As practicing attorneys, we often rely on templates to save time and money for drafting current client documents. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this time-saver, it can be a possible landmine for adoption cases. State legislatures will update the adoption statutes when needed. With these changes (even as slight as they may be) can alter your form template to be out-of-date.
An example would be in my home jurisdiction of Georgia where our legislature modified our adoption code in 2018 (and again made slight changes in 2021) that made most of my pre-2018 form templates to be obsolete. The statutes required more information concerning the child to be adopted in our forms.
The best way to combat this issue would be to print out the newest version of the code every time you are retained for an adoption. Take the time to read the statute in its newest form to ensure your templates comply with all applicable state laws. This statute review can also be used for creating your new adoption consultation checklist to guarantee you have all pertinent information for drafting all pleadings. This will minimize calls to the client to hunt down information and ensure the documents can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.
Another good tip would be to submit your adoption final decree to the judge’s staff attorney/law clerk to have them review your language to ensure accuracy and no hiccups on your client’s big day in the courtroom. Do this earlier than most of your cases so you have time in the event your pleading needs to be edited.
Adoptions are a very serious and sensitive matter and your forms should be given same amount of care. Using these tips should avoid hiccups at the final hearing and avoids the issue of an angry client causing you a headache.