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What to Expect During Your Adoption


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Considering adoption? You probably have a lot of questions about the adoption process. That's what we're here for. Below you'll find answers to some of the most common questions we hear from adoptive parents. Read more at

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What to Expect During Your Adoption

  1. 1. What to Expect During Your Adoption Diana C. Schimmel, Esquire Considering adoption? You probably have a lot of questions about the adoption process. That's what we're here for. Below you'll find answers to some of the most common questions we hear from adoptive parents.
  2. 2. Diana C. Schimmel, Esquire Partner at Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, LLC. Adoptions come in many forms; our attorneys have the experience to guide families through this exciting process. Please note, this ebook is provided for educational purposes only. The information in the book is not intended as legal advice. A licensed attorney should be consulted directly on all legal issues that may affect you or your case. “ © 2017 Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, LLC. DISCLAIMER
  3. 3. Contents 3 Benefits of Having an Attorney on Your Adoption Team What to Expect During Your First Adoption Attorney Consult FAQ: The Legal Side of Surrogacy Adoption Searching for the Right Adoption Attorney? Look for These 3 Things Changes to Your Will After Adopting a Child About the author 4 7 10 13 16 19
  4. 4. 3 Benefits of Having an Attorney on Your Adoption Team ADOPTIONTEA
  5. 5. Adoptioniscertainlythehappysideoffamilylaw.Thedecisiontoexpandyour family is exciting, and the adoption process can and should remain a joyful experience from start to finish. Tacking the steps alone can be overwhelming at times, especially when questions and unexpected obstacles arise. That’s why many parents benefit from building an “adoption team” of trusted and dependable professionals including an experienced adoption attorney. There are many benefits to engaging a qualified attorney. The uncertainty of the legal process can be daunting on many levels. An attorney is more than just a useful guide as parents work toward adopting a child; he or she can also be their ally and confidant. There are three main benefits of hiring a lawyer to assist with an adoption: 1. Confidence 2. Instant answers to critical questions 3. Help navigating the process If you’re considering adoption but are unsure if you should seek the help of an attorney, it is my hope that the breakdown below will help you decide if doing so is right for your situation. 3 Benefits of Having an Attorney on Your Adoption Team People who contact our firm for assistance with their adoption most often give us the same primary reasoning: They need the confidence that everything will be done correctly from day one – all I’s dotted, all T’s crossed. These parents know (or soon find out) that an experienced adoption attorney can do the following:   ◾◾ Identify possible problems and prevent them before they happen ◾◾ Complete the necessary steps and ensure the process runs smoothly ◾◾ Define the terms of the adoption – whether it will be open, if contact will be permitted, etc. Having a new child enter your life and family should mean happiness and excitement; a mistake can set you back and even prevent the adoption from happening at all. The peace of mind that someone with experience is handling the process is worth it. Benefit #1: Confidence 5
  6. 6. Parents who are working toward adoption need to remain informed so they make the best possible decisions. But if you’ve never adopted a child before, you will likely not have all the answers you need on-hand – especially when questions arise unexpectedly. An adoption attorney can answer tough questions, explain possible scenarios and outcomes from the decisions you could make, and help you make the choices that are right for your family. The Internet is a great resource for information, but having a real person available to answer your questions can be indispensable for a smooth, stress-free experience. Benefit #2: Answers 6 For some, moving through the steps of adoption can feel like steering a ship without a compass. An attorney can help you navigate the process not only by helping you make informed critical decisions, but also by taking on many tasks you would otherwise have to do alone. These tasks might include (but are not limited to): ◾◾ Filing necessary paperwork, meeting deadlines, etc. ◾◾ Connecting you with an agency if needed ◾◾ Attending consultations and home studies ◾◾ Representing you in court if needed ◾◾ Reviewing legal agreements and finalizing the adoption ◾◾ Providing support after adoption, such as updating your will, life insurance policy, etc. A qualified attorney can be useful at any stage of the adoption process – even before you have taken the first step to adopt a child. If you’ve just begun to consider adoption, he or she can discuss your full range of options based on your individual situation. If you have already started the process of adopting a child, your lawyer can explain what to expect from now until completion of the adoption, and he or she can take on the complex tasks and ensure the rest of the process is successful. Truly, an attorney’s help goes far beyond identifying the steps that distinguish the different types of adoption – for example, private versus public, adopting a relative, searching for a surrogate or donor, a same-sex partnership adopting biological children, stepparent adoption, and so on – it’s also in knowing what kinds of complexities may arise, how parents may feel emotionally, and what they may need on many levels through the process. This kind of tailored representation is exactly what makes a qualified attorney an important part of an adoption team. Benefit #3: Navigation
