but for the most part, adoption issues are entirely emotional.
Furthermore, attention to detail is important in all family law matters. And, it is critically important in adoptions. One missed step or overlooked item could have incredibly tragic consequences, even many years after the fact.
The experienced Franklin adoption attorneys at Stratton Family Law fully appreciate these differences. Adoption is not a sideline. We routinely handle a wide array of adoption matters in Williamson County and nearby jurisdictions. Our professional team does more than handle the legal aspects of your adoption. We also help families deal with the changes they are facing. Furthermore, because of our experience, we are very familiar with adoption procedures. So, there are no unpleasant surprises, no matter which of the four major types of adoption is best for your family.
Once upon a time, agency adoptions were by far the most common type of adoption in Tennessee. Many families still choose agency adoptions, but the other forms of adoption listed below are almost as popular. Agency adoptions are attractive because, in most cases, the agency handles most of the legwork and paperwork. That’s true of both private agencies and social services adoptions.
Exact procedure varies, but generally, a private adoption agency essentially connects adoptive families with one another. After an initial evaluation, an agent links a family with a child. That child is generally a newborn. The entire process is anonymous, which is a significant advantage in many cases. On the other side of the coin, many agencies have very high standards and extremely long waiting lists.
Social service agency adoptions usually involve a child currently in foster care. Once again, the process is anonymous. And, many social services adoptions have less-rigorous qualifications and shorter waiting lists. Some of these children have significant emotional and/or physical baggage. But do not let that possibility deter you. That’s certainly not true in all cases. And, state services are usually available.
At Stratton Family Law, or role in this process might be limited, but it is certainly not insignificant. An attorney helps ensure that adoptive families do not get lost in the shuffle. Furthermore, we advocate for you in certain situations. For example, if your family falls just below the qualifications for a private agency adoption, we help you get over the hump.
Once upon a time, private adoptions were “back door” adoptions conducted in secret. Today, private adoptions, which are also known as open adoptions, are not only in the light of day. They are the best solution for a family in many cases.
Sometimes, the emotional distance of an agency adoption is a significant advantage. In other situations, this distance is an unwanted negative. Many children benefit from a relationship with, or at least a knowledge of, their birth parents. Additionally, if the child is diagnosed with a chronic illness, an open adoption makes it easier for doctors to access the child’s complete family medical history.
At Stratton Family Law, we handle all aspects of private adoptions in Williamson County. Our comprehensive services include:
- Family Qualifications: Tennessee law requires that adoptive parents be at least 18 and have the financial and emotional wherewithal to care for a child. The emotional and financial requirements are rather subjective, which is why assertive representation is important at this stage.
- Child Qualifications: Generally, the parties in a private adoption are acquainted with one another before they reach out to us. That personal rapport usually makes the process easier. However, it’s still a good idea to look into the child’s background. Emotional or physical baggage is certainly not a dealbreaker, but the adoptive family should be prepared to deal with any issues which are likely to arise.
- Pre-Adoption Care: State law imposes strict limits on the amount of financial assistance an adoptive family can give a birth mother prior to, during, and after the birth. Typically, a family can pay the mother’s reasonable living and medical expenses, and nothing more. If the dollar amount is even slightly too high, the adoption could be invalid.
The relinquishment of parental rights is usually the critical moment in a private adoption. Generally, parents can only take this action after the baby is born. Tennessee law also gives parents an opportunity to change their minds, at least for a few days after they sign relinquishments. Any undue pressure at this stage could cause major problems.
Private adoptions also sometimes create work issues. These families must often miss significant work time for both pre-adoption procedures and post-adoption bonding. Our team makes sure your rights are protected in this area.
This procedure varies as well, but typically, foreign adoptions are technically re-adoptions. After a private or agency adoption in a foreign country, the new family returns to the United States, where they must go through the process again.
Attention to detail is especially important in re-adoptions. Generally, due to immigration restrictions, the new family only has a few weeks to complete the entire Tennessee adoption process. So, at Stratton Family Law, we ensure that the table is set properly and that the new family can quickly complete the qualification and finalization process. That includes advanced arrangements from interfacing with social workers to setting a hearing date and time well in advance.
In some cases, step-parent adoptions are not much more involved than filing paperwork. But in most situations, they are quite complex.
Essentially, a step-parent replaces a biological parent. That means the biological parent loses all parental rights and the step-parent assumes all parental responsibilities.
Termination of parental rights is a prerequisite to a step-parent adoption. Judges normally approve voluntary terminations as long as they are in the best interests of the children. Often, however, biological parents hesitate to voluntarily severe their relationships with their children.
A name change is often an effective compromise. Name changes do not have the same legal and emotional effect as adoptions. But at least everyone in the household has the same last name.
Step-parents must also be prepared to assume all parental responsibilities. For example, in the event of divorce, which is quite frequent among subsequent marriages, the adoptive step-parent is responsible for future child support.
At Stratton Family Law, we guide families through this emotional and financial minefield. Furthermore, we prepare and file technically correct documents and provide experienced advocacy at the adoption hearing.
When done properly, adoption has untold emotional benefits for parents and children alike. For a free consultation with an experienced Franklin adoption lawyer , contact Stratton Law. Home and after-hours visits are available.