OVERVIEW                                           MELISSA A. WILSON, ESQ.                                                                       (859) 396-3354                                                                                         MAWILSONLAW@GMAIL.COM

Legal Services for Adoption


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Some birth parents cannot raise a child for many valid reasons and appropriately choose to make an adoption plan. Adoptions can be a wonderful option by which an individual or couple, who cannot have a child of their own or simply wish to adopt, can create a family. For the numerous infertile couples of child-bearing age, adoption is a likely alternative for them, but locating children available for adoption can be frustrating.

Occasionally parents wishing to adopt learn about a child that may be placed for adoption though someone they know in their community.  This is a private adoption. Others work with the Cabinet of Health and Family Services of the Commonwealth of Kentucky by fostering a child.  Many work through an adoption agency to locate a child.  Others wish to adopt their step-children or grandchildren. The long waiting lists can be discouraging.  In Kentucky, around 800 foster children are adopted each year but the State does not release the number of children that are adopted privately or through agencies. Too many prospective parents are unaware that many babies are placed for adoption by birth parents who wish to have some control in determining who raises their child. Birth parents can select that special family for their child through an adoption agency.

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Cute Baby holding foot

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A private or independent adoption is simply an adoption without the initial involvement of a licensed adoption agency. In a private adoption, the adopting parent usually is aware of a particular child that has been offered for adoption or a birth parent learns of a family wishing to adopt. In an agency adoption, that agency is approached by those who wish to place a child for adoption.  The adoption agency has a listing of waiting families and can match adopting parents with birth parents who are planning to place their child for adoption. Adoption agencies must be certified by state law and will provide valuable information and counseling as well as offer support throughout and after the adoption process. 

Adoption agencies assist the adopting family in complying with state law in submitting all required paperwork, completing all mandated screening and supervising the process to completion.  Agencies work with attorneys to facilitate the court paperwork in compliance with Kentucky law to complete the legal adoption process. Private,  Foster To Adopt, and agency adoptions are similar in three respects: the biological parents must relinquish their rights to the child, a licensed social worker must visit and evaluate the adoption parents’ living situation; and a judge must review the case to make certain all state law requirements have been met and enter a Judgment of Adoption. All those wishing to adopt partner with an attorney to ensure all legal requirements for the adoption are met.

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 In an adoption through an agency, birth parents select prospective adoptive parents from waiting families who are also working with that same adoption agency.  Agencies are certified and regulated by Kentucky law and provide services to both birth parents and a waiting family to facilitate the adoption. Services include providing information, counseling, conducting the required employment, medical, background documentation, home studies, assistance in completing state forms, and guiding adoptive parents in the process to completion. Caseworkers for the adoption agency draft adoption plans in compliance with the law tailored to specific needs. The birth parent legally places the child with the adoption agency which then in turn places the child with the family selected by the birth parents. Attorneys partner with adoption agencies to facilitate and finalize the adoption process in the court system. Melissa A. Wilson, Esq. partners with Heart To Home Adoption Agency who can be contacted at (859) 489-3055.

Mother holding daughter sitting down
Two fathers holding young daughter



The adoption process can allow birth parents to have input into the selection of the prospective adoptive parents. This enables birth parents to enter into an adoption plan that they consider to be best for the child’s well-being as well as their own. This approach provides reassurance to the birth parents who wish their child be raised by a new family they select and who has more resources along with an enthusiastic love for the child.

An ideal adoption allows both the birth parents and the adopting parents more control in establishing an adoption plan that is agreeable to all. Respect and dignity, rather than an impersonal process, can be fostered. Privacy is strictly maintained. An opportunity can be provided for a complete recording of the birth parents’ medical histories, voluntary relinquishment of the birth parents’ parental rights, and the potential for completing the adoption within a reasonable time period. Collaboration between an adoption attorney and an adoption agency results in security that comes with competent legal counseling coupled with emotional support.


