Our Commitment To Families
Families are the foundation of our society. This is why family (re)building is the focus of our law practice. Stronger
families are especially important for those at lower income levels. So we reduce our fees for
those with household incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. The amount of the reduction depends
on the number of people living in the home and the gross household income. Call us for more information.
But Doing It Right Takes Time and Money
Having said that, you should also know that we do not compromise on quality. Adoption must be done right. And to
minimize the risks associated with adoption, once the process is begun, it should be completed without delay, too.
Unfortunately, quality and speed cost more than slow, mediocre service. But as stated on our Home
Page, if the absolute lowest fee is your top priority, just recognize that hiring the lawyer
who quotes the lowest fee runs the risk of getting less expertise than you need.
Adoptive Families Magazine on Choosing an Attorney
Again, for what it's worth, here are some suggestions on Choosing
an Attorney from Adoptive Families Magazine. There are, again, aspects
of this that may be a little off track, but still, it might help you organize your thoughts on the subject.
The following general descriptions will give you an idea of how much legal work will have to be done on your
1. Every adoption involves finalizing the adoptive parent rights
in the adoptive parents. In many cases, this is all adoptive parents need an attorney to do. For agency adoptions
(whether public or private), international adoption finalizations, and adult adoptions, the cost of this separate proceeding
will be necessary. (In most DFCS adoptions, however, federal adoption assistance will reimburse all of these costs.)
For more than one child, adopting them all in the same proceeding will significantly reduce the total cost.
2. In Stepparent Adoptions, the
existing (or potential) parental rights of at least ONE person must be terminated. This increases the necessary
legal work beyond the finalization described above. A savings here however is that, unless the judge orders otherwise, there
will be no "home study" expense. It is usually waived. Mr. Bull has addressed stepparent issues in a little more detail
in this other online
forum. (And as discussed on our Match page, it is especially
tempting to think of stepparent adoption as a "commodity," but the laws --- and judges --- take termination of parental rights
very, very seriously, and they are not going to discount the seriousness of that process, no matter how wonderful
the "step-family" is. So the fees for a stepparent adoption may be higher than you are expecting them to be.)
3. For Relative Adoptions, the existing
(or potential) parental rights of at least TWO people must be terminated --- twice as much additional work as for
stepparent adoptions. But again, unless the judge orders otherwise, there will be no "home study" expense. It is usually
waived for relative adoptions also.
4. For Independent Adoptions ("unrelated"
adoption, with no agency involved), not only must the existing (or potential) parental rights of at least
TWO people be terminated, some form of home study must be done. This cost is payable directly to the provider
of that service, not to our office. Overall, independent adoption is quite a bargain. It involves the most complicated,
and therefore most expensive, legal proceedings, but there is no private adoption agency fee. Those can run from $12,000
to well over $20,000 (not counting the legal cost of finalizing the adoption; though it usually includes the home study).
So overall, independent adoption is much less expensive than agency adoption.
5. Further complications can occur with 2, 3, and 4 above. If an existing parent willingly
signs the necessary paperwork for the adoption, that is one thing. But when parents must be served with notice and terminated
"against their will," that is more time-consuming, expensive, and risky. If they oppose the adoption, they may be able to
block it completely. But even if they are doomed to lose, dealing with their opposition takes that much more time and effort.
If notice of the adoption must be given by publication, that takes additional time as well.
The Biggest Risk You Face Is Poor Legal Work
Many people worry that adoptions can "come apart" after they are "completed." Sensational, tabloid-style stories
--- about kids being returned to birth parents years after being adopted --- keep some people from even considering adoption.
But the only reason these rare, rare exceptions make news at all is that their legal issues were not handled competently.
The Law Treats Legal Parenthood Very Seriously
Which brings up this: Adoption is a more serious legal proceeding than many realize. Transferring legal parenthood is not
something that the law --- or judges --- take lightly. A legal action has to be initiated in Superior Court (the highest
trial level court in Georgia), and everyone involved is exposed to serious risk if it is not taken to a legally valid completion.
Minimizing the Risks
This is the biggest reason that the fees and costs should be paid before the process is started: to minimize the risk the
participants face until the decree is valid and final. Many families facing financial strains will want to take a "pay as
you go" approach, but until the adoption is finalized, the participants --- and the child --- are at serious risk. Installment
payments can be made before the process starts, but the only acceptable strategy with adoption is to finish
it as soon as it is legally feasible. So even if the fee is paid in installments, we don't begin the procedure until the
cost of finishing it is paid.
Refunds for "Failed" Adoptions
On the other hand, if an adoption fails to complete because participants change their minds, or the adoption "disrupts" for
some reason, the remaining, unearned legal fees are refunded.
In sum: Adoption is not a minor legal proceeding, and you are not going to pay for it by skipping this month's
car payment. That same old rule of thumb applies: "You get what you pay for." State Bar Rules prohibit publication
of actual fee quotes on a web site, in part because every case truly is different. If you read a "published" fee here, but
your case requires more work than that, you will be angry for having to pay more than you expected. The above general descriptions
are meant to give you an idea of how much legal work will have to be done on your adoption.
