Your Advocate When Adopting In Indiana

Adopting a child is both exciting and intimidating at the same time. What if the birth mother backs out at the last minute? How do we feel about open adoption (i.e., where there is some contact with the birth mother after your adoption)? What if the father shows up some day demanding custody?

I understand the mixture of fear and elation you're probably feeling right now. With over 30 years of experience as an adoption attorney, I have seen it all. More importantly, I have helped countless families overcome these and other hurdles.

As your lawyer, we'll talk through all of your questions. We'll discuss options if the birth mother backs out - in my experience, this rarely happens. Throughout the process, my goal is to inform, educate and clarify so that everyone involved understands the plan — and your options when all do not go exactly as planned.

Helping You Navigate The Adoption Process With Confidence

Behind every successful adoption is a mountain of paperwork. You don't need to worry about the paperwork, I will make sure that everything is properly prepared and filed as well as be by your side for all court appearances.

Adoption laws vary by state and the application of the adoption law can vary by county and even by judge. The good news is my experience includes all types of adoption. Whether you're adopting locally or across state lines, I can help you navigate the legal requirements in each jurisdiction.

Terminating Parental Rights Is Part Of The Adoption Process

Part of every adoption is the termination of birth parent rights, with the exception of stepparent adoptions in Indiana. What does this mean to you? When everything is done properly you never have to worry about a birth parent — usually the birth father — appearing later and saying "I didn't know about the adoption," and trying to set aside your adoption.

Let's Get The Process Started

I'm ready to help you realize the dream of having a family through adoption. Contact me in Evansville, Indiana, at 812-483-9072 to schedule a free initial consultation. I offer flexible appointment times, both in the office and off-site, for your convenience.

For more information about the different kinds of adoptions, please click on any of the links below for more information.

Infant Adoptions

Infant adoptions are what most people think of when they think of adoption. Infant adoptions usually happen when a birth mother discovers she is pregnant and, for any number of reasons, makes an adoption plan. The adoption plan typically includes identifying and selecting the adopting parents and it can include the adopting parents being at the hospital at the time of birth and caring for the infant at the hospital. Then when the baby is ready for release from the hospital, the adopting parents leave the hospital with the baby.

DCS (Department of Child Services) / CPS (Child Protective Services) Adoptions

There are many children adopted out of the "system" or Department of Children Services (DCS) in Indiana. Most often these children are adopted by their foster parents. In Indiana and most states, DCS requires adopting parents to have a private attorney, and in Indiana and most states, the adoptive parents of children out of DCS are entitled to receive financial assistance to pay the attorney, as well as Medicaid for the child and per-diem adoption assistance after the adoption is finalized until the child reaches 18 years of age. DCS adoptions often involve siblings and older children. Every child deserves a loving home and some families are great at opening their homes and hearts to a sibling group.

Stepparent Adoptions

Stepparent adoptions involve just as the name suggests — a stepparent adopting his or her spouse's children. The consent of the other biological parent is typically required but not always. In Indiana and many states, a birth parent who has not seen his or her children for a certain length of time and/or who has not provided any support for her or his children for a certain length of time, or may be considered unfit to parent, may have waived his or her right to object to the adoption.

If the noncustodial birth parent consents to the adoption, the adoption is quite easy, but if the noncustodial parent objects, a trial (usually one to two days in length) will be required to determine if the noncustodial parent has waived his or her right to object. For children of a certain age — 14 in Indiana — their consent would be part of the adoption process. If stepparents have been married for some time, the court may waive the full home study and only require the criminal background check, which is required by statute in Indiana, thereby saving the family money and time.

Relative/Kinship Adoptions

As the name implies, these are adoptions by relatives. This includes grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives adopting children related by blood or marriage. Generally the same rules apply to relative/kinship adoptions as to all other adoptions.

Birth mothers and birth fathers who consent make the process easier, but there are times where a birth mother and/or birth father won't agree. There are times when the court will approve the adoption against the wishes of the birth mother and/or birth father, if the court finds the birth parent(s) unfit based on their behavior and actions. In Indiana, for grandparents adopting their grandchild, the court may waive the full home study and only require a criminal background check, saving the grandparents' time and money.

Lesbian/Gay and Second-Parent Adoptions

Second-parent adoptions have typically involved a non-married couple of the same sex/gender to adopt the other parent's child. The courts have often allowed second-parent adoptions where there is evidence of a stable home relationship. The same general procedure applies to second-parent adoptions as other adoptions.

With the change in the law allowing same-sex marriage across the nation, second-parent adoptions do not happen as often. Today, with same-sex marriage, the adoption of the spouse's child is essentially a stepparent adoption, and like stepparent adoption, the consent of the other biological parent is required or a court hearing determining the other biological parent's consent is not necessary because of one of the statutory reasons — typically the biological parent had not communicated or supported the child in any significant manner for at least a year or longer, or the other biological parent is unfit for other reasons listed in Indiana Code §31-19-11-1.

Interstate/ICPC Adoption

Interstate adoption means that the adopting parents and the child they are adopting live in different states. Infant, DCS, Relative/Kinship, Gay/Lesbian — all these adoptions can be interstate. When the adoption is interstate, it adds a layer of administrative paperwork referred to as ICPC.