MelissA. A. WILSON

(859) 396-3354






It is important for those who wish to adopt to know that the birth parents can change his or her mind up to seventy two hours after signing the consent forms for adoption. It is rare, but some birth parents could attempt to contest the adoption on the basis of undue influence or duress after it has been completed. In those very unusual situations, those cases that do go to court are frequently decided in favor of the adopting parents based on the facts and strict compliance with the law.

mother and child
Girl smiling into the camera

               MELISSA A. WILSON

THE PROCESS                                   (859) 396-3354


 In contrast to adoption of foster children through the Cabinet and adoptions through an adoption agency, Kentucky law requires a 90 day waiting period for the completion of private adoptions.  These statues are designed to give the adoptive parents who accepted a child from a contact within their network of friends and family sufficient time to make a final decision. There is no mandated 90 day waiting period after placement of a child for Cabinet adoptions or agency adoptions.

Some adoption agencies encourage the biological parent or parents to select the family they wish to adopt and raise their birth child. This allows the birth parents to have input and control so that it is less likely that they will change their minds later. This approach provides an important family option that is not always recognized or considered since most adoptions come through referral sources and informal networking. 

Of course the adoptive parents are represented by their own separate attorney. The attorney for the birth parents and the separate  attorney for the adoptive family must each strictly comply with Kentucky law in handling each respective case.  The birth parents must fully understand the legal effect of terminating their parental rights to the child.  Similarly, the attorney for the adopting parents  must take all the steps set out by the adoption statues in Kentucky to meet all legal requirements for the adoption.  In order for the adoption to be granted by a judge, it is imperative that the attorney follow all legal requirements for adoptions in Kentucky regardless of which parent is being represented. As a result, attorneys must research each case carefully, obtain all required documents, comply fully with the mandatory court process, and submit the correct legal papers to comply with strict Kentucky law.



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TIMELINE and procedure FOR ADOPTION    

  • Adoptive parents must reside in Kentucky for 12 months.
  • Birth parents cannot sign a written consent for adoption until 72 hours following the child’s birth.
  • Birth parents then have 72 hours to revoke the consent for the adoption. 
  • Birth parents who are fully informed, have selected the prospective adoptive family for their child, and have a relationship with the adoptive parents typically do not revoke their consent for adoption.
  • In Kentucky there is a Putative Father Registry whereby if a birth father believes a child of his has been born may register with that program. An adoption cannot go forward if a birth father has registered with this program and if he wishes to be united with his child and request custody. However, if a birth father fails to register with the program then after 21 days following the birth of his child his parental rights can be terminated.
  • If the birth father is identified as the father, is aware of the birth of his child and over time the birth father meets the legal requirements of abandoning the child, then a Judge will typically terminate the birth father’s parental rights.
  • A child placed with an awaiting family by an adoption agency or a foster child placed by the Cabinet have no mandatory waiting period prior to adoption. Adoptive parents with a child from a private connection must wait 90 days.
  • The process to complete an adoption varies contingent on the facts but if the birth parents have terminated their rights most can be completed in around six months.




  •  Certain limited expenses of the birth parents, such as medical care, food and legal expenses can be paid by the adoptive parents, subject to the court approval.
  • Adoption attorneys usually charge by the hour starting at $200.00 per hour.
  • Attorneys require retainer fees or advance payment to be held in a trust account. 
  • Local adoption agencies typically charge from $15,000 to $25,000.
  • The adopting parents pay all attorney fees for the birth parents related to the court proceedings to terminate the birth parents’ parental rights. This cost varies from attorney to attorney based on flat fees or hourly rates.
  • Court costs average at $250.00 for filing and serving the Petition To Adopt.
  • The cost for the Guardian Ad Litem (a court appointed attorney) required to represent the child is usually a maximum of $500.00 but could be less.
  • All attorney fees and out of pocket costs must be approved by the Judge assigned to the adoption.
  • Some costs of the adoption may be tax deductible.
  • Some employers provide stipends to help underwrite adoption costs.
  • The Cabinet provides $1000.00 towards legal fees for adoptions.
  • There are small grants available to assist in underwriting adoption costs.

Want to know more?                       
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