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The Adoption Attorney – A Good Source To Find Birth Parents

This is a sizeable article about obtaining information on your birth parents by contacting the attorney who handled your adoption.  We’ll post this in two parts.  We’re sorry that this material is so dry.  But please read it if your are interested in learning about a valuable method to find your birth parents. 

Many times the adoption attorney has a sizeable file that may contain the complete names of thebirth parents, their places of birth, their ages, birth dates, address information, relatives, and persons to contact in case of an emergency.  The primary reason an adoption attorney may have this information is that when the adoption is eventually finalized at the courthouse, the adoption attorney is supposed to place a notice of adoption relinquishment in a public newspaper where the birth parents are living to alert the birth parents and public that the adoption has been officially completed.   In addition, in some instances, the birth parents also have an attorney from another law firm involved who has information about them and this attorney’s name may be in the adoption attorney’s file.  In some cases, an adoption attorney may not be cooperative, but he or she might be willing to provide the name of the attorney representing the birth parents, who may cooperate or contact the birth parents on your behalf.

An adoption attorney may have in your file copies of medical and hospital records that provide important information about the birth parents or birth mother since the adopting family may have paid for the birth mother’s medical bills.  The birth doctor’s name or pediatrician may be in these records and he or she may have a file and can be located and contacted.  

If you already know the adoption attorney’s name or have obtained it through the use of a relinquishment of adoption notice in a legal newspaper (see our prior article on searching legal notices), it is best to write the attorney rather than call.  You can call to get their address and the name of the firm’s partners in the event the attorney is retired or deceased.   You can also contact the county bar association or courthouse for information.   We will provide you with a sample letter momentarily but it is important to convey first how attorneys in adoption cases work, as you may initially be told that the records have been disposed of, particularly, if you call.

Our experience has been that attorneys sometimes claim they no longer have the records–when in fact they may.  Often attorney files for clients are voluminous and take up quite a bit of space.  They also require considerable time to look through and review.  Some attorneys do dispose of these files (after 15 to 20 years) although the majority of attorneys do not.  However, many attorneys are cautious and before disposing of a file, they make copies of the important documents.  A new much smaller and more portable file is then created on the client that the attorney holds onto.  This also protects the attorney in the event a legal problem ever arises as they could spend days and considerable expense at the courthouse searching and obtaining new copies of the records.  In a technical sense, attorneys are telling the truth saying that the file has been disposed of but it may actually be a half-truth. 

It is not unusual for attorneys to handle many hundreds of cases over the span of their careers.  Attorneys sometimes are adroit in professing that they no longer have the records because (a) they do not want to be bothered (b) time is money–if they do have the more voluminous file on hand it may be in storage  (c) as a rule of thumb attorneys deal in a world of laws, logic, and reason and may be prone to stereotype people in adoption related cases as being overly emotional. 

Of these three reasons, the main detriment for attorneys may be that time is money.  Many adoption attorneys store old files and these files can be quite disorganized.  Files are often in unmarked boxes or poorly marked boxes, especially if the attorney has moved his or her office at one time. Hours could be spent to find an old file.  And when they do find the file, many times the file is disorganized and the attorney might need a few hours to get it organized and review it.  In addition, because many attorneys are cautious they frequently will not provide any information about a file over the phone.  This then may require them to spend an hour or more of their time to construct a letter to you.

There are many truly decent attorneys who may be inclined to want to help in an adoption case; however, there is sometimes concern that he or she could get dragged into something they want no  involvement in.  Consequently, to better enlist the cooperation of an adoption attorney it is helpful to convey calmness, reason, pragmatism, sincerity, and perhaps a touch of emotion.

We have learned that it is important to be persistent with attorneys.  Also, attorneys who are retired or approaching the age of retirement tend to be more cooperative.

Here is Part 2.  Please write if you have any questions.

Find Your Birth Family

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