PRACTICE AREAS

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Adoption Law

Adopting a child should be one of the most joyful experiences a family can have, but in order for that adoption to go through quickly and without hassles a great deal of technical expertise is required. I am familiar with the intricacies of direct-placement adoptions, agency adoptions, and foster parent adoptions, as well the Indian Child Welfare Act, and we have the skills and knowledge necessary to ensure that your adoption is completed without delay.

Sometimes, it is not enough to just know the law surrounding adoption, you need to be able to litigate adoption matters. I have extensive experience litigating contested adoptions, interventions in dependency cases, and proceedings to terminate parental rights.

I represent prospective adoptive parents in a wide range of circumstances, including stepparent adoptions, international adoption and interstate adoptions, relative adoption, and co-parent adoptions. I also provide representation to birth parents who are considering signing consents to permit an adoption to take place, and have represented adoption agencies in complex litigation.

I also recognize that adoption is not always the best solution for establishing legal custody for the families I work for. I will often discuss the possibilities of guardianships, family law custody orders, or private dependency actions. Please contact me to discuss which options will work best for the individual situation faced by you and your family.

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Foster Parent Adoption

Foster Parents face challenges different from all other adoptive parents.  They receive children into their home and provide them with unconditional love.  Foster Parents often do not expect to adopt their foster children.  Once adoption presents itself as the best permanency option for their child, they struggle to understand the Juvenile Court process regarding the termination of parental rights, appeals by the birth parents, and adoption.  They are often marginalized and left in the dark by the professionals in their child's case.

I am proud to help Foster Parents by explaining the legal system to them and representing them in their adoption.  I have extensive experience in the dependency system and have worked as a GAL, child's attorney, Assistant Attorney General, parent's attorney, and appellate attorney.  I have also completed 100s of adoptions on behalf of foster parents.  

Here are a few important things for Foster Parents to Know:

First, Foster Parents do not always realize that ALL of their legal fees are paid by the Arizona Adoption Subsidy Program.  They give the community so much through their service and desire to provide permanency

to Arizona's children.  It is good to know that their adoptions are paid for!

Second, Foster Parents may be entitled to the Adoption Tax Credit of $14,300 per child as of 2020.  They must have federal income tax liability in order to receive the Credit.  For Foster Parents who qualify, this is incredibly important benefit of adopting children from foster care.   Please ask me for more information regarding the Adoption Tax Credit  and we can discuss the specifics of your situation with a tax professional.

Third, it is very important that you use an adoption attorney who has extensive experience in adoption law.  Adoptions are a specialized area of law.  A good adoption attorney will be able to finalize your adoption without unnecessary delay.  He or she will also be able to address difficult issues that come up in adoption cases, such as navigating the Indian Child Welfare Act, advocating for your adoption subsidy, or finalizing interstate adoptions. It takes years of experience and mentoring to be a good adoption attorney.  However, many lawyers with little adoption experience advertise in this area.  One way to ensure your attorney knows adoption law is to look for a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys.  This organization of approximately 500 attorneys from across the country hold each other to the highest standards in the field of adoption law.  I am proud of my Academy membership and the hard work it has taken to become an excellent adoption attorney and I am honored when it enables me to represent Foster Parents in their adoptions.

Fourth, and finally, speak with a qualified attorney as soon as you begin considering adoption of your foster child.  I am always happy to talk with Foster Parents about their situations early in the case.  As I wrote above, the professionals involved in dependency cases often exclude Foster Parents from important information about their foster child.  Speaking with an attorney can help you know your rights and advocate for your child.

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Grandparents' Rights

In Arizona, Grandparents have certain rights towards their grandchildren built into the law.

If grandparents are being denied visitation with their grandchildren by one or both of the parents, they may be entitled to file for grandparent rights under A.R.S. § 25-409(A). If the grand child or children's parents are not able to provide for their needs, or are subjecting them to abuse, neglect, or domestic violence, grandparents may even be able to seek full time custody.


Grandparents whose children are involved in the dependency process (meaning they have been removed from their parents' care by DCS) often find themselves left out of the process, discounted as possible placement, and unaware what rights they have regarding their grandchildren. Grandparents of children in dependency cases have a right to participate in hearings, to be offered visitation in some circumstances, and to be considered as placement for their grandchildren.

Court involvement can be difficult for those familiar with the system, and nearly impossible for those who are not. I am committed to ensuring that grandparents are able get the help they need to maintain contact with their grandchildren, and obtain placement or legal custody when necessary. I have significant experience in this area in both the family and juvenile courts.  

Resources:

Arizona Children's Action Alliance has been a voice for grandparents' rights throughout the legal process.

http://azchildren.org/category/issues/grandfamilies-issues


The KARE Family Center are dedicated to helping grandparents, foster parents, and other caretakers receive the help they need to support children though difficult situations.

http://www.casey.org/kare/

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Termination of Parental Rights

Before an adoption can occur, the birth parents' parental rights must be terminated. Common reasons for termination of parental rights (i.e., a severance matter) are abandonment, abuse or neglect, substance abuse, mental illness, or long periods of incarceration.  Pursuant to Arizona law, “Any person… that has a legitimate interest in the welfare of a child…may file a petition for termination of the parent-child relationship alleging grounds continued in subsection B of this section.” A.R.S. §8-533(A).

These grounds need to be proven by clear and convincing evidence. A.R.S. §8-537(B).  The petitioner must also prove that the termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child by a preponderance of the evidence. A.R.S. §8-533(B).  These are difficult and highly technical cases.  Legal representation is critical because, in addition to the complicated statutes and case law, many people that want to terminate parental rights do not know what evidence would be relevant to such a proceeding.  Contacting me before you file a severance petition can save significant hardship, time, and expense.