Blog

Four Things to Consider About Adoption

Posted by on Mar 17, 2017 in Adoption, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Four Things to Consider About Adoption

There is no consideration more integral or important to your life than that of bringing a new baby into the world, and adoption is an especially moving manifestation of this endeavor.

While adoption has, in some ways, become more flexible, it’s also become more legally complicated, and there are several important issues that you should seriously consider on your journey toward adoption.

Consult with an Attorney Who Focuses on Adoption Law

Adoption is an important and complicated decision. You need an attorney who will let you know what to expect, will guide you through the process, will prepare you for the adoption agency interview, and will inform you about eligibility requirements.

There’s so much to consider, but an experienced adoption attorney will ensure that you are comfortable with and confident in your decision to adopt.

Understand Your State’s Eligibility Requirements

Different states have different eligibility requirements, and it’s imperative that you understand how they relate to you.

Before you can petition the court to adopt in Arizona, you must first be certified as acceptable to adopt by the court in the county in which you are preparing to adopt. These guidelines only become more complicated when you are looking to adopt outside the state. You need expert legal counsel to help you avoid and overcome obstacles while you navigate through the adoption journey.

Private Adoptions Offer a Different Approach

Private adoptions often follow a different trajectory than agency adoptions, and in Arizona these always go through an attorney.

Your attorney will explain the differences between the two processes, will help you choose the best path for you, and will provide integral guidance throughout your adoption process.

In some ways, private adoptions can allow more flexibility – especially regarding birth parent and adoptive parent interaction – than the agency approach, but in other important ways, they can impose greater limitations. This is a topic that you should explore thoroughly with your attorney.

Consider Open Adoption

The courts sometime consider forms of open adoption for older adoptees. This often includes the child’s ability to maintain ongoing contact with specific blood relatives when the court deems that it’s in the child’s best interests.

Since the child’s welfare is everyone’s top concern, the judge will carefully weigh any such options when making important decisions regarding open adoption. It’s crucial that you explore what this might mean for you, as the adoptive parent, with your attorney.

If You Are Considering Adopting in Arizona, Call Stuart & Blackwell Today

Adoption is a beautiful choice, and we can help you with the process. If you are considering adopting a child, it’s in your best interests to speak with a lawyer with considerable expertise in adoption.

At Stuart & Blackwell, we have the experience and the dedication to help you adopt successfully, so call us at 480-420-2900 or contact us today.

Four Things to Ask Your Attorney Before An Adoption

Posted by on Mar 1, 2017 in Adoption | 0 comments

Four Things to Ask Your Attorney Before An Adoption

Adopting a baby is one of the single greatest joys of any adoptive parent’s life. It’s therefore imperative that you do your homework before choosing an attorney to assist and guide you through this complicated process. The right attorney can help you comfortably navigate the adoption journey with confidence.

Ask about Their Legal Practice

Adoptions are unique legal matters that call for highly specific expertise; it is in your best interests to seek an attorney who focuses at least part of their practice on adoptions.

Additionally, choose an adoption attorney with whom you feel comfortable working and whose values regarding adoption align with your own – someone who listens to you, thoroughly answers your questions, is sensitive to your concerns and feelings, and is available and responsive.

Talking to other adoptive parents who’ve been through the process and might have attorney recommendations is a great place to start. Adoption is too critical an endeavor to leave to legal chance.

Ask about the Services They Provide

Ask your prospective adoption attorney about how comprehensive the firm’s adoption-related services are:

  • Which services do they provide and are there any that they don’t provide?
  • Will they actively help you in finding an adoption option? • Do they handle all the necessary legal work – if not, why not
  • Will they match you to a birth mother?

Ask about the Inherent Risks of Adoption

Adoptions are not risk free, and they can become expensive. It’s imperative that you speak openly with prospective attorneys about these risks – both financial and emotional.

Make sure that you feel comfortable with the information provided and that it aligns with your values and your adoption budget. An attorney who won’t openly discuss the facts and costs of a prospective adoption is not a good bet – keep looking.

