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Adoption Law Office of
Birney O'Brian Bull
Fax: 912-ADOPT-11
P. O. Box 9811, Savannah, GA 31412-0011
1903 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA 31401

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ADOPTION: The Choice You Can Live With . . .

The Opportunity of a Lifetime . . .


Exodus 1:8 -- 2:10 [the Adoption of Moses]

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(There's no sign, you just have to know that address.)

THE RECIPE: A Successful Adoption Blends Factors In


1. Finding a Match2. Legal Steps3. Emotional Adjustments

Learn About Them All Before Doing Anything

  • Learning about adoption is a daunting task
    There are so many factors to consider --- and each can change the total "cost." There are countless adoption websites, but which ones can you trust? If they're not trying to sell something, they're either all fluff and soft music, or there's so much information you can't make sense of it all. If you're just getting started, this website is for you. Our office has been devoted solely to adoption since January of 2003. We can help you understand how the process will work for you.

  • How Is Adoption Similar to Biological Parenthood?
    After the adoption is final, adoptive parenthood should actually differ as little as possible from biological parenthood. But all parenting is more of an art than a science. Is it hard? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes!

  • How Is Adoption Different from Biological Parenthood?
    Parenting an adopted child IS different, though. How? An illustration is probably better than any explanation we can offer, and a sterling example of the art of adoptive parenthood is this mother's story about adopting from China that appeared in the New York Times on May 13th, 2007. Read it. Love it. Live it. You won't be sorry.

  • Can A Good Adoption Plan Avoid Some of the Risks Biological Parents Face?
    Nothing worthwhile comes without risk. And here too, adoption is "the same, but different." Obviously, each adoption involves some uncertainties, and most cause some emotional complexities for adoptees that are discussed elsewhere here. But adoption does involve many of the same risks and down sides for adoptive parents that biological parents face. The critical difference right off the bat is this: The emotional journey that comes with pregnancy does not happen organically with adoption, and the stresses and strains of parenthood can pile up in different, and unexpected, places. Adoptees CAN experience issues far into the future (and see here to learn more about that.) But as to adoptive parents, consider these stories reported in the May 22, 2008, Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. Referred to there as "post-adoption blues," these stories illustrate the importance of thinking about the daily burdens of parenthood when making an adoption plan. The story notes that "post-adoption depression" is relatively rare, but it is crucial for both birth parents and pre-adoptive parents to think about the mundane, daily burdens of parenthood in deciding what is best for a child.

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  • Our Office
    As a law office, we owe a fiduciary duty to our clients. Therefore, we must advise our clients:

    • Keeping Expenses Down --- For YOU!
      Be persistent in communicating with us, especially at first. Mr. Bull will not claim to be any less "lazy" than others, but with that said, our services ARE in heavy demand. If you want to get "the best," that often requires more effort than lesser options. Our first allegiance must be, of necessity, to existing cases. Once your case is "in progress," it will, of course, be of higher priority. But until then, if the press of existing cases drowns out initial calls or e-mails, try again! Mention in a follow up message your prior attempt(s)! Sorry to say it, but in a practice of our volume, a seeming lack of response can happen. (Not that it WILL happen ... but it CAN happen.) We could spend more on salaries or technology to make all responses to you more "instant," but wherever that happens, rest assured, the cost of that is passed on to the clients. We're trying to lower YOUR cost(s), but we need your help and understanding to be able to do that.

    • Answering the Call of Parenting Makes You a Better Person
      You know this in some sense already, but with adoption, we must emphasize that Parenting is not just a privilege --- it is a responsibility. Because while it is popular to say that "Our children are our future," remember that Our parenting is the future of our children. But efforts to become a better parent make you a better person too, so those efforts are doubly worthwhile.

    • Our Advice to You: Adoption Is About Parenting, Not Just Legalities or Fees
      Engaging our office for your adoption plan is making us part of your adoption team, not just "outsourcing" the legal steps (presumably to the lawyer who quotes the lowest fee). First of all, for a sensitive matter like adoption, EACH of us needs to be comfortable with the other. Second, please understand that our office is about "Helping People Multiply Love in Their Families," not merely providing a service for a fee. If you really only want to hire a lawyer because you "have to," you may get MORE attention than you really want from our office. The dollar cost, while relevant, should be only one of several factors you are concerned about. If you just want to outsource the legal steps, or get the lowest possible legal fee, you may (or may not) get what you pay for, but you WILL risk getting less expertise than you need. (But having said that, we should also emphasize that we make every effort to help families who cannot afford our regular fees, and there are several ways to address this problem. For more on this, call us, or see the Discussion of Legal Fees on our Legal Steps page.) And third, no attorney, for any amount of money, can take your legal issues off your hands, solve them for you, and then hand a given "result" back to you. This is what we mean by "outsourcing" legal steps. We have had clients who had misguided goals, but did not want us to point that out; the only question they thought we should have about their goals was if they paid enough to obtain them. It may be preaching to the choir, but we must observe that while the "customer" may always be right, sometimes the "client" is wrong. And when that happens, it becomes part of the attorney's job to advise the client that a "course correction" is in order, that if your lawyer is competent, the result is dictated by the law, not by the amount of attorney fees paid, and changing lawyers will not change the law.

