How to File for Adoption without an Attorney

Adoption law differs from state to state, so only a general description of the process can be offered here.  For more specific information, it would be necessary to consult the relevant law in your state.

Let’s take as an example of an adoption you might file yourself (called an “adoption pro se”), a case where you as a stepparent wish to adopt a child that has already become established in your family, and the other biological parent is not contesting the adoption (as, for one thing, it will end his obligation to pay child support).

First there will be papers that need to be filed with your county clerk.  These will likely include some sort of petition to adopt, a request for a court date, a request for the child’s birth certificate to be amended, and perhaps some others.

Before your adoption can go through, you will likely need to take care of a number of other things.

You will need to obtain a criminal background check.  Someone from an appropriate government agency will be assigned by the judge who will be hearing your case to interview you and look over your background check and other documentation, and to write a report as to your fitness to be an adoptive parent.

The other biological parent may need to be formally notified of the requested adoption by certified mail, and in any case will have to sign a surrender of his parental rights.

There will be fees you need to pay along the way, probably totaling a few hundred dollars.

You will then attend the court hearing, and if all goes well the judge will rule in your favor and make you the legal parent of the child.

There are websites that sell kits for do-it-yourself adoptions, including here.

Let it be noted, however, that most legal experts would say it’s rarely if ever advisable to go through an adoption process without an attorney.  This is a complex area of the law, and you want someone who specializes in family law and adoption handling it for you.

It’s certainly possible you could learn enough about the legal process in your state to pull off an adoption without a lawyer, but it’s risky.  Things that to a layperson would seem utterly trivial could delay or derail the process.

So think twice before trying to do this on your own.


“Adopting Without a Lawyer.” Easy Adopt.

“Adoption.” Divorce Help.

“How can I file for adoption on my own filing papers without an attorney?” Avvo.