Ask about the Process

A good adoption attorney should be able to provide you with a thorough outline of the adoption process and should be able to explain it to you in a way that you can relate to.

The attorney that you ultimately choose should not only be knowledgeable about the entire adoption process but should help you feel comfortable within that process.

If You Are Considering Adopting in Arizona, Contact Stuart & Blackwell Today

At Stuart & Blackwell, we know how emotionally fraught the adoption process can be, and we are here to help. We’ve made it our mission to ensure that you feel comfortable and confident throughout the adoption journey.

We specialize in adoption law, and we have the experience and the commitment to help you adopt your baby. So contact us or call us at 480-420-2900 today.

How Do I know If I Am Eligible To Adopt?

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in Adoption | 0 comments

How Do I know If I Am Eligible To Adopt?

The adoption process is a lengthy one and there are a number of issues that may pop up at any time to derail your planned adoption.

We regularly receive inquiries from prospective parents asking whether they should even consider initiating the process because of past criminal charges, ongoing financial constraints or any other number of issues. There are, however, very few disqualifying preconditions.

Qualifications

Any legal, adult resident of Arizona is potentially eligible to adopt or foster parent a child. You can be single, married, divorced or widowed.

It doesn’t matter if you rent or own your home, and you must be at least 18 years of age to adopt a child or 21 to become a foster parent. From there, procedures differ depending on whether you want to enroll in Arizona’s foster parent program or you want to adopt a child.

If adoption is the route you choose, regulations vary depending on whether the child resides in Arizona, out of state, or out of the country.

Background Checks

Your adoption home study must be completed by a licensed agency that will conduct an extensive background check and home inspection before the final home study report will be submitted to the court for review and hopefully certification.

The background checks will be conducted of any adult living in the home and not just of the adoptive parents. While rules differ for blood relatives, step relatives and foster parents, adoptive parents generally must be able to obtain clearance following a fingerprint-based analysis of federal and state records.

Red Flags

Under state law, there are dozens of criminal offenses that would preclude you or any individual in the adoptive parent’s home from obtaining that clearance. Crimes committed against children or other vulnerable members of the population, violent felonies, and sex crimes will automatically void your eligibility to be placed on the state’s adoption registry.

It doesn’t matter if you were convicted in Arizona or in another state. Further, there is a secondary list of over 60 other offenses – ranging from shoplifting to manslaughter – that may also prevent you from obtaining that clearance; however, you will also be given an opportunity to explain the offense to the judge and how you have changed since that conviction.

You can tell the judge what you have learned from the experience. If you are any other resident of the prospective household have been convicted of a crime on this list, you may use this mechanism allowing you to petition for a “good cause” exception.

Even if you’ve never been convicted of a crime that would prevent you from obtaining a fingerprint clearance card, there’s no guarantee that an adoption agency will make a recommendation to a state court that a judge issue a certification.

Many prospective adoptive couples also believe that there is an income requirement to be certified to adopt. There is no income threshold. The court will look at both your income and expenses, assets and debts, before deciding about whether you can provide for a child.

Aside from the background checks, your social worker will conduct at least two visits to a potential home to evaluate the home environment. There are several factors evaluated during this process aimed at identifying parents of suitable moral and financial fitness that would make good matches for children in need of adoptive parents.

There are many traps and pitfalls in the adoption process. A prior criminal conviction may keep you from being certified, but it doesn’t have to. We have years of experience advising and assisting parents through this lengthy but rewarding experience.

Call Stuart & Blackwell Today to Speak with an Arizona Adoption Attorney

If you are considering an adoption, you should speak with an attorney as soon as you can.

To schedule a consultation with our adoption lawyers, call Stuart & Blackwell today at 480-420-2900 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Relative and Stepparent Adoption in Arizona

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in Adoption | 0 comments

Relative and Stepparent Adoption in Arizona

When most people think about adoption, they tend to think about the process of adopting a newborn or infant child who they have never met.

While this type of adoption certainly accounts for a significant percentage of adoptions that take place in Arizona, there are also circumstances in which a relative or a stepparent wishes to adopt a child.