  7. 7. What to Expect During Your First Adoption Attorney Consult CONSULTATION
  8. 8. You have decided to adopt a child, and now you’re building your adoption team to support you through the process. It’s time to consult with an experienced adoption attorney, but you might be wondering how to prepare for the meeting and what to expect when you’re there. Below are a few guidelines to get you started on the right track. What to Expect During Your First Adoption Attorney Consult After you’ve scheduled a meeting with an adoption attorney, start gathering useful materials to bring with you. These may include: ◾◾ Relevant documents you have so far, including research, files, and correspondence with any agencies you’ve spoken to about adopting ◾◾ A pen and paper or a device on which you can take notes ◾◾ A list of questions and concerns to discuss ◾◾ Anything else that may help facilitate a productive discussion with the attorney The initial consultation is meant to help you select the right lawyer for your situation and to share your goals for the adoption and needs during the process. In a previous post, I described the merits of having a qualified attorney on your side from day one. But many good lawyers handle adoptions. Your initial consult should give you the confidence that you have made the right choice in legal representation. Start by asking good questions. For example: ◾◾ Which types of adoption do you handle? Do you specialize in or prefer a particular type? ◾◾ What is your billing structure? ◾◾ What kind of help, support, and services do you provide through the process? What tasks would I be responsible for completing on my own? ◾◾ Who will be my primary point of contact at your firm if I have questions or need assistance? Will I speak directly to you, or will an assistant be assigned to my case? What to Bring What to Ask 8
  9. 9. 9 Asking pointed questions during your initial consultation will make for a valuable discussion. It will also allow you to better understand an attorney’s qualifications, attitude, and personality. You should leave the conversation having a good idea of whether he or she would be a good fit to represent you. No matter whom you choose as your adoption lawyer, certain things should be constant during your consultation (and throughout your entire experience): Your attorney should be knowledgeable. The right legal experience is critical for success, as you’ll be depending on your lawyer to ensure each step of the process is completed properly and on time. Your consultation should make it clear that your attorney is highly-qualified to assist you with your adoption. You shouldn’t feel pressure. When consulting with an adoption attorney, he or she should never make you feel pressured to select their firm for representation or to make any decisions you’re not ready for. You should feel confident. In addition to representing your interests, your lawyer is also there to put you at ease about the steps to come and to keep you well-informed and supported throughout the process. You should leave your first meeting feeling positive and educated about what’s to come. Meeting with a qualified adoption attorney might be the first real step toward adopting a child, so it’s important to make it count. When you know what to expect ahead of time, your first consultation can be a productive and exciting experience. What to Expect
  10. 10. FAQ: The Legal Side of Surrogacy Adoption SURROGACY
  11. 11. There are many scenarios in which surrogacy is an amazing option for intended parents. Before any parents-to-be arrange a pregnancy with a surrogate mother, there are some legal considerations they should know about. Below are a few questions my legal team commonly hears from parents who are considering searching for a surrogate mother, as well as women who are considering becoming a surrogate. With the right knowledge, everyone involved can make informed decisions and experience a smooth process. FAQ: The Legal Side of Surrogacy Adoption Each state has its own laws regarding surrogacy. For example, in Michigan, all surrogacy contracts are unenforceable and the state specifically prohibits paid surrogacy. Pennsylvania permits surrogacy arrangements because it has no statutory law that specifically addresses it. On the other hand, New Jersey forbids paid traditional surrogacy, during which a surrogate mother donates her ovum to create a pregnancy for other parents. The state of New Jersey is open to gestational surrogacy, however, which uses an embryo that has the intended father’s sperm and/or the intended