"THERE IS NOTHING LIKE SEEING THE SMILES AND TEARS OF JOY THE MOMENT AN ADOPTION IS FINALIZED."
Our attorneys have handled thousands of adoptions and we look forward to helping your family.
STEP PARENT ADOPTION
When a biological parent remarries, the family may want the new husband or wife to adopt the child. The other biological parent can consent, but if he or she does not, we must move to terminate the parental rights, thereby freeing the child for adoption. If your step child's biological parent is no longer alive, you can become his or her legal parent through a fairly straightforward legal process. If your step child's biological parent is alive, the biological parent would have to give up their parental rights including child custody and visitation rights. The biological parent would then be released from their responsibility of paying child support. If the biological parent is unwilling to surrender his or her parental rights, the case would need to be litigated in Family and Surrogate’s Court. If the child is 14 years or older, he or she needs to consent to the adoption. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling contested stepparent adoptions throughout New York. We know how to prove if a child is in a dangerous situation and/or that the biological parent is unfit based on a variety of concerns such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect, alcohol/drug addictions, or mental illness. We handle step parent adoptions in all parts of New York City and New York State.
All in all, Step-parent adoption is a demonstration of affection and commitment. It's not just legal; it's also highly symbolic and it provides emotional security for the stepchild (and for you!). It says, “You're mine forever—I choose you.” Step-parent adoption is very important because if the other biological parent is living but has abused, neglected, or abandoned the child(ren), you, your spouse, and the kids may want to sever that harmful relationship entirely. Or if your spouse dies and you haven’t adopted your step-child, as a stepparent, you have no legal relationship with your step-little-one. Unless you adopt or are named guardian in advance. You may also consider adoption if you have shared bio-children and you want the stepchild to have status and rights that are indistinguishable from the other kids; this may help reduce sibling jealousy. Step-child adoption will settle issues such as medical releases, last names, inheritance, and guardianship.
DOMESTIC PRIVATE AGENCY ADOPTION
Many families choose to work with a licensed adoption agency. The agency provides support, counseling, and coaching while working to match you with a birth parent. The agencies we work with are caring, compassionate, and have committed social workers who are very helpful. If there are any issues as you deal with the agency's social workers, remember that the agency has its own attorney and we, as your attorneys, will always be there for you. Agency adoptions are recommended for prospective adoptive parents who want to let go of the reigns and let adoption professionals do most of the work.
Each agency has its own rules and requirements for prospective adoptive parents. If you wish to adopt a newborn, it may require a long period of time, but each and every case is different.
Most agencies practice open adoption, a factor you will consider as the process takes place. Openness is a personal decision and the degree of contact you will allow the birth parents to have after an adoption, if at all. It is an important path that the agency and our office can help you navigate.
Once a child has been placed with you, we prepare all of the documents for submission to the court, thus ensuring a very happy experience during your adoptive journey.
International adoptions are generally governed by the laws of the country of the child's birth, but U.S. immigration laws must be complied with as well. There are instances where you will need to readopt your child at home; if you arrive on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa, your child will not be a U.S. citizen until you adopt him or her. We have successfully represented many adoptive parents in readoptions.
Many families rely on donated eggs, sperm, and embryos to become pregnant. Although this is a new and evolving field of law, legal agreements are essential for the protection of all parties involved. We can draft these agreements, and help adoptive parents ensure that their parental rights are protected by completing second-parent adoptions when necessary.
FOSTER CARE ADOPTIONS
We work with several great foster care agencies to place children into permanent and loving families. We represent prospective foster and adoptive parents interested in adopting their foster children. Thus, the children who are under the custody of the State have the opportunity to be adopted. Due to the involvement of the State, these public agency adoptions require little to no cost to the adoptive parent(s).
For same-sex couples, it is often the case that there is only one legal parent even though two people may equally parent the child and think of themselves as co-parents. This is because the status as a legal parent is automatically conveyed to the parent who has a biological connection to a child, such as a biological mom or biological dad. Similarly, while some couples raise an adopted child together, only one of them may have officially become the adoptive parent because some agencies prohibit same-sex couples from adopting together but permit an LGBT individual to do so.
Notably, the New York Court of Appeals has overruled a quarter-century-old precedent, establishing a new rule for determining when somebody who is neither a biological nor an adoptive parent can seeking custody of a child with whom they have a parental bond. The recent opinion by New York’s highest court in Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A. C.C., 2016 N.Y. LEXIS 2668, 2016 WL 4507780 (August 30, 2016), provides that “where a partner shows by clear and convincing evidence that the parties agreed to conceive a child and to raise the child together, the non-biological, non-adoptive partner has standing to seek visitation and custody under Domestic Relations Law Section 70.”
Adoption law, along with all family law, is based on the “best interests of the child” standard—what serves the child’s well-being and ensures the child’s safety. If there is an emergency medical decision needed for a child and the second-parent is the only person available to make that decision, the second-parent adoption can be literally life-saving. Additionally, adopting as a second parent gives the child certain rights, such as child support, social security and health insurance benefits, and inheritance from you. The adoptive parent will also have the right to custody and visitation regardless of the status of the partnership or marriage. And if a parent passes away or becomes incapacitated, the second-parent’s rights and responsibilities, which are not guaranteed in a state or country that does not recognize same-sex marriage, will be protected.
In New York, Family Court and Surrogate’s Court have jurisdiction over adoptions. Along with initial legal paperwork, a home visit study by a social worker is conducted. Typically the home study costs $500 to $1,000 and the amount of time for the home study to be completed is usually 30-60 days for the report to be written. The home visit is about three hours long, during that time the family and the home will be evaluated to make sure the environment is suitable and safe (i.e. safety measures, window guards, outlet covers, a fire safety plan) for a child. Various factors will be reviewed, such as your social, economic, medical, and criminal (by taking fingerprints to check for criminal records and reports of child abuse) background.
Before, during, or after the home study is completed, an adoption attorney will provide parents with the remaining legal paperwork, including a Child’s Medical History Form, an Agreement of Adoption, an Affidavit of Financial Disclosure, and the Order of Adoption. Additional forms may be necessary, depending on the court, county, and case facts. The paperwork is detailed and can be overwhelming, but a court requires thorough information to protect the child’s best interests. We will lead you through the process, explain each form, and answer any questions or concerns you might have.
Within approximately eight months, depending on the specifics of your individual case, we will submit the complete package (including legal forms and home study report) to the court. Once submitted, the adoption clerk will review your file within approximately two to three weeks. If there are any requested additional forms or preliminary questions, these are handled at that time. After the clerk determines the packet is complete, it is passed to the judge for review. By law, all courts have 60 days to review the packet and 30 days to schedule the adoption after the review. The adoption finalization ceremony is usually about 5-10 minutes. Most judges allow photos and guests to come witness the ceremony.