The Legal Aspects of Adoption
Prospective adoptive parents should consult an attorney for legal advice and as they prepare to adopt a child. You can read about some of the legal aspects of adoption here. Please note that this is not legal advice for your particular situation.
Selecting An Attorney
Federal and state laws that apply to foster care and adoption require certain steps to be followed prior to the finalization of an adoption. It is important to have an attorney to represent you in the adoption process. Your family, friends or individuals you know who have adopted may be able to recommend an attorney for legal advice and you can find out more information on attorneys from your local county Bar Association. Sometimes it is helpful for an attorney to have knowledge of the foster care system. For a referral to an attorney trained by ACT in adoptions from foster care, or for a free consultation with an ACT-trained attorney, please visit Adoption in Child Time.
Attorney fees vary around the state. You will need to ask the attorney what fees they charge and how they bill their services. Since some children are eligible for an adoption subsidy (a one-time reimbursement of legal fees or non-recurring adoption expenses with a maximum expenditure of $1,500 per child), your attorney may be able to assist you in applying the subsidy to their fees.
Prospective adoptive parents need an approved Family Preparation Assessment (Home Study) to be recommended for a child who is a ward. Your local county Department of Child Services (DCS) and/or the private agency (LCPA) that contracts with the county must determine if you have been approved. You are required to have written approval before a child can be placed with you for adoption and through your local court jurisdiction.
Indiana law requires that adoptions be granted only after a period of supervision has been met. The child and adoptive family relationship must be supervised by a local county Department of Child Services or private child placing agency (LCPA) that contracts with them. The length of the supervision period is at the discretion of the court, however most courts require a standard time period of six months.
The consent of the child’s mother, if she is living, is required by law to complete an adoption. The consent of a child’s father who has established paternity or signed a paternity affidavit is also required. The county Department of Child Services (DCS) may have completed a court action to terminate the parent-child relationship so that a child who is a ward can be legally free for adoption, whether the child’s parents have consented or not determines the type of court action that is necessary. You will need the consent of the CDCS that has the responsibility of care and supervision of the child you wish to adopt for the court proceedings, unless the court finds that their consent is not necessary to serve the best interests of the child.
Adoption Petition Filing
In Indiana, an attorney needs to file the adoption petition and represent the family through the court process. A petition may be filed in the county where the pre-adoptive parent resides, or in the county where the child resides, or where the Department of Child Services (DCS) or private agency (LCPA) has custody of the child. If you are not an Indiana resident, you may petition to adopt a child who is a ward of Indiana in the county where the LCPA or DCS has custody or the county where the child resides. If you are married, both you and your spouse must sign the adoption petition. Partners of an unmarried couple may not petition to adopt together and in such cases, only one partner may be the petitioner.
Adoption Filing Fees
The adoption filing fee consists of the following: The adoption history fee, which is $20 and the putative father registry fee, which is $50. Both of these fees are sent to the State Department of Health for records maintenance; and the county clerk’s office fee, which can range from $100 to $200. The court may not require payment of the clerk’s fee if you are unable to pay it based on an affidavit regarding your income and expenses.
If a child has been determined eligible for adoption assistance, the adoption assistance agreement must be signed by all parties before the final adoption is entered. You can find more information about the Adoption Assistance Program on the DCS website.