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Legal Issues In 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.
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.
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 $1500 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 Office of Family and Children (OFC) 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. A local County Office of Family and Children (OFC) or private child placing agency (LCPA) that contracts with them must supervise the child and adoptive family relationship. 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 Office of Family and Children (OFC) 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. Your attorney should check with the OFC to see whether all consents have been obtained or determine if the child is legally free for adoption. You will need the consent of the OFC 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.
If you are an Indiana resident, you may file your adoption petition in the county where you reside, in the county where the child resides, or in the county where the private agency (LCPA) or Office of Family and Children (OFC) 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 OFC 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.
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 is $100. 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.
Some of the children in the Indiana Adoption Program are eligible for the Federal Adoption Assistance Program. This can provide a monthly payment and Medicaid for the child after adoption. The child's social worker or your attorney can help you apply for the adoption assistance program. If adoption assistance is denied, you may request an administrative appeal and at the hearing, you may choose to represent yourself or have your attorney represent you. If adoption assistance is granted, you may choose to enter into a contractual agreement with the Office of Family and Children to receive the assistance, which requires periodic certification. The assistance may continue until the adopted child reaches the age of 18 and may be extended to age 21 if the OFC determines that your child's physical, mental or emotional disabilities warrant an extension. The assistance must be requested in your adoption petition and is ordered by the court.
Adoption assistance may be available through the county OFC for families adopting some children with special needs. County subsidy may include a monetary payment and reimbursement for medical and related expenses due to a pre-existing physical, mental or emotional condition of the child. County subsidy cannot be denied on the basis of your income. The subsidy must be requested in your adoption petition and is ordered by the court. A child may be eligible to receive both adoption assistance and county subsidy.
Updated as of Tuesday, April 4, 2006