The Risk of "Pay-As-You-Go" Adoption
Lawyers unfamiliar with adoption often do not require full payment in advance. If you are tempted to hire a lawyer because
the fee is not required in advance, you should understand the risk: You may end up paying more than you expect before the
job is done, and it could take longer to finalize if you "pay as you go" (and until the adoption is actually finalized, it
could fail, and the child's future would be uncertain).
An Experienced Adoption Attorney Will Ask Detailed Questions About Your Case
A reliable legal fee quote should be based on knowledgeable, probing, and detailed questions about your situation and your
goals. Beware of low fee quotes when few questions have been asked. Too many lawyers will quote a low fee --- especially
to a friend --- without really knowing what that particular adoption is going to involve. Other lawyers will quote a high
fee, hoping that you will choose another lawyer! (Or at least that it will be "worth their while" to learn out how to do
it.) In either case, you'll end up paying more than necessary (financially, legally, or emotionally; perhaps all three),
and you may never know how much easier it could have been.
Our Commitment to Adoption
We are deeply committed to adoption, both as a ministry and as a profession, and we know what it takes to do it right. We
keep our fees and expenses as low as we can, without cutting risky corners.
No Two Cases Are The Same
As shown on our Adoption Planning page, there are many different types
of adoption, and each involves several people with differing legal interests and needs. The legal fees and costs can
vary greatly from case to case, and your situation may call for a different approach than you think.
Special Needs Adoption Usually Costs Less
Don't forget that special needs adoption is often free to
adoptive parents. And many types of financial help are also available
for most types of adoption.
Get the Big Legal Picture
No matter what type of adoption you are considering, there are legal issues right from the start. You need the big picture,
and you need to be sure that each part of your adoption plan meshes with the other parts. Pre-adoptive parents in Georgia
will eventually have to file a court petition to finalize their adoption anyway. For a small retainer, we can advise you
on your adoption plan from the beginning, and then credit that retainer towards your finalization. Most of our clients are
adoptive parents finalizing their adoptions, but in many of these cases, we also address the birth parents' rights. In relative
and stepparent adoptions, for example, as well as for independent adoptions occurring without an agency, we usually handle
We Do Not Charge Birth Parents
We also assist birth parents, of course, but we do not charge a fee to them.
The finalization process that is required at the end of any adoption usually takes ONE TO THREE MONTHS.
The TOTAL time required for your adoption will depend on whether you need to find
a match, and on how complicated it is to address the existing parental rights (which usually depends on the existing
father's legal status and his attitude toward the adoption). Also, when an adoption crosses state lines, things can slow
down greatly and get a lot more complex legally.
Once you are ready to proceed on the legal part of your adoption plan, you want things to move along as quickly as possible.
If you want me to help with your plan, we need to sign a contract (Georgia State Bar Rules require me to have written contracts
with our clients). Obviously, we need data from you to prepare the contract, but in addition, adoption involves large
amounts of information, and numerous forms. The spellings and numbers on all these forms must be fully and exactly
correct. Naturally, you are the best source of accuracy for all these things.
we will probably only need to meet once to get all the papers signed.
The more secure method of submitting your data to us is the Downloadable
Legal Steps Form. The Web-Based Legal Steps Form on our Forms
and Resources page may seem quicker or easier in some ways, but before using it, you should know that this site is
not "secured" like sites that accept credit card payments. (Of course, the data involved here is probably available out
there somewhere on the Internet about all of us! But it's up to you.) If you aren't comfortable sending data
through the Internet at all, you can always bring us a copy of that Form's
questions with your answers on a USB drive (or other removable media). Or you could even just print out that Form's
questions with your answers --- or write your answers by hand on a printed-out copy --- and mail the printed results to us
If your case becomes contested to the point of litigation, and you want to press it further, we will
have to bring in another attorney either to handle the litigation or to take over the entire case.
As it says on our Adoption Planning page, our law practice is about family
(re)building. By design, our office is not set up to handle litigation of serious custody disputes. We have found
that, one way or another, custody litigation almost always harms the children. The issue should be the best interests
of the child, but custody litigation is almost always about what the fighting adults want, not what is best for the child.
(In fact, all litigation is more damaging than most people realize. Too many little spats become all-out legal wars on our
fellow citizens, and our society suffers for it.)
Even worse, existing parents may seem obviously unfit to you, but the law and the courts cannot be trusted to grant the adoption
over their objections. Ironically, the same immaturities and irrationalities that make some parents unfit can also send them
into denial about both their deficiencies and their children's best interests. Their lives may be giant train wrecks, but
they will resent anyone who steps up to adopt their children. Their attitude will be: "All I have left in the world is my
child, and now you're trying to take that from me too." Incredibly, even if they are caught lying under oath about current
drug abuse, if they don't have criminal convictions for drugs and/or child abuse, there are judges who will not grant
As much as some cases cry out to save children from unfit parents, again, custody litigation almost always hurts the children.
Besides that, "going to war" in one case puts our office on "hold" with other adoption cases where everyone agrees on the
adoption plan. For me, it doesn't make sense to hold up people who are working together to help children, in order
to litigate with one person bent on doing wrong, especially when the courts too often side with the wrong-doers.
