YOU’RE NOT ALONE. WE CAN ASSIST YOU IN A VARIETY OF ADOPTION NEEDS.
For over 45 years, the law office of Angstman Johnson formerly May, Browning, and May in Twin Falls and Boise, Idaho has helped hundreds of birth mothers and prospective adoptive parents find solutions to their adoption needs. As adoption lawyers with over 35 years of combined experience between Attorneys Bart Browning and Nathan Fowler, we recognize the emotional nature of what is involved and provide several resources to assist in adoptions. With all the complexities of adoption law, you will feel supported by one of the top adoption law firms in the State of Idaho at your side. Attorneys Bart D. Browning and Nathan A. Fowler provide thorough, personalized, and affordable legal services to adoptive parents, and birth parents, in a professional and supportive environment. The adoption cases we manage include infants, children with special needs/disability, foster, grandparent, private, contested, interstate, stepparent, relative, adult, same-sex couple and single-parent adoptions.
The most common domestic adoption in the private sector are of infants. Generally, adoptive families can be paired with a prospective birth mother during her pregnancy. The adoptive family is then often invited to be at the hospital for the child’s birth or to begin bonding with the child shortly after birth. Prior to leaving the hospital grounds, a home study must be completed. The birth mother and birth father are asked to complete a social and medical background and medical records from prenatal care and delivery are requested and provided to the adoptive family and on most occasions with confidential information removed.
Unfortunately, things can sometimes go terribly wrong when a birth mother changes her mind and challenges her adoption consent, or when the birth father decides to withhold his consent to an adoption. Contested adoption proceedings have five general stages:
- Consent: The birth parent relinquishes the child to a child-placing agency or a private attorney.
- Petition: The lawyer for the agency or adoptive parents files a petition to terminate parental rights and/or a notice of intended adoption plan with the Court.
- Notice: The father receives the petition by personal service (and the mother unless she waives notice as is customary). If the father cannot be located, then a diligent search must be performed to look for him. If he is a legal father and still cannot be found, he must be given notice by publication in a newspaper.
- Answer: The father files an answer to the petition or notice wherein he objects to or asks the Court to dismiss, the petition to terminate parental rights.
- Hearing: In Court, the petitioner must prove that the father has waived or lost his parental rights. Discovery by way of depositions, interrogatories, and requests for production usually precede any significant hearings.
Child with Special Needs Adoption
Adoptive parents who are committed to parenting a child with special needs are always needed. Our firm takes pride in ensuring a home for the child with special needs through our confidential adoption process. Our firm also assists with the required guardianship (and conservatorship, if necessary) once that child reaches the age of 18 so that no benefits or services are interrupted.
Idaho allows a birth parent to sign a consent that allows the Court to grant custody directly to the adoptive parents in a private adoption. In private adoptions, the attorney for the adoptive parents is usually the person facilitating the adoption. This may involve arranging for counseling services and/or legal services for the birth mother and birth father. The role of the attorney in a private adoption is much greater than compared to a foster adoption or agency adoption. As with foster and agency adoptions, a pre-placement report (often called a “home study”) is required. In a private adoption, the prospective adoptive parents are free to choose and hire a qualified home study provider on their own. Their attorney will have referrals for such home study providers. The cost of most private adoptions is typically much less than that of an agency adoption. This is because an agency typically spreads out its costs; therefore, if a birth mother changes her mind at the last moment, the adoptive parents go back on the waiting list without having to pay for all the time that the agency spent working with the birth parents. By contrast, an attorney must charge for the time and work performed, even if the birth mother changes her mind. You can see that the job of the attorney is to minimize the risks.
Many people who are considering an adoptive placement across state lines are unaware that special rules and special issues may arise. For instance, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (“ICPC”) applies to all children who are placed for adoption across state lines, except placements made with a parent, stepparent, grandparent or other close adult relatives such as an aunt or uncle. A violation of the ICPC can endanger an adoptive placement. The ICPC assigns responsibility to the sending entity to guarantee the child’s legal and financial protection and allows the prospective receiving state the opportunity to confirm or deny the adoptive placement. The ICPC requires both a home study of the adoptive family and an evaluation of the interstate placement and ensures that the applicable laws of both the sending and receiving states are followed. Adoption laws vary from state to state and issues may arise in your interstate adoption if the two states have widely divergent laws. Children placed privately for adoption are generally able to return home with their adoptive parents within 7 – 10 business days from the birth mother’s execution of her consent to adoption, and sometimes sooner. Before the adoptive family can leave the sending state, the adoption entity must submit the ICPC paperwork to the sending state’s ICPC office. After the sending state has approved the adoption, all the paperwork would then be forwarded to the receiving state’s ICPC office. Once approved by the receiving state, the family is notified that they can return home.