ICPC stands for the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children. It is a law adopted by all states that is similar but with minor differences in each state. It says that before a child can be adopted from one state to another, a government bureaucrat in the state where the child resides must approve the placement of the child, and a bureaucrat in the state where the adopting parents live must also approve the adoption. While the original purpose of this law is no longer valid, it remains the law. It basically requires more paperwork and a little additional time and money, but is generally not a barrier to adoptions.

The biggest frustration for adopting parents is that after receiving physical custody of the child they are adopting, they cannot leave the state where the child lives until receiving ICPC approval from the sending and receiving states.

Foster Parent Adoption

Foster parent adoption is where an individual or couple who have been licensed in their state as foster parents decide to adopt a child or children who are in their care as foster children. This is adopting a child/children from DCS. Please refer to the DCS/CPS adoption information.

Contested Adoption

Contested adoption is where an individual or couple is trying to adopt and either one or more of the birth parents whose consents are needed refuse to give their consent. It could also refer to situations where more than one person or couple, have filed an adoption petition for the same child or children.

The same consent issues apply as in other adoptions, or if the child is a ward of the DCS; the birth parents rights have been terminated, DCS's consent is necessary. If a biological parent's consent is not given, then the petitioning adopting parents would allege that one or both biological parents' consent is not required under the statute, and the court would schedule a consent hearing to determine if consents are required from the biological parents. If the court rules that their consents are not required, the next step is a hearing on the adoption petition, sometimes called a "best interest" hearing, which typically approves the adoption if the adopting parents have an approved home study.

If DCS's consent is necessary and, for whatever reason, DCS will not consent, the court can rule that DCS' consent is not necessary.

If more than one individual or couple have filed petitions to adopt the same child or children and all petitioners have approved home studies and all required consents have been either filed with the court or the court has ruled that the consents are not required, the court will have a hearing/trial to decide whose adoption petition will be approved.

International Adoption

International adoption is an individual or couple who are U.S. citizens adopting a child from another country. The U.S. Department of State and the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) are delegated authorities over international adoptions and have several regulations/requirements.

Essentially, U.S. citizens wanting to adopt a child from another country must go through an "accredited agency" or an "approved person." These are agencies or persons licensed by the U.S. Department of State to work with international adoptions. In the late 1990s and up through about 2010, there were many international adoptions from many countries, but with the implementation of what is called the Hague Regulation for International Adoption, the number of international adoptions has decreased by more than 60 percent over the last several years.

If you want more information on international adoptions, go to or

Private and Agency Adoptions: What is the Difference?

Private adoptions are adoptions where attorneys assist the birth mother and adopting parents as opposed to agency adoptions. Agency adoptions typically involve an agency that identifies a birth mother for adopting parents for a fee, and often requires the birth mother to surrender her child to the agency after the birth. Then the agency places the child with the adopting parents, as opposed to a private adoption, when the birth mother signs the consent directly to the adopting parents. The role of an agency in an agency adoption varies according to the agency's procedures and the state law in which the agency is located.

In many private adoptions, the birth mother and the adopting parents have already had some contact before any attorney is contacted. Birth mothers and adopting parents can find each other in many different ways. Sometimes it is between people who know both the birth mother and adopting parents, sometimes an OB-GYN might recommend someone to the birth mother if she confides in her doctor that she is considering adoption, and more often it happens online now. There are service providers, organizations or matching sites that advertise to birth mothers and adopting parents that try to match or connect a birth mother and adopting parents together. These groups charge adopting parents fees that vary greatly.

The adopting parents then hire an attorney to represent them through the adoption. Most often the adopting parents' attorney will identify an attorney for the birth mother. While there may be a couple of states that allow one attorney to represent the birth mother and adopting parents, this is not a good practice. I will not represent both adopting parents and the birth mother in the same adoption. For attorneys with substantial experience, we have worked with many attorneys, often across the country, and know who we can trust to assist the birth mother or adopting parents as the situation calls for.

Although most often the adopting parents retain an attorney and their attorney identifies an attorney for the birth mother, there are on occasion birth mothers who make an adoption plan alone and contact an attorney on their own. If the birth mother decides to work with the attorney, her attorney can assist in identifying adopting parents and/or recommending an attorney to represent the adoptive parents.

What makes a private adoption a private adoption is that no state-licensed agency is directing or dictating the steps of the adoption. The birth mother and adopting parents and their attorneys work through the process on their own.

More About Agency Adoptions

This is typically where an individual or couple wanting to adopt contacts a state-licensed agency in the state where they live. If adopting parents sign up with the agency, the agency will charge fees for their services, and each agency will have different fee schedules for different services. For example, the agency may assist adopting parents with developing a profile, posting it to the agency's website and/or direct adopting parents to post it to other sites. If a birth mother is identified by the agency, the agency will charge fees that are termed different fees, but generally involve a matching fee, maybe a marketing/search fee, processing fees, legal fees and other fees.

One significant difference between agencies and private adoptions is that in agency adoptions, the birth mother typically signs a documents called a "surrender" where the birth mother voluntarily signs the responsibility for the care of her child to a state-licensed agency with the understanding that the agency will place the child with the adoptive parents the birth mother has selected. In private adoptions without an agency involved in the placement, the birth mother signs a "consent" to the adoption for the adopting parents she has selected, not a surrender.

For more information or to talk with me about your specific adoption needs, call me at 812-483-9072.

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Keith Wallace Law
1 SE 9th Street
Suite 101
Evansville, IN 47708

Phone: 812-483-9072
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