      If our professional services are going to be involved in creating new adoptive parents for a child, we want the adoptive parents to make personal commitments to good parenting (which, remember, will help them be better people!). Therefore, we PREFER that our adoptive parents sign our "Pledge For Parents Entering Into An Adoptive Triad," and we ASK the birth parents to sign the Pledge as well. If the adults in an adoption plan make these pledges for the benefit of the children, those children will get the best parenting possible. There is more about the importance of our Pledge on our Emotions Page.

    • Also, we are a Georgia law firm. We can only represent Georgia clients, and Georgia law limits the role attorneys can play in adoption, but this site is meant to help anyone understand adoption in the U.S.

      • We have represented clients all over Georgia, including the Atlanta area (Fulton County, DeKalb County, Cobb County, and Gwinnett County, for example). But we principally represent clients living in southeastern Georgia cities and municipalities like Savannah, Wilmington Island, Vernonburg, Thunderbolt, Tybee Island, Pooler, Garden City, Port Wentworth, Bloomingdale (all in Chatham County), Guyton, Pembroke, Hinesville, Fort Stewart, Richmond Hill, Ellabell, Springfield, Rincon, Metter, Brooklet, Statesboro, Register, Swainsboro, Vidalia, Lyons, Glennville, Baxley, Waycross, Sylvania, Claxton, Reidsville, Jesup, Ludowici, Darien, Brunswick, Jekyll Island, Sea Island, Sterling, St. Simon's Island, St. Marys, Kingsland, and even Macon and Dublin. The following counties are also represented among our clients: Chatham County, Bryan County, Effingham County, Bulloch County, Long County, Liberty County, Glynn County, McIntosh County, Tattnall County, Camden County, Wayne County, Evans County, Toombs County, Appling County, Screven County, Emanuel County, Jeff Davis County, Montgomery County, Wheeler County, Treutlen County, Laurens County, Telfair County, Bleckley County, Dodge County, Wilcox County, Johnson County, Candler County, Jenkins County, Burke County, Richmond County, Jefferson County, and Washington County. Maybe your city or county is listed here, but yes, they are also listed here so search engines can find them! (Doesn't seem to be helping much, though!)

    • Representation outside of Chatham County will involve travel expenses, so you may want to call us for an attorney recommendation in your area if reducing those expenses is a priority.

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    1. Finding a Match

  • The "Adoption Triad"
    Adoption "matches" birth parents, and their children, with adoptive parents (these three groupings form what is known as the "adoption triad").

  • Already Have a Match?
    If you are looking at adopting a stepchild, relative, or adult, or a child you've already identified (but isn't related to you), you already have a match. Your next step is getting Legal Help, and understanding the Emotional Adjustments you will face.

  • Agencies
    Historically, licensed adoption agencies (private and public) have dominated the process of finding adoptive matches. International adoption is virtually impossible without an agency. Domestically, some pre-adoptive parents are hesitant to get "invested" in one agency and possibly limit their ability to find other matches outside of that agency's efforts.

  • Other Methods
    Georgians can also find a match directly (through friends, families, pastors, doctors, nurses and social workers in labor and delivery wings of hospitals, etc.). "Do-it-yourself" matching can be hard work in Georgia, but it gives you complete control over the process. You can also use piecemeal help from others:

    • Networkers
      An adoption "networker" helps pre-adoptive couples strike a happy medium between "do-it-yourself" matching and relying on just one agency. These charge a consultancy fee to help "market" pre-adoptive parents to agencies and birth parents, and they also help match them with agencies, facilitators or birth parents for particular placements.

    • Facilitators
      Facilitators help put birth and adoptive parents together. (Be aware that facilitators in other states may use practices that are common there, but are illegal in states like Georgia. Many facilitators do a great job, but some charge for benefits they cannot deliver.)

    • Attorneys
      Georgia law limits the role attorneys can play in adoption. Georgia's statutory framework guards vigilantly against "baby-selling" (also known as "child-trafficking") and as a part of this strategy, Georgia lawyers cannot "place" a child in an adoptive home the way lawyers in other states do. Every state's law is different, but this is how Georgia addresses the problem. If a Georgia attorney promises to "get" a child for you, or asks you to pay a Georgia birth mother's living expenses, beware: One or both of you may be committing a felony.

