Before you greet the judge, there's MORE PAPERWORK to be done! So open up yet
another folder, and let's begin.
First, you need to find out whether or not your local jurisdiction allows you to handle
the formal adoption paperwork yourself or if an attorney is required. If you prefer or
need to hire a lawyer, your agency can offer recommendations. Costs will vary from a few
hundred dollars to well over $1000. So call around and get references.
If permissible, I strongly suggest you handle the adoption petition filing
yourself (Maryland allows for this).
Keep in mind that finalizing an international adoption, more times than not,
is far less complicated than a domestic adoption. Your agency will advise you on
what's best for your situation. Our total cost, handling the paperwork
ourselves, ran about $150. $90 for filing with our local county court. The rest
was for the fees paid for certified copies of birth certificates, marriage
licenses, and divorce decrees.
Lawyer or no, however, you're still responsible for pulling together the initial
documents and paperwork. So keep reading...
The following documents were required by our local county court. Your list will look
something like this:
1. Certified copies of marriage license and divorce decrees, if any.
2. Originals and translations of the "legals" you received
upon accepting your child's referral and sent with the I600 application. Your agency will
give you these.
3. Notarized Consent to Adoption supplied by your agency.
4. Copy of the homestudy, including the post-placement reports, may or
may not be sealed.
5. Evidence of family income for each petitioner (I supplied a
copy of our current 1040 as well as current pay stubs.)
6. Physician statements attesting to the good health of each
petitioner and the child. (Our agency returned the originals of our doctor reports for
this purpose.) If your exams are considerably older than one-year, the judge
may require a health update. Check with your agency and the Clerk of the Court for further
MAKE IT PRETTY!
I organized all the required documents into a folder, labeled each document "Exhibit
X", enclosed a letter to the Clerk of the Court detailing the folder contents, along
with a separate list of exhibits. It looked like this:
LIST OF EXHIBITS:
A - CERTIFIED: Copy of Certificate of Marriage (Petitioners)
B - CERTIFIED: Copy of Judgment of Divorce (husband)
C - CERTIFIED: Copy of Divorce Decree (wife)
D - ORIGINALS: Certificate of Acknowledgement, Extract of Family Register, Statement of
Consent to Overseas Adoption, and Certificate of Birth (Korean with English translations)
E - NOTARIZED: Letter of Consent
F - SEALED: Report of Adoption Agency
G - COPY: 1040 1997 - Joint Return of petitioners
H - COPY: Earnings Statement from each petitioner
I - ORIGINAL: Medical Report (husband)
J - ORIGINAL: Medical Report (wife)
K - ORIGINAL: Medical Report (child)
Can you tell I'm an organization freak? Seriously though, I believe that a
nicely organized presentation makes the process smoother and faster. The less work the
recipient has to do on the other end can only help you.
It's at this point that you'll also prepare the paperwork for your child's new
birth certificate, issued by your state and in your child's new name. You'll want to
complete these forms and get them back to the Clerk of the Court promptly.
TIMEFRAME: From the day we filed the papers at Court to
our son's formal adoption hearing represents about 3-4 weeks time. You may want to consult
with your attorney or the Clerk of the Court for the timeframes in your own area.
that's about it! Upon receiving the final adoption decree you are forever more a
family -- and your child becomes a US citizen in the process! Bring a camera to record this quietly momentous event and celebrate!
About US Citizenship
Although the act of finalizing your child's adoption makes him/her a
US citizen, you'll need to apply for the documentation to prove it.
Your choices are to apply for a US Passport and/or a Certificate of Citizenship.
Here's how to do it.