There are a number of ways in which this scenario can arise. For example, perhaps a parent remarries years after having a child with another person and his or her new spouse would like to officially become the parent of a child who is already in their household.

In other cases, a grandparent is already acting as the parent of a child due to financial or personal reasons and would like to make their relationship official in the eyes of the law.

 

The Benefits of Stepparent and Relative Adoption

 

Whatever the reason, relative and stepparent adoptions are generally very similar to other types of adoption in Arizona. In any adoption, parental rights of the birth parents are terminated and transferred to the adoptive parents.

Some of the benefits of stepparent and relative adoption include the following:

  • Allowing children to inherit assets without any further action
  • Establishing legal standing as a parent regarding any litigation that may arise in the future
  • Having the right to make important decisions regarding the way a child is raised and regarding medical decisions
  • Establishing a sense of stability in the household

 

The Stepparent and Relative Adoption Process in Arizona

 

In order for a relative or stepparent to adopt a child in Arizona, the birth parents of the child must consent, the parental rights must be terminated by a court, or circumstances must exist that justify the adoption proceedings without the birth parent’s consent.

Next, prior to adopting, a social study of your home may be needed in which an accredited agency evaluates the environment in which the child will be raised.

Fortunately for many stepparents or relatives who are seeking to adopt a child, this requirement is significantly easier for them than it is for other adoptive parents.

Under an Arizona law passed in 2012, the social study will only consist of fingerprinting or a central registry (child abuse clearance) check if:

  • The prospective adoptive parent is the child’s stepparent who has been legally married to the child’s birth or legal parent for at least one year and the child has resided with the stepparent and parent for at least six months.
  • The prospective adoptive parent is the child’s adult sibling, by whole or half blood, or the child’s aunt, uncle, grandparent or great‑grandparent and the child has resided with the prospective adoptive parent for at least six months.

Finally, a stepparent or relative will need to petition a court in order to make the adoption official.

Because of the complicated nature of stepparent and relative adoptions, it is highly advisable for anyone pursuing one to do so with the assistance of an experienced lawyer.

 

Contact Stuart & Blackwell to Learn More about Relative and Stepparent Adoption

 

If you are a stepparent or relative who would like to establish parental rights in a loved one, you should call the attorneys at Stuart & Blackwell to discuss your case.

To schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers, call us today at 480-420-2900 or contact us online.

 

From Foster to Adoption

Posted by on Jan 5, 2017 in Adoption, Uncategorized | 0 comments

From Foster to Adoption

The process of fostering a child with the intent to adopt can be intimidating. Stories in the news discuss the need for foster parents, but many people shy away from the foster care process because they fear becoming attached to the children then have them returned to their biological families. However, understanding foster care and the process can help a family make a more informed decision.

What is foster care?

Foster care is temporary placement of children who have been removed from parental care due to abuse or neglect. Although the goal of foster care is to reunite families, this is not always possible.

As of March 2016, over 19,000 Arizona youth were in foster care while 3,000 more were living in shelters or group homes because there were not enough foster families. Many common fears are unfounded and with enough education more children can be appropriately placed.

 What are the steps to go from fostering to adopting?

The first step in the process is to contact a local agency to be licensed as a foster parent. Prospective foster parents must choose an agency they feel is a good ideological fit since they will be working together for the long term.

Working with an agency is also important because before adopting the biological parents must relinquish their parental rights. With agency adoptions, most children are free for adoption before the placement occurs.

Once a family has been licensed to foster, foster parents can search for a child that they feel will complete their family. The social worker at the agency will help network with other agencies as well as share photolistings of children looking for placement to help create the best home for everyone.

Once the foster parents have found a child they would fit their family, they can meet the child. However, sometimes multiple families will be interested in the same child, at that point the agency will decide.

Once foster parents have been selected for a child, a series of meetings is set up to help ensure that the parents and child are comfortable with one another. This may take place over several meetings and several weeks. The child’s comfort level with the new family is very important to the placement to make sure everyone is happy. This is also when paperwork such as the Interstate Compact or adoption assistance agreement will be completed.