    • The "Rule of Thumb" under Georgia Law:
      First, some terminology: "Placing" a child for adoption means "selecting" an adoptive family to receive (adopt) a child. And here's the Georgia "rule of thumb": Only two types of Georgia "entities" can legally "place" a child for adoption: 1. licensed child-placing agencies, and 2. the child's legal parent(s). Non-licensed people, lawyers, pastors, doctors, nurses, social workers, whoever, can give personal, one-to-one assistance to those trying to make #2 happen, but we have to avoid doing things that really amount to #1.

    • But ...
      As of September 1, 2018, pre-adoptive parents in Georgia CAN funnel certain kinds of financial help to birth parents through their Georgia lawyer's trust account. This gets complex quickly, and it is too involved to describe fully here. (There's a bit more info on the Finding a Match Page.) What you DO need to know is that while it CAN be done, it can ONLY be done through a lawyer's trust account, and for this, you want not just any lawyer, but one familiar with that law.

  • No Right Method
    As with finding a spouse, there are many ways to find a match; no one way is the "right" way. Every match has its own unique character.

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2. Legal Steps

  • Termination of Existing Rights to the Child
    After a match is made, existing rights to the child must be legally terminated. Agencies usually handle this step in adoptions they arrange.

  • Finalization of Adoptive Parents' Rights
    Adoptive parents have to finalize their legal rights in a court proceeding, even if they have used an agency, and most adoptive parents hire a lawyer to complete this step. Every adoption involves this legal cost.

  • Can Both Steps Be Done At One Time?
    Yes, it can be done in independent adoptions (no agency involved), and it is usually done in certain types of adoption; see our Legal Steps page for details on what legal services are necessary for different types of adoption. We can handle one or both of adoption's steps for Georgia clients.

  • Hiring a Lawyer
    Adoption is a private matter --- you may hope you can just use a friend or neighbor who happens to be a lawyer, or take your agency's "recommendation." If you hire a neighbor or friend lawyer, understand the risk of hiring a lawyer who isn't experienced and familiar with adoption and adoption law. As for agency recommendations, well sure, but this is a lawyer to represent YOU, not the agency. Its priorities for the legal proceedings may differ from yours, and in a year or two, you'll wish you had paid more attention to this. Don't short-change yourself, or your adopted child. Get a lawyer who will do YOUR adoption, not just the agency's adoption.

  • Do You HAVE to Hire a Lawyer?
    You have a RIGHT to represent yourself in most legal proceedings; but it's risky. As just noted, it's also risky to use a lawyer who isn't experienced and familiar with adoption and adoption law. So it's doubly risky to do the legal steps of adoption without a lawyer if you don't know what you're doing. Trusting an agency is LESS risky, of course, but it's your money, and your adoption, not the agency's. There's more on this below.

  • Getting the Big Picture
    Most of our clients are finalizing their adoptions, but the earlier you contact us, the better we will be able to give you the big picture. Retaining us early in the process gives you earlier access to legal advice, and that fee is credited towards finalization work engaged within 90 days anyway.

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3. Emotional Adjustments

  • The Real "Planned Parenthood"
    If there really is such a thing as "planned parenthood," it is adoption. Child birth isn't always planned, but adoption requires some serious planning. Dealing with this planning --- known as the "Paper Pregnancy" for pre-adoptive parents --- is the first emotional adjustment adoption demands. More on this below.

  • Adoption Lasts a Lifetime
    All members of the triad will need to make emotional adjustments they hadn't anticipated. Most adoptive triads manage these well enough; but if ignored, they can become severe. This is listed third here because it usually comes third chronologically, but DO NOT make your adoption plan without considering these issues.

  • Events Before and After the Adoption Can Raise Emotional Issues

    • Infertility
      Address your emotional issues about infertility before embarking on adoption. Don't assume that adopting will "solve" the heartache associated with infertility. It will make you parents, yes, but it won't "undo" injuries you already have.

    • Divorce or Other Family Troubles
      In stepparent and relative adoptions, divorce or other family troubles may have set the stage for adoption. Here again, adoption may indeed be the best strategy to use in seeking healing and moving forward, but it cannot alter the past. Those issues will need separate attention.

    • Problems That Lead Up to Adoption
      The problems that lead to an adoption plan can hurt the affected children before the adoption and have repercussions afterwards too. Most adopted children have "lost" one or both parents in some sense, and that hurts, even if they have no personal recollections about it.

  • Agencies Can Help
    Good adoption agency workers usually provide adequate counseling for the issues that arise before, and soon after, the adoption is finalized in court. Independent counselors can always be consulted, but you should seek out someone who has experience with adoption's peculiar dimensions. Good agency workers are often more aware of adoption's issues than independent counselors. Of course, long-term issues can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

  • Adoption's Roots Sink Into the Soul
    The Living Trust Consecration Ceremony Mr. Bull developed helps address adoption's emotional issues from a Christian perspective. In any event, you should be aware that adoption's emotional issues can last a lifetime, particularly for the adoptee.