If you think your case could become a court battle, your best strategy is to enlist a friend or family member the parent
respects to persuade that parent to be more reasonable about considering adoption. You may need to report an unfit parent
to the Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS). (Of course, the parent will then resent you for blowing the
whistle. It would be better if an investigating police officer calls DFCS in.) If DFCS agrees with your concerns about the
child's welfare, family members or close friends are usually prime candidates when they place a child for adoption. You will
have to take their "parenting course," but they prefer family and friends who already have positive roles in the children's
1. Before you print this list out (highlight the list, then File: Print:
PLEASE NOTE THAT:
The Downloadable Legal Steps Form contains this SAME list
of documents. Even if you won't be e-mailing it back to us, it will give you a place to write in details about our meeting,
everything you need together in one place.
2. These papers do not fax clearly; either let us make copies of them when we meet, or mail copies to
us at ourP. O. Box.
3. You DO NOT need to make copies of ANYONE'S Social Security card, nor any parent's birth certificate.
You will also need to bring the originals of these papers to the final hearing.
--- each adoptee: birth certificate, any guardianship documentation
--- birth parents: current marriage license / most recent child support order / legitimation
decree(s) / DNA test results / death certificate(s) / divorce decree(s): most recent, and any divorce decree mentioning adoptee(s)
--- adoptive parents: current marriage license / most recent divorce decree / death certificate
of last spouse of unmarried adoptive parent
--- each adoptee: the final foreign adoption or guardianship decree & verified English translation / translator's
qualification statement / translator's complete name, and current address / Visa granting the child entry to the United States
(may be just a stamp in child's passport) / child's original and any amended birth certificate & verified translation
--- adoptive parents: the home study completed for US Citizenship and Immigration Services
/ current marriage license / divorce decree / death certificate of last spouse of unmarried adoptive parent
General Limitations, and Specific E-Mail Limitations!
CAVEAT LECTOR! Disclaimers tend to be distasteful intrusions into otherwise informative reading. "Fair
warning" is one thing; but what about those giant slabs of text that can turn even monosyllabic e-mails into multi-MB server-cloggers?
Well sadly, they are routine facts of life these days. As Bishop Fulton Sheen said years ago, "The big print giveth, and
the fine print taketh away."
Unfortunately, the same applies here, both to everything on this site in general, and specifically to any e-mail sent by
or on behalf of our office. BUT, rather than clog your Inbox with them, every e-mail we send has a link to this full
deal here on our website for all to see. You know what we mean --- those pesky notices that: 5.
Advise that if you think you can sue us for what we've written, you didn't understand what we were trying to say; 4.
Reserve whatever rights we can reserve despite any role we had in writing it; 3. Argue
that we really do know how to spell, despite what was there when "Send" was clicked; 2.
Warn you that what you got MAY be confidential and/or privileged ("IT" may be privileged, not
you???); 1. Tell you that at least two federal laws limit the extent of any advice we
can give here or by e-mail ( (A) IRS Circular 230, which says that nothing we might say justifies
trying to evade IRS provisions or penalties (shocking, huh?); and (B) the Electronic Communications
Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2510-2521, which says that if you've gotten a message in error, please notify us, delete it, forget
you ever saw it, etc.; and frankly, if you read these and similar laws, they basically say that if you like what we've said,
it may be wrong if it's not independent advice you paid for!); and 0. LIFTOFF! Houston, we have
liftoff! .... Ahem, ... well, you know, that sort of thing. So govern yourself accordingly, and PRAISE THE LAW!
And oh yes, have a nice (non-litigious!) day!
DIRECTIONS TO OUR OFFICE &
THE CHATHAM COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Our office is located at 420 West Broughton Street. It has a blue awning, near MLK Blvd., across the intersection
from the Firestone garage, and across Broughton from the Child Support Enforcement office in the Chatham County Courthouse
garage. Beyond the Courthouse garage is the Courthouse itself, where final hearings on adoptions are for Chatham County residents.
(Both buildings look like big blocks of granite.)
I-16 merges into Montgomery Street in downtown Savannah. The 3rd traffic light is Broughton Street, our office is to the
left, almost at the end of the block, on the right. But you'll have a better chance of finding a place on Broughton Street
(for the 2 hours of free parking available there) in the block on the other side of Montgomery.
Lately, streets in downtown Savannah seem frequently to be torn up with construction projects. This
makes getting around near our office and the Courthouse even worse.
Allow about 15 minutes for parking --- it can be an ordeal. As noted, it is free for 2 hours on Broughton Street,
but parking is tight everywhere in downtown Savannah. There is usually space available in the County Courthouse garage across
the street (floors 4, 5, and 6 only; enter on Montgomery just before Broughton Street). The garage is $1.00 per hour ($10.00
for all day). Street parking at a meter or "Pay to Park" machine will cost $1.00 for 80 minutes ($0.25 for each 20 minutes,
with 2 hour total limit). They can't time your stay on Broughton Street very well. But with meters (or "Pay to Park" machines),
I've seen a Meter Maid sit and wait for the last minute expire to put the ticket under the windshield wiper.