The moment has arrived—one you have been anticipating for months, maybe even years. Your baby is finally in your arms and the celebrations have begun with friends and family. Before you get to officially call yourself a family (at least a legal family), there is still one more important (and legal) step to your adoption journey…finalization.
Finalization marks the moment your child becomes an official member of your family. You will need an adoption attorney to complete this legal process for you.
When and how your adoption is finalized will depend on the laws of the states involved in the placement and ultimately which state you finalize in. Some people will have the option to finalize in the state they adopt in, while others must finalize in their home state.
After you are matched, check in with your agency social worker who will likely be able to tell you if you can adopt in the state the agency is in or if you need to make other arrangements. Often, an agency will have you work directly with the attorney on staff or that they work with. Most often, this is the easiest. If you need or want to find your own adoption attorney, feel free to get a recommendation from someone who has finalized in that state or it’s a safe bet to find an adoption attorney here.
While you technically don’t need your attorney until you are ready to finalize, it’s a good idea to choose your attorney shortly after you match to make sure you know exactly what to expect.
In most adoptions, the final adoption hearing occurs around six months after placement, although some hearings can happen as little as one month or up to a year after placement. Different states have different adoption laws which will impact how many post-placement visits will need to be completed prior to finalization.
Once you know where you are finalizing, your home study agency and/or attorney will guide you on the number of post-placement visits needed. These typically range from two to six in-home visits, which are made by your home study case worker. These visits are intended to ensure that the new adoptive parents and their child are all adjusting well.
Traditionally, adoption finalization occurs in a courtroom, although more and more are being completed over Zoom thanks to the pandemic. Whether it’s online or in-person, you will want to feel ready. This is where your attorney will come in, she or he will make sure you know what to expect and are fully prepared. You can even watch some videos of adoption finalizations to really get the big picture.
Remember to prepare yourself emotionally too. You will feel all the feels—anticipation, nervousness, excitement, and pure joy!
Be sure to be fully present. You’ll also want to take photos and keep a journal entry or two. Your child will want to look back on this when they are older. It will be a memory that you will hold onto forever…the day you officially become a family in the eyes of the law!