Like Transplanting a Tree, It IS Complex . . . But There Is a Need

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Make Your Adoption Plan YOUR OWN

How This Site Can HelpHow Our Office Can Help

Don't just hope for the best. Plan for the best.
Let God be God --- with both childbirth and adoption ---
but don't let anyone else play God with your adoption plan.

  • You Will Feel a Frustrating Lack of Control
    Many get frustrated and impatient with the adoptive process. And many feel that the very procedures that are meant to safeguard the child are harming the child in other ways. Or they are generally hindering the whole adoption, and thus hurting, rather than helping, the child, or the family, or both. The trouble is: 1) the procedures really can't flex or change much from case to case, but 2) every case really IS different. So you can bet that the process will require some things that will seem to do more harm than good.

  • This Ain't "Mail-Order Birthing"
    Pre-adoptive parents, don't kid yourselves: Adoption is not a "substitute" for biological birth in which one "buys" a child. It is tempting, especially in this day and age, to think of adoption as a "commodity," and that if you "get" an adoption (or even "part" of one) for $200 less than someone else, you got a better "deal." But choosing your adoption agency, or your adoption attorney, that way is like choosing a church by how often they pass the plate. It does involve expenses, yes, but adoption leads to parenting, and you cannot buy parenting. The real "bottom line" on adoption is this: If you are not ready to do the life-long, soul-searching, hard work of parenting, do not adopt.

  • The Law Is An A__, uh . . . , Well, A "Mule"!
    Another problem here is that a contested adoption can expose a serious weakness about the law and the judicial system: They can be quite clumsy. Reason: One size DOESN'T fit all. Life gives us all splinters from time to time, but taking them out with the judicial system is going to be like using a hammer instead of tweezers. If that's what it takes, OK, but it's not going to be pretty. (These days, too few lawyers even recognize this, and of those, many either don't want to admit it, or hesitate to advise their clients about it, but it's a lesson we should all learn a little better.) See our warning about contested adoptions here.

  • Compare Adoptive Parenthood to Biological Parenthood
    The differences between adoptive and biological parenthood can easily seem unfair and unnecessarily difficult. Unexpected problems will crop up, at the wrong times and the wrong places. But remember: Not all biological births go as planned, either, and parents take on previously unforeseen parental burdens all the time. If you gave birth to a child with medical problems, you wouldn't just leave the child at the hospital because of those problems. Moreover, suppose someone gave you a child to place in a good, adoptive home --- would you just give the child to the next family who asked? No. Remember that ALL parenthood involves unexpected risks. All we can do is prepare for them. Plan for the best, prepare for the worst, and expect the unexpected. (For a great example, read this story of some clients of ours, and how they answered the call of an unexpected risk in their adoption --- with strength they didn't realize they had until they needed it.)

  • Learn What You Want, Work Towards That Goal
    To prepare for adoption, both birth and adoptive parents should learn about all the issues affecting their search for a match and the emotional complexities of adoption. Set priorities, make a plan, and see that plan through. Opportunities can pop up, and some truly are "meant to be." But like anything else, most successful adoptions don't just happen; someone makes them happen. That "someone" should be you.

  • Knowledge Gives You Some Control
    This may sound odd coming from a lawyer, but don't just "leave it to the professionals." There are plenty of people in this field who will promise you the moon --- then send you an astronomical bill --- with a separate charge for "lunar shipping and handling." Learn about the services you need, what those services should cost, and who can deliver them with understanding and respect not only for you and your plan, but for everyone involved in your adoption.

  • Know the Legal Issues
    Avoid the heartaches, headaches, and expenses of a legally fouled-up adoption by learning about the legal issues in your adoption. Birth parents want to be assured of their children's legal status. And pre-adoptive parents have to avoid certain traps or they can become legally ineligible to adopt, ever. Knowledgeable legal help can insure that your adoption plan complies with all the potentially complex legal questions involved in finding a match.

  • Know the Emotional Issues
    Also of critical importance for birth and adoptive parents is the emotional complexity of adoption. What you don't know can hurt you. Poor planning or ignorance can cause painful surprises, disappointments, and disillusionments for all involved.

  • Parenting Is Always a Risk
    Remember that all parenthood is an adventure through uncharted territory. No one can eliminate every parental risk. But you can learn what risks you may face, and you can make plans to deal with them. So take charge of your adoption: Plan for the best, prepare for the worst, expect the unexpected. Learn as much as you can, set your priorities, map out a plan, and stick to it. The pages described below should help.

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    How This Site Can Help With Your Adoption Planning

  • Educate Yourself
    Adoption IS the choice you can live with, but if you're just getting started learning about it, it's hard to know where to start. The Internet does have much of what you need, but it will confuse and overwhelm you. Most adoption websites have either too much sentiment and not enough information, or too much information and not enough help making sense of it all. Let the Internet be a tool, not a tyrant: Keep your focus on what you need for educating yourself, making your adoption plan, and sticking to it.