If you are adopting a child who you have already been fostering, the process will obviously be much different.  In this case, you will have been involved with the child for some time.

Once the court has determined that reunification is no longer possible, it may proceed with the process to terminate that child’s natural parents’ rights.  During this process, you may be asked if you would like to adopt that child.

In 2016, Arizona law changed to the benefit of adopting parents and now licensed foster parents no longer need to be certified to adopt.  The licensed foster parents may still need a limited social study to be prepared and filed with the Adoption matter to show the results of the central registry records check is complete and current and to discuss any material change in circumstances that have occurred since the foster licensing process.

Is the process expensive?

Most adoptions for children from the Arizona state foster system do not cost anything to the adopting parents.  Most foster children will qualify for state adoption subsidy which can include ongoing AHCCCS medical coverage, a per diem, and attorney fees paid for your adoption attorney.

Additionally, most adoptions from the foster system will qualify for the full Adoption Tax Credit on your federal tax return for the year in which you finalize the adoption.

Contact an Arizona Adoption Lawyer Today

Overall, the foster-to-adopt process is complex. With many different steps and many different moving parts, the help of an attorney can make the process easier and often at no cost to you. To schedule a consultation with one of our East Valley family law and adoption attorneys, call Stuart & Blackwell today at 480-420-2900 or contact us online.

FAQ: Termination of Parental Rights in Arizona

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

FAQ: Termination of Parental Rights in Arizona

We often receive inquiries from individuals with questions about the termination of parental rights in the context of adoption.

Among the most commonly asked of these questions is whether we handle cases involving the termination of parental rights – and the answer to that question is “yes.”

Here are some answers to some of the other questions we often hear regarding terminating a person’s parental rights.

 

Who can Terminate Parental Rights?

Parental rights can be terminated by consent (i.e. a parent agrees to give up his or her parental rights with regard to a child) or can be terminated by a court order.

In cases in which a biological parent will not willingly terminate their parental rights, it may be necessary for a party, with a legitimate interest in the welfare of the child, to petition the court to terminate parental rights.  There are several grounds to terminate parental rights in the State of Arizona.

 

When Will a Court Order the Termination of Parental Rights?

A court may only terminate parental rights if it finds that a statutory ground for termination exists by clear and convincing evidence and also that the termination is in the best interest of the child.

 

What are the Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights in Arizona?

Arizona law sets out several reasons that a court may terminate parental rights. At least one of these statutory grounds must be proven by clear and convincing evidence.  Some of the more common grounds for termination include the following:

  • Abandonment
  • Abuse or neglect
  • A parent’s history of chronic substance abuse
  • A parent is incarcerated for a felony and the duration of incarceration is excessive
  • The presumed father failed to file a claim of paternity within 30 days after being served with a Notice of Adoption
  • The parents have relinquished the child to an agency or have consented to an adoption

For a full list of the reasons that a court may order the termination of parental rights, view the statute here.

 

Do I Need a Lawyer if I am Involved in a Dispute Regarding the Termination of Parental Rights

Terminating parental rights is a complicated matter. For this reason, people who are seeking to have someone else’s parental rights in a child terminated should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

Likewise, anyone who believes that their parental rights may be at risk of termination should retain legal counsel in order to ensure that their legal rights are protected.

 

Contact an Arizona Termination of Parental Rights Lawyer Today

If you have questions about the termination of parental rights or believe that you are in a situation that warrants pursuing such an action, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

To schedule a consultation with one of our East Valley family law and adoption attorneys, call Stuart & Blackwell today at 480-420-2900 or contact us online.

How an Attorney Can Make the Adoption Process Easier

Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

How an Attorney Can Make the Adoption Process Easier

If you are in the early stages of planning an adoption or have hit a snag in the process, you know just how complicated it can be.

The fact that adoption is a complex process should come as no surprise.  After all, an adoption will make the adoptive parents legally responsible for the care of another human being (that’s no small thing) and will essentially remove all legal responsibility from the biological parents (involving constitutional rights).

Fortunately, there are many ways that an adoption attorney familiar with the process can make it easier for both birth mothers and potential adoptive parents. Some of these are detailed below.

