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Cost of Step Parent Adoption? Lawyer bleeding us dry.

Posted by on Jan. 15, 2018 at 12:33 PM
  • 6 Replies

I'm looking for some advice or anyone with experience on any of this. 

Summary is lawyer blew through ~2.5k of a 3.5k deposit on termination of parental rights which went uncontested and took 1 hearing. (My ex hadn't made any contact in YEARS).
Now the step parent adoption is finally starting and the law office and suddenly bled through the remaining 1k doing seemignly nothing and now says we need to pay another 1.5K?? 

  • Has anyone else done a step parent adoption here? 
  • Has anyone else had parental rights terminated?
  • The step parent adoption part is supposed to be the easy step right??
  • Doesn't 6k seem like a huge amount for an uncontested termination and not even stepping in court for the adoption yet?? 

I'm in MN and this is so much money. I wanted to call the county to see what is going on but they aren't open today.

---- DETAILS ---
My husband and I have been married for 5 years. I have a son from a previous engagment that turned abusive. I left when my son was still a small baby. 

My ex only saw him when his family forced him and after he got himself disowned for something worse than being abusive to women he just stopped all contact. Which is fine. His parental rights were terminated due to abandoment. (The qualifier in MN was in a like several months but there had been no contact in years.)

To help us navigate through everything we hired a lawyer. We plopped down a $3,500 deposit and tried to do as much as we could to help the case to limit cost. 

We first got worried our lawyer didn't have our best interest when it sounded like he tried to get the judge to do a second hearing on the case. The judge actually eye-rolled the "I know you NORMALLY do a second hearing and we'd be..." Yeah so we finished what should have been expensive with a little over $1k in remaining funds.

Last month they blew through that so we had just shy of $400 in the trust. The thing is the step parent adoption is supposed to be the really easy part.

So today they demanded another $1,500 and we haven't even gotten a court date for the adoption hearing. 

I contacted them and asked them to do nothing further until they hear from us. NOT EVEN CONTACT us. They made it sound like they could noterize for us and didn't tell us it would cost anything but threw that in as a $250 expense for 10 minutes.


D: I'm a frazzled mess. ANY experience or advice is welcome. 

by on Jan. 15, 2018 at 12:33 PM
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Replies (1-6):
by Member on Jan. 15, 2018 at 1:37 PM

We just went through the parental termination of my dd's biological father...his rights were just terminated in September. Our case was similar, no contact for years and at first he contested it so we went to mediation, had to have a social study done, and at the first hearing he agreed to relinquish his rights. So instead of having a 4 day trial, it was a 1 day hearing and his rights were terminated and the order stated that my husband, assuming he is approved, will adopt my dd who is now 11. Our attorney was great, always seemed like she was on our side and only wanted what was best for my dd. We paid $3500 in attorney fees as well, and that did not include the $800 cost of the social study. My attorney stated that the stepparent adoption should be pretty easy however she has seen it where it was difficult and would get rejected for stupid reasons such as ex: Mom changed her last name before adoption was done so that caused it to be denied. She stated she could do the adoption process for us, but we are chosing to do it on our own first because from what I have read about Stepparent adoption it is pretty straight forward. We have printed the Stepparent adoption packet, gotten together all of the forms/paperwork that is requested and now we have to make an appointment with the Courts. At the first appointment you turn in all the paperwork, my husband has to be fingerprinted (which is a $22 fee) and we pay $125 adoption fee. The results of the fingerprint takes 4-6 weeks to come back and as long as everything in the paperwork and the fingerprinting comes back fine, then they contact you with a hearing date that the child has to be present for, and at that hearing the judge grants the order for the child to be adopted by the stepparent. It stated in the packet that a Social Study may be needed which would be an additional $600, but I am assuming since we have already had one done, and my ex already signed the form to relinquish his rights and that he agrees to my husband adopting my dd, and the judge has already ordered the same thing, that we shouldn't need one, but here's to hoping.... So in total to do it ourselves it will cost about $150 rather than thousands through the attorney, so we are taking that route first. Assuming there are no complications or extra steps in your case, I would call the Juvenile Courts (or whichever courts you have to go through in your state for stepparent adoption), I would ask them how you would get the stepparent adoption form. They should be pretty helpful in telling you what forms you need and what you need to do before you make an appointment to submit all the forms. I am in AZ by the way. I hope this was helpful for you...if you have any other questions you can always message me, I'd be glad to try to help in anyway. Good luck to you!! 

by New Member on Jan. 15, 2018 at 2:19 PM

Quoting cmcline27:

... Good luck to you!! 

Thank you that was very helpful! <3 I really appreciate you sharing that. 

Reading your message makes me feel a lot better about possibly doing it ourselves. I hope your adoption goes through well and you don't need another study. :) 

by Member on Jan. 15, 2018 at 2:33 PM

You are very welcome! I'm glad I could share it with you...I think giving it a try yourselves as long as you are comfortable doing it is definitely worth a shot, it would save a lot of money. However sounds like the attorney has already used quite a bit towards the adoption. If I were you, I would request some sort of print out as to what they have applied that $1000 towards and what they need $1500 more for. They should have to show you an itemized summary of what the money is being applied towards, seeing as it is your money! Thank you very much! <3 Best of luck to you and I hope your adoption goes well too! 

Quoting nellren:

Quoting cmcline27:

... Good luck to you!! 

Thank you that was very helpful! <3 I really appreciate you sharing that. Reading your message makes me feel a lot better about possibly doing it ourselves. I hope your adoption goes through well and you don't need another study. :) 

by Member on Jan. 17, 2018 at 12:02 PM

I am in WI and about to start the adoption process for my SS4. I was quoted $5,000 total. My lawyer charges a flat rate of $3,000 and then she said to expect about $2,000 for guardian at litem/home study fees.

$6,000 does seem like a bit much for a simple uncontested adoption but it really varies a lot. I am part of a stepparent adoption page on Facebook and someone posted a similar question recently...replies varied from $1,500 to $15,000 depending on the state/situation. Good luck!

by New Member on Jan. 26, 2018 at 12:14 PM

Thank you guys for sharing your experiences. 
We were able to drop our lawyer and contacted the county first.

It turns out that:

  • They did file the items we paid for
  • They filed a major piece incorrectly so we're working on a certified order of the termination of parental rights
  • They NEVER filed to represent us which the state's attorney for adoption was surprised by

We are moving forward without them and once we get a certificate and hear back about the background check we should be good to pick a date already.

Our county had lots of resources online and after being redirected several times they had great free help as well. Doing all hte papers ourselves and filing into the case ourselves is proving much faster so far making it look like we can get this wrapped up much sooner than the attorney we had been paying estimated. :) 

by Member on Jan. 28, 2018 at 4:23 PM
This actually can be done pro se. I think anything over $2k is a lot especially if the other parent didn’t contest. Depending on the state and laws it doesn’t take but just a few months and filings.
I’m in the final steps of this process.
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