  • Adopt "Need"
    The need for adoption IS great (thus the title of the website), but the cost can easily get to be great, too. Finding good homes for children doesn't happen by itself -- it takes effort, and someone has to pay for that.

  • Adoption Scams
    Unfortunately, there are people "on the take" in the adoption business, both domestically and internationally. That may be too harsh an assessment of some of them --- they would answer that they're just running a business. Your mileage may vary, and some schemes are only "scams" in the eyes of the beholder, but when people start talking about "helping children," there's no telling what might happen.

  • Prepare Yourself
    This site describes adoption as blending factors in Three Major Categories, but you can't tackle them one at a time. You need to understand them all before you do anything. Once you do that, all you can do is your best. Keep the big picture in mind and you should do just fine. Here's how to get started on your adoption plan:

    • The First Category:
      The Finding a Match page walks you through what will become the early steps of your adoption plan. It also includes some general information about adoption and the applicable laws and procedures in Georgia that will impact your search for a match. Since Georgia lawyers cannot "place" a child with a family, Finding a Match is something you, and God, must do. What we can do is help you learn about, plan, and finalize your adoption. Every case is different of course, but this page will give you an idea of some of the common issues you will face.

    • The Second Category:
      Before taking any Legal Steps, go to the Emotional Adjustments page for a look at adoption's emotional complexities and how adoption practices have adjusted recently to meet the emotional needs of everyone involved. Once considered a shameful secret (designed primarily to cover up adult failings), adoption today is instead a win/win/win solution focused on the child's best interests. Understanding adoption's emotional dimensions can be hard, so CONSIDER THESE ISSUES BEFORE TAKING ACTION ON YOUR ADOPTION PLAN! Also included on this page is information on the Living Trust Consecration Ceremony, developed to recognize the value of adoption in a Christian setting.

    • The Third Category:
      The Legal Steps page explains what factors will affect the legal fees and expenses involved, and the length of the process; it discusses how to get your legal data to us; and it lists the documents you will need to copy. (The same list is included in the Downloadable Legal Steps Form, and it will also come up afterwards for copying and printing if you use the Web-Based Legal Steps Form on the Forms & Resource Guide page).

  • Guidance and Help with ALL the Categories:
    The Forms & Resource Guide page does several things. First, it gives you multiple ways to send your legal data to us so we can prepare the papers you will need. But since you have to consider factors in Three Major Categories for your adoption plan, the Forms & Resource Guide page also includes a lengthy GUIDE TO OTHER RESOURCES section. This section will help organize your adoption-related searches for other services on the Internet, suggest some helpful resources, and give you some benchmarks to guide your own searches and evaluate what will fit your needs. Internet searches on "adoption" produce torrents of information, most of unknown reliability. Having some specific goals and requirements in mind will help you find more than confusion and frustration.

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Legal Steps: Finalizing Your Adoption
How Our Office Can Help

2011 Feature Profile
Near the Bottom of This Page

2008 Feature News Story On Us
2003 Feature News Story On Us
2004 News Story On Adoption And Us
2004 Adoption Chat With Mr. Bull

2011 Speech Coverage
and Audio Interview of Mr. Bull

(Mr. Bull did two presentations
for the Adoption Summit in 2019,
but it seems no longer available online.)

  • First of All
    A preliminary note: Why is adoption a necessary legal step? Especially when the adoption is "just" by a stepparent, or within a family, or "just among friends"? Because the child needs the legal benefits. Consider the birth certificate. The significance of this critical document can easily be overlooked or misunderstood. Do not confuse it with a medical document. It's a legal document. For example, many adoption critics complain that a post-adoption birth certificate, amended to reflect the adoption, is a "lie," meaning that in showing at least one "parent" who is not biological, it is MEDICALLY inaccurate. Granted, but again, the birth certificate is not a medical document, it's a legal document. It anchors the person's legal status in dealing with the government and other legal entities. Getting medical care, being a dependent (for tax or insurance purposes, etc.), registering for school, applying for a driver's license or passport, ... doing these sorts of things with a child can be difficult or even impossible if the birth certificate is not just right. And the state that issues a birth certificate will not change it unless proper legal procedure has been followed (adoption, name change, etc.). We take extra care to make sure this critical step is properly completed.

  • Adoption Is More Than You May Think It Is
    Now, some bigger picture stuff. First, some orientation about how we view adoption, ... what it is, and is not. Having done almost nothing but adoption in the practice of law since 2003, Mr. Bull "gets" the heart of adoption: It is the death and resurrection of parenthood. Read that again: It is the death and resurrection of parenthood.

    Adoption is not, always and everywhere, great (as some falsely assume he thinks). Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. But when it IS great, it is both death AND resurrection: The death of parenthood for existing parents (which is sad), but also the resurrection of parenthood in the adoptive parents (which is a life-giving hope).