In foster adoptions, the state (IDHW) has stepped in because of grave concerns about the biological parents’ ability to take care of the child. A dependency is established, and IDHW places the child with a licensed foster family. If the problem is not able to be remedied, the parental rights are terminated. The foster family can then petition to adopt the child. The State Attorney General takes care of the legal process of terminating parental rights, but an attorney of the adoptive parents’ own choice handles the finalization phase. The Petition for Adoption must be filed under a separate Court case number than that used for the dependency and termination, and it can be filed in any county in the state. It does not have to be filed where the adoptive parents reside or where the dependency was first established.
Adoption of a minor child by a relative caregiver can be an important tool for assuring the legal security of the child. Given the significant divorce rate, economic hardship, psychological instability, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse we see all around us, it is not surprising that there are many families in which children are being raised by relative caregivers such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, an adult sibling or other more distant relatives. In a fair number of cases, the child’s parents have been unable, or in some cases unwilling, to adequately parent the child and have reached out to family for help or a family member has stepped in to assume custody and care of the child. Adoption of the child by the relative caregiver establishes legally the parent-child relationship already existing between the child and the relative and affords all the legal protections of the parent-child relationship, including such things as child support, the succession of the property upon the parent’s death, and all other laws that affect parents and children. The legal process for adoption involves the termination of the legal and/or biological parental rights and the finalization of the relative’s adoption of the child.
Stepparent adoption can be an important tool for increasing the legal security of your child. Given the significant divorce rate, it is not surprising that there are many “blended families” comprised of two parents, one or both of whom have a minor child or children from a prior marriage or relationship. In a fair number of cases, the “ex” has been largely absent from the child’s life since the custodial biological parent remarried. Adoption of the child by the stepparent establishes legally the parent-child relationship already existing between the child and the stepparent. The legal process for stepfather adoption involves the termination of the legal and/or biological parental rights and the finalization of the stepfather’s adoption of the child. Similarly, in a stepmother adoption, the birth mother’s parental rights are terminated in order for the stepmother to adopt the child. Through adoption, the child is the legal child of the stepparent, and the stepparent is obligated for such things as child support, has all other parental responsibilities and liabilities, and shares fully in all parental prerogatives and rights with respect to the child.
Adoption of a minor child by a grandparent caregiver can be an important tool for ensuring the legal security of the child. In many instances, the grandmother or grandfather has been the sole caregiver for years, the grandchild’s parents have been largely absent from the child’s life, and consequently, the grandson or granddaughter has identified with the grandparent as his or her parent. Adoption of the grandchild by a grandparent establishes legally the parent-child relationship already existing between the child and the grandparent and affords all the legal protections of the parent-child relationship, including such things as child support, the succession of the property upon the grandparent’s death, and all other laws that affect parents and children. The legal process for adoption involves the termination of the legal and/or biological parental rights and the finalization of the grandparent’s adoption of the child. Through adoption, the child is the child of the grandparents just as though born to them, and the adopting grandparents obligate themselves for such things as child support as well as all other parental responsibilities and liabilities with respect to the child and have full parental prerogatives and rights with respect to the child.
While same-sex adoption became legal throughout all 50 states in 2016, same-sex couples may still face unique challenges. Bart D. Browning and Nathan A. Fowler have successfully helped same-sex couples provide loving homes to adopted children. They can answer your questions about the adoption process, and help you identify and overcome potential pitfalls before they occur.
While couple adoptions are the majority, it is recognized in the Courts today that a single parent can also successfully raise a child. If that single parent is self-sufficient without the aide of federal assistance and can prove good faith to the Courts, Bart D. Browning and Nathan A. Fowler can assist in the single parent in providing a loving home for a child. They can answer your questions about the adoption process, and help you identify and overcome potential pitfalls before they occur.