 

Address Any Issues Before They Arise

There are many issues that could potentially derail an adoption. For example, a biological father could potentially try and block a birth mother from placing a baby for adoption.

Likewise, adoptive parents in the State of Arizona must first be certified by a court as acceptable to adopt, and issues like a criminal history or financial problems could prevent certification.

When you retain a lawyer, he or she will thoroughly review your case, determine whether any issues may arise, and advise you to take certain steps to mitigate the chances that those issues will cause a problem.

In Arizona, and in many other states, a biological father’s paternity rights can be resolved prior to a baby’s birth.   Having an experienced attorney involved early in the pregnancy can help resolve and mitigate problems before a baby is ever placed in the adoptive parents’ home.

 

Identify All of Your Options

There are many options for both parents and birth mothers when it comes to adoption.

For example, you can pursue a foster adoption through the State, go through a private agency, or be matched with a birth mother or adoptive family through your attorney. When you meet with an attorney, he or she will discuss your options with you and help you determine which is right for you.

 

Make Sure the Process Stays on Track

Adopting a child or placing a child for adoption is a multi-step process that involves various state agencies and the courts.

Often, certain things need to happen before the process can move forward, and it can be difficult for those without experience in adoptions to know what to do next. An experienced lawyer will help you navigate the process and make sure that your adoption goes as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

 

Call Stuart & Blackwell Today to Speak with an Arizona Adoption Attorney

If you are considering an adoption, you should speak with an attorney as soon as you can.

To schedule a consultation with our adoption lawyers, call Stuart & Blackwell today at 480-420-2900 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Considering Adopting a Baby? 3 Critical Steps to Prepare

Posted by on Sep 23, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

The decision to expand your family by adopting a child can bring lifelong rewards. However, this is also a huge decision with many different financial and legal implications and it should never be taken lightly.

1. Decide what type of adoption you want.

“Adoption” is a term used to encompass many different scenarios, as there are many options when you set out to adopt a child.

  • Private adoption
  • Adopting children from foster care/state custody
  • Agency adoption
  • Interstate adoption (private, agency or foster)
  • International adoption (private, agency or foster)
  • Adopting children with special needs (private, agency or foster)
  • Open, semi-open, or closed adoption (private, agency or foster)
  • Transracial adoption

You need to ask yourself many questions, including: Do you want an infant or are you open to an older child? Do you want an ongoing relationship with the birth mother? An attorney can walk you through these important decisions.

2. Go over finances.

Adoption can be extremely inexpensive or extremely expensive, depending on some of your choices and depending on the birth mothers situation. There are costs throughout the process and there are often financial obligations that were originally unexpected. You need to make sure you are in the financial position to take care of the birth mothers needs and other procedural costs. If you are trying to adopt from another state or from a foreign country, there will be travel expenses. There may be medical expenses associated with the pregnancy and delivery that may not be covered by insurance or Medicaid and you may need to cover the costs. Finally, ensure you have the financial means to provide a good home for your adopted child.

3. Prepare for the process mentally.

Adoption is a process with highs and lows. It can take time to be chosen as adoptive parents or to be connected with a child. Birth mothers have the right to change their minds and occasionally they do, which can be emotionally overwhelming for prospective adoptive parents. Many prospective adoptive parents benefit from counseling or other types of support throughout this complex yet rewarding process.  Remember, however you add to your family, it’s a process and not without its challenges.  Try to enjoy the process and look for the upsides along the way.

Discuss Your Situation with a Dedicated Arizona Adoption Lawyer Today

If you are considering adoption, please feel free to discuss all of your options with an experienced adoption attorney at the law office of Stuart & Blackwell. We can help you through the entire adoption process and we can also make your profile available to our many birthmother clients. We help with all types of adoptions, including interstate, special needs, private adoptions, and more. Please call 480-420-2900 for more information today.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Place my Baby for Adoption?

Posted by on Sep 23, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

There is no Arizona law requiring you to hire an attorney. With that said, there are many reasons why it is highly advisable to have a trusted and experienced attorney guiding you through the entire adoption process. The following are some of the reasons why you should consult with a lawyer if you are considering adoption.