    Death and resurrection. Sadness and hope. The things that give significance to all of our lives.

    Birthmothers (biological mothers of adoptees) sometimes think no one else "gets it." That's the sadness. That's the death. But adoptive parents can bring them hope, even in their sadness. That's the resurrection.

    The question some birthmothers ask themselves is, "Can I, in my current circumstances, do the parenting I want my child to have?" And when the answer is "No," that IS a death for them. Make no mistake. It is a death. A death that can be very painful ... a living death. The death of their own motherhood. But with adoption, that death can lead to hope. The hope of resurrected parenthood.

    (Many birthmothers, on the other hand, never get to the point of asking themselves that question. At least not before birth. And often, not before it's "too late." They do the best they can. Usually. But they may still come to wonder ... "DID I make the right choice?")

    And let's face it, there IS a lot of death in life. Even before it ends. But in God's plan, we're all adopted. Rom. 8-15. Adoption offers resurrection after death. Adoption offers life. How we live it is up to us, but God's plan offers us resurrected life through adoption. 'Whoever would save his life shall lose it, but whoever suffers death for resurrection shall find it.' Matt. 16:25.

  • Retaining a Lawyer
    Retaining a lawyer is a private matter, and adoption is an affair of the heart. You want, you need, a lawyer you can trust. Many instinctively hope they can hire a friend, neighbor, or family member who happens to be a lawyer, ... or a lawyer they've already used for something else, ... or their agency's recommendation, ... or even that they can do it themselves without a lawyer. Those are all understandable. But really, you need a lawyer, and that lawyer needs to understand not just you, but adoption's emotional issues, and the law that applies to adoption as well; ... someone who is not beholden to anyone else (like an agency's "preferred" lawyer). (Agencies [including DFCS] often DO know who the good adoption lawyers are, but be on guard about undue favoritism there, too; they will surely say they've "had no problems with him," or "she's very good." Well and good, but your adoption lawyer is your decision, not theirs, and if a certain lawyer does "all" of their finalizations, that's a red flag.)

  • Do You HAVE to Hire A Lawyer?
    Many understandably feel that lawyers cannot be trusted. And our office sees these people from time to time. They just ASSUME that "lawyer" means "crook"; ... they watch every step, thinking they will spot a dagger at any moment. (Often, it's the SPOUSE of the person who's done all the research and trusts us; but that person's spouse still just assumes that all lawyers are crooks.) Well, thanks to the misdeeds of fairly few high-profile lawyers, many people fear that ALL lawyers are "on the take," charging big bucks for unneeded advice, advising expensive measures just to get big fees, etc. Now, it's not that those things have not happened. They have. But Mr. Bull gets impatient quickly when people assume he is "on the take," or that his top priority is his own profit. If you can save even $10, he will tell you how. But if he advises steps that are expensive, or complex, or both, his advice is IN SPITE OF those facts, not BECAUSE OF them. If he tells you that you need legal services costing $3,000, that is because it will benefit your adoption, not because he wants you to pay that amount to him. For adoption, you've GOT to have a lawyer you can trust.

  • Take a Test Drive!
    No "hard sell" here ... the above (and below) is a big part of why we have two "get acquainted" options. Book an inexpensive "test drive" with Mr. Bull so you can decide for yourself whether you trust him. If not, you haven't spent that much (and you'll be more familiar with the issues you face anyway). But if you DO feel you can trust him, you'll be that much more at ease as things progress.

  • About Distrust (of Lawyers)
    If distrust is your starting point with your lawyer --- your default presumption --- this can defeat the purpose of hiring a lawyer in the first place. If you pay for legal advice, but then hesitate over whether or not to trust it, the window of opportunity on that advice may close, the context may shift, etc., and then your initial, default distrust will wrongly seem to have been confirmed --- the proverbial self-fulfilling prophecy. The legal advice you pay for CAN go stale --- don't let default distrust do that to you.

  • Lawyers Are Not "Tools"
    On the other hand, you may have heard people brag that they can do whatever they want because they have "the best lawyers money can buy." Well, whether you are famous or not, that is flat-out impossible with adoption. You CANNOT "buy" an adoption, any more than you would want to "buy" a child; and any time you hire a lawyer, for anything, there can be no guarantee. Adoption is densely statutory in every state, and on top of that, those statutory structures vary greatly from state to state. HOWEVER, in most every state, those same statutes necessarily give judges a lot of latitude and discretion in deciding how to apply those statutes, and whether to require more or less in this or that adoption.

  • As Stated, You MUST Trust Your Lawyer
    Adoption is a subject you need legal advice on, and Mr. Bull is happy to give that to clients who trust him. But just as doctors cannot guarantee health, lawyers cannot guarantee "results." You have to break some eggs to make an omelette, and to do adoption well, you need legal advice. Get the advice you need, and don't let distrust allow that advice to go stale.