mother’s ovum. It’s a good idea to be familiar with your own state laws and to speak to an attorney experienced with surrogacy and adoption arrangements in that state. Experienced law firms help parents through the entire surrogacy process, ensuring all legal documentation is completed and filed. At my firm, for ex- ample, we assist with drafting contracts between the surrogate (along with her spouse if she is married) and the intended parent or parents. We also prepare the proper documentation needed to facilitate the corrected birth certificate and ensure the intended parents receive medical updates about the surrogate mother, have immediate access to the child upon birth, and are responsible for the child’s medical expenses. Throughout the whole pro- cess, we are available to answer questions and provide support to keep ev- eryone involved as well-informed as possible. Are laws covering surrogacy the same in every state? How can a lawyer assist with my surrogacy arrangements? 11
  12. 12. 12 No. An attorney can only represent either the surrogate or the intended parent(s). The surrogate mother does not technically have to attend court if she voluntarily relinquishes her rights prior to the hearing, which is common practice. The adopting parents must attend court, however. It’s important to note that this isn’t a scary court scenario that some might imagine. Rather, it is a straightforward step intended to legalize the formation of their family. Generally speaking, a woman providing gestational surrogacy is not the biological parent and therefore does not have a legal right to parent the child after birth. On the other hand, when a surrogate mother has donated her ovum for traditional surrogacy, some states allow a short timeframe after the baby is born to terminate the agreement. Every family’s situation is different, so it’s critical for anyone considering surrogacy to speak with an experienced attorney to get started on the right foot. A surrogacy arrangement should be an exciting experience. With the right knowledge and professional support, both the surrogate mother and the intended parent(s) can enjoy each step of the process. Can the same attorney represent the surrogate and the intended parent(s)? Can the intended parents and the surrogate avoid going to court? Can one of the parties change their mind about the arrangement?
  13. 13. Searching for the Right Adoption Attorney? Look for These 3 Things RIGHTATTORNEY
  14. 14. In a previous post, I explained the merits of gathering an “adoption team” of trusted and dependable professionals who can help guide you through the steps and ensure a smooth process. One of these professionals should be an experienced adoption attorney, because unnecessary legal hurdles should never come between you and growing your family. There are many family law firms practicing in your state – how do you know which one to choose? As you search for the right advocate, consider the criteria below to help you narrow the search. Searching for the Right Adoption Attorney? Look for These 3 Things. The lawyer you choose should have experience specifically with the method of adoption you plan to pursue. Often, a law firm’s website will list its practice areas and even the types of adoption they primarily focus on, which can be a great starting point for gathering potential advocates. After you have identified a few lawyers who frequently work with adoptive parents, reach out to their firms for more information. During your initial conversation, ask about each attorney’s previous cases and level of knowledge with situations similar to yours. You’ll get an even better idea about their qualifications and who might be the best fit for your adoption. There are many national, regional and local organizations that recognize outstanding attorneys for their legal work and advocacy. Publications such as Super Lawyers and The Legal Intelligencer release annual lists of the top attorneys in each state, region, and/or practice area. Directory websites like Avvo and Martindale Hubbell allow previous clients and peers to post lawyer reviews and star ratings. This type of recognition and feedback can be helpful in validating an attorney’s personality and past legal work. Nothing is as helpful as sitting down face-to-face with a lawyer to discuss your situation and his or her ability to assist you. During your initial consultation, you and the attorney should go over your needs and goals. You should talk Experience and Knowledge Peer Recognition A Great First Consultation 14
  15. 15. 15 about potential obstacles you may face, as well as his or her ability to help you complete the adoption efficiently and successfully. This meeting can also be an opportunity to discuss the attorney’s fees and the role the firm could have in your adoption. As you ask questions, raise concerns, and get to know the attorney during the initial consultation, you should feel comfortable and well-informed and supported. Great chemistry from day one is a good indication that you’ll also maintain a great attorney-client relationship in the months to come. Adopting a child is an exciting moment in a parent’s life. Taking the time to properly vet a few good candidates will help ensure you find a great fit.