Deciding which type of adoption is right for you – Many prospective adoptive parents are unaware of the different types of adoption and available options for the process.  A knowledgeable lawyer can explain the benefits and potential drawbacks of each type of adoption and help you select the one that is best for your situation.

Overseeing the process – Pregnancy can be stressful and overwhelming on its own.  It can be even more stressful when you are considering the option of placing your child for adoption. Having a skilled attorney on your side to ensure that all appropriate steps are taken can make the process go more smoothly and take some stress off of you.  The prospective adoptive parents will cover the legal fees for the birth mom in nearly all cases.

Drafting your adoption plan and agreement – Your adoption plan is extremely important as it sets out your plans for prenatal care, financial assistance with expenses, counseling, delivery wishes, and more.  In addition, the adoption agreement will designate terms regarding confidentiality, closed or open adoptions, and other matters to make sure that your child’s best interests are served, as well as your own.

Protecting your rights – Birth mothers have many rights throughout the adoption process, though you may not be aware of all of these rights. An experienced lawyer will explain all of your rights and will serve as an advocate for you to ensure your rights are not violated in any way during or after the adoption process.

Providing support – Adoption is often difficult and having a dedicated attorney you can trust to provide an unbiased opinion and advice can be extremely helpful.

Consult with Our Committed Arizona Adoption Lawyers Today

At the law firm of Stuart & Blackwell, we know that deciding to place your baby for adoption is a deeply personal, emotional, and often difficult decision. We provide the highest level of personalized care for all of our birth mother clients and work to find the best home possible for your child, all while ensuring your rights are protected. Please call today at learn more information at 480-420-2900.

Can a Biological Father Prevent a Stepparent Adoption?

Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

Stepfathers can develop extremely close relationships with their stepchildren. This can be especially true if the child’s biological father does not play a significant role in the child’s life. However, despite a close bond, stepparents do not have any legal parental rights over the child. If the stepfather’s marriage fails, he will have no rights to custody or visitation or to be a part of important decisions in the child’s life. This can be true even if they had a relationship for many years. For this reason, many stepfathers want to preserve their rights and their relationship with their stepchild by legally adopting the child as their own.

 

Under Arizona laws, stepparent adoption is a relatively simple process with fewer requirements than other types of adoption. However, complications can arise in a stepfather adoption case if the biological father objects to the adoption.

 

Need for Consent

A child cannot have two legal fathers with equal legal rights. Therefore, in order to complete a stepfather adoption, the child’s biological father will have to either consent to the adoption or you will have to seek a termination of his parental rights. A form with their consent will have to be filed with the court along with the stepfather’s petition to adopt. In some situations, fathers will be willing to consent because it means they will no longer have any child support obligations or because they understand the child is closely bonded with his/her stepfather.

 

However, consenting to the adoption also means the biological father is consenting to give up all parental rights to the child. Not surprisingly, many fathers do not want to do this, even if they have not had a strong relationship with their child. If a father is against the adoption, he can refuse to consent.

 

Seeking a Termination of Parental Rights

If you want to continue with the adoption, you will have to seek a termination of the biological father’s parental rights. You must have legal grounds for doing so. A common ground for terminating parental rights is abandonment and failing to properly provide support for the child. Other grounds for termination include felony convictions with long sentences, history of chronic substance abuse or mental illness, and similar reasons. Presenting your case to the court can be challenging and you want a highly experienced adoption lawyer representing you in this scenario. Specifically you should hire an attorney who has experience litigating termination cases.

 

Call an Arizona Adoption Lawyer to Discuss your Case

Stepparent adoption can be fairly straightforward–unless the biological parent refuses to consent. In such situations, it is critical to have an experienced Arizona adoption lawyer on your side. Even if there is consent, it is a good idea to have an attorney review your adoption case. Adoption is a permanent legal action that has many implications and you want to be sure you do it right. Call the law office of Stuart & Blackwell in Arizona at 480-420-2900 for a free initial consultation.

Share This