  • There's More to Parenting
    Besides, there's a lot more to parenting than hiring a lawyer. True parenting is giving your heart to your child. That self-giving is more than any legal process, and it is also more than a biological process. Giving your heart to your child is a deeper issue, and this is where a big "rub" of adoption lies: Adoption may seem like just a finite legal process, but trust me, it is just the beginning ... the beginning of a lifelong commitment. And what you don't know about your adoption's future CAN hurt you. So, the legal advice you want is not just to guide you through today's adoption laws. You want advice on how "getting by" today may cause problems tomorrow. You want far-sighted legal advice so you can head off potential future problems before they even start forming. You want an adoption that is successful not just today, but one that is getting off on its best foot for the lifetime commitment it actually is.

  • Get "Synced," not Soaked
    There are also those who think that the whole adoption field is just one big racket, ... that it's just one "money grab" after another. (A client actually used that very phrase with us once, assuming our office was only in it for the money too.) If the best things in life are free, and adoption is all that good, why pay a bunch of money for it? If what really matters is giving your heart to your child, why spend good money just to reshuffle some legalities? Well, because the child needs the legal benefits adoption gives, for one thing, and to secure those benefits, it must be done right. But also because the legalities at the surface should reflect, and be "in sync with," the heart-giving center of parenthood. If you put your heart into something, you will not be able to resist putting the rest of yourself into it. You will want to "sync up" the legal surface of your commitment to your child with what is in your heart.

  • It Blesses Us Too
    So ... if you want us to help you put your heart into your adoption, it will be a privilege to help with that. Helping people give their hearts to their adopted children blesses both us and you. It is the Alpha and the Omega (Rv. 1:8) of why, as a lawyer, Mr. Bull does only adoption. If you want us to have that role in your adoption, then let's
    Start Your Adoption Plan. If not, as noted below, you may want to go elsewhere.

  • Let Us Help You "Sync Up"
    You need to be willing to take advice, and, in light of that advice, possibly even adjust your priorities. But if you view hiring an adoption lawyer as a mere necessary evil, a "pro forma" task that can be outsourced to get what you want, please: Save us all some aggravation and hire some other law office. Giving your heart to your child will require more of you than that, and our work is about more than just giving clients what they want. Can you imagine a lawyer willing to say that? Well Mr. Bull is. He does not want clients who view him as a mere tool. ("Isn't that what we pay you the big bucks for?" the tool-seeking clients will ask when they are trying to "outsource" their demands. We know: We've been asked that very question too many times. Well, as a matter of fact, we do not charge "big bucks" in the first place, but more important, your results do not depend on how "big" your bucks are.) As noted, we do not want clients who just want lawyers to be tools ... to get them what they want, or to be blamed if they do NOT get what they want. The law takes parenting more seriously than that, we take it more seriously than that, and you need to take it more seriously than that, too. Choose your adoption law office accordingly. Rather than being mere "legal tools," we want to be honorary (if temporary) family members who will help you get your adoption done.

  • That said, if you DO want to bypass lawyers altogether, that is certainly your right, ... but consider this:

    If you do it by yourself, and you make a serious mistake,
    even if it's an innocent mistake, you won't have any insurance
    to compensate for it. If you hire a competent lawyer,
    not only will such mistakes be less likely, but if they occur,
    you will automatically have insurance coverage for your damage.
    (Granted, you want results, not just "compensation" for mistakes;
    but if something fouls up, any compensation is better than nothing.)

  • But CAN You Do It Yourself Without a Lawyer?
    Sure you can . . . in fact, it's your legal right. But like any complex, important job you try to do yourself, you could pour a lot of time and money into it, only to find that you can't finish it, or that you've made mistakes (some temporary, some permanent) that you couldn't have foreseen. (As a local lawyer likes to say, "You can do your own brain surgery, too.") There are some things that could be very serious if you don't get them right, and there are a lot of lesser details that almost certainly won't be as good as they could be. Moreover, if you do not hire a competent attorney to assist you, you will probably never know how much better your case could have been. If you work at it hard enough, and find the help you need, it may work out fine. But if you hire an attorney with experience and commitment on adoption's unique issues and its increasingly complex laws, you won't have to worry about what you don't know.

  • Can You Hire a Lawyer to TEACH You How to Do It By Yourself?
    When we started doing adoptions exclusively, we had high hopes for this --- it seemed like a "win/win" idea. But adoption is more complex than most people realize, and it quickly became clear that it wouldn't work at all. By the time you pay an attorney to "teach" you how to do it, you wouldn't really save any money, and we wouldn't really save any time. And, if anything went wrong, guess whose malpractice insurance would be asked to pay? If we can't offer any savings, and we're going to be responsible for the outcome anyway, this "win/win" idea turns out to be a "lose/lose" proposition.