  16. 16. Changes to Your Will After Adopting a Child WILLCHANGES
  17. 17. A will is an important document for any adult to have, as it specifies who will receive your property and who will care for your children if they are still minors when you pass away. Property mentioned can include anything with monetary or emotional value, including your home and land, your car, bank accounts and investments, jewelry, art, pets, and more. Simply put, it gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out after you’re gone. If you have already filed a will (or are thinking about drafting one) and you have adopted a child, you may be wondering how the will’s terms will differ and which rights are automatically granted to your adopted child. Below are a few important points to remember. Changes to Your Will After Adopting a Child When a child is adopted, he or she becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents and receives the right to the same inheritance from the parents as any biological children. Unless specified otherwise, an adopted child is included in the parents’ will as part of “all my children” and under the term “issue,” which extends beyond the parents’ children to also include lineal descendants like grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If the adoptive parents die intestate – meaning they pass away before drafting a will – the adopted child automatically has the right to a share of their property. Even if the parents have a will and do not update it to specifically include the adopted child before they die, he or she will still have the right to receive a portion of their property. Aside from cases in which children are adopted by stepparents and second- parents, adoption severs the legal parent-child relationship with the birth parents and birth siblings. After the adoption is complete, the child will no longer have inheritance rights connected to the birth parents’ property. The birth parents will likewise have no rights to the child’s estate once he or she reaches adulthood. Your Child’s Legal Inheritance Rights No More Legal Ties to the Birth Parents 17
  18. 18. 18 Your will is a legally-binding document; the more detail you include, the more closely your wishes can be carried out after you’re gone. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s a good idea to consult with a lawyer right away to ensure you cover all the bases and use appropriate language. Below are a few things to consider specifically regarding your children when drafting your will. ◾◾ Your Beneficiaries: A will can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can use terms “issue” and “all my children” to be all-encompassing when dividing certain property. You can also be more specific and determine exactly who gets what. ◾◾ Your Executor: Choose a responsible person to execute the wishes you have outlined in your will. It’s often a good idea to avoid choosing one of your children as executor, and instead picking a neutral third- party. ◾◾ Your Children’s Guardian: You can designate a guardian to care for your children if you pass away while they are still minors. Otherwise, the court will make that decision. Being in control of your property is smart planning. While your adopted child automatically has inheritance rights, it’s a good idea to think about how you would like to specify the treatment of certain assets. When you’re ready to make it official, contact an experienced lawyer to guide you through the drafting and filing process. Include These 3 Things About Your Children in Your Will
  19. 19. (215) 523-6900 1845 Walnut Street 19th Floor Philadelphia PA 19103 (610) 924-2870 516 DeKalb Street Suite C Norristown PA 19401 (610) 431-4012 1585 McDaniel Drive West Chester PA 19380 (201) 655-7204 One Echelon Plaza 227 Laurel Road Suite 100 Voorhees, NJ 08043 (312) 252-2085 Two Prudential Plaza 180 North Stetson Suite 3500 Chicago, IL 60601 Diana Schimmel has dedicated her career to family law. She established Schimmel Family Law in 2013, and after working as a solo practitioner for almost four years, Diana partnered with Melinda Previtera to establish Previtera & Schimmel. In 2017, they merged with another prominent family law firm to become Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, LLC.  Earlier in her career, Diana worked as a child advocate attorney for the Defender Association of Philadelphia in its Child Advocacy Unit. As an active member of the legal community, her outstanding work continues to earn her the recognition of her peers. She has been included in Pennsylvania Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars List and selected as a Lawyer on the Fast Track by The Legal Intelligencer. Diana has also been named a Top Family Law Attorney by Philadelphia Life Magazine and Best Overall Advocate by the Widener Intensive Trial Advocacy Program. Diana volunteers with the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program, The Montgomery Child Advocacy Project and The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research PHILADELPHIA NORRISTOWN WEST CHESTER VOORHEES, NJ CHICAGO About the Author © 2017 Petrelli Previtera Schimmel, LLC