  • Adoption is a Specialized Area of Law Practice
    These days, law practice (like medical practice) is getting more and more specialized. Many lawyers don't realize how complex adoption has gotten unless it is a focus of their practice. They think all adoptions are simple, and similar. Neither is true, and our office frequently gets calls from other lawyers who are unsure of how to proceed with an adoption they wish they hadn't agreed to do for a friend!

  • Beware of Low Initial Quotes for Legal Fees
    Most adoptions will have at least one complication that unfamiliar lawyers won't include in their original fee quote. And something like interstate adoption is extremely risky for lawyers who don't have experience with it. Be on guard if an attorney quotes a wonderfully low fee without asking knowledgeable, probing, and detailed questions about your situation and goals: You'll probably have to pay more later (financially, legally, or emotionally; perhaps all three).

  • Agency Recommendations
    If you use an agency (or DFCS), they may ask you, pressure you, or expect you, to accept their recommendation on hiring a lawyer. ("Lawyer X does ALL of our finalizations, and does a very good job," ... that sort of talk.) But the lawyer finalizing your adoption represents YOU not the agency, and it is unethical for an agency to try to make that decision "for" you. Don't short-change yourself, or your adopted child. Get a lawyer who will do YOUR adoption, not just the agency's adoption. (Besides, if it's done right, our experience is that the agency is quite pleased.)

  • International Adoption and Do-It-Yourself U.S. Finalization

    • If Your Adoption Is Covered by the Hague Convention:
      YOU DO NOT NEED TO TAKE ANY FURTHER LEGAL ACTION. Adoptions from countries that are participants in the Hague Convention are automatically binding on United States courts. (This is why non-Hague adoptions must be "completed" via "re-adoption" or "finalization" --- to make them binding on U.S. courts.) Click to this federal site to see if your child's country is a member country.

    • Should International Adopters Do Their Own U.S. Finalization?
      If you do need to finalize your international adoption, the international adoption agencies have seemed especially anxious to tell their clients they could do the domestic finalization process without an attorney. After guiding parents through all of the tedious and difficult immigration laws of two countries, and the foreign legal procedures, they want to be able to offer them something that is easy and inexpensive. "It's as easy as signing a piece of paper," one reportedly said. Well again, you can do it yourself, but if it were that easy . . . if just filling in some forms would work for every case . . . they would give you those forms along with all the other papers and services they provide. Unfortunately, it's not that easy: Every case is different, every country is different, and every county in Georgia has different procedures. And technically, advice on how to do an adoption is "practicing law" --- something only a lawyer is licensed (and insured) to do.

    • Get Advice Before Traveling
      There are things you should know about Georgia's international adoption law before you travel. So don't wait till you get home with your new child to start thinking about this "easier" part of the process.

    • Is U.S. Finalization Even Necessary?
      Not for Hague Convention adoptions, but if your adoption does not come within the Hague Convention, when it comes time to do things like register for school, having only a foreign birth certificate can cause lots of headaches. Non-Hague foreign adoption decrees aren't legally binding in United States courts if they haven't been finalized here. This means, for example, that a zealous health insurer or HMO could deny coverage for a large medical claim on the ground that your child is not really your child. By the time one of these things happens, it may be impossible, or too late --- not to mention more expensive --- to go back and get your domestic finalization done. Domesticating the foreign decree is a prudent step that is well worth the cost if it is necessary. But again, the legal process is different in every state. (Check here to see if a country is a party to the Hague Convention. As of April 1, 2016, some popular non-member source countries are many former Russian federation countries, Ethiopia, and South Korea.)

Whatever your situation, the bottom line on legal help is:


  • All We Do Is Adoption
    Family (re)building is the exclusive focus of our law practice. Whether you want to adopt (private, public, international, stepchild, or relative) or place a child for adoption, Mr. Bull has worked on positive solutions to problem pregnancies since 1992, and we can counsel you throughout the process. We offer help with your adoption plan, advice on other services that will fit your plan, representation in court, ... everything you need to keep your focus on the big picture. Our office is independent, so your interests will come first.

  • Living Trust Consecration Ceremony
    Mr. Bull has even developed a Christian ceremony to consecrate an adoption. Working with your church, he can arrange and/or direct the Living Trust Consecration, a ceremony of scripture verses and prayers that will bless and affirm the adoptive entrustment of your child.

  • We Are Computer-Savvy! (Don't Tell Anyone!)
    If you like your lawyers "computer-savvy," Mr. Bull admits to the "nerd factor" of being computer-literate (he wrote and maintains this website, for example). On the one hand, this keeps our costs down, but at the same time, it limits our ability to provide as much personalized service as we'd like. Nothing in life is perfect, is it?

  • Reserve Your "Test Drive" Consultation.
    Of course, no lawyer can put the advice YOU need on a website. We can only give personal attention to clients. So call to reserve your "test drive" consultation.

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