Adoption Legal Fees
Despite her statewide leadership in adoption law, Dawn keeps her fees for most cases competitive with other competent lawyers. Securing a child in a loving home is an honor.
The fee range for adoption cases is from about $1000-$6,000. Most independent adoptions are in the $3,000-$6,000 range. There is a federal income tax credit available to most clients in the amount of their adoption expenses, including legal fees. The credit is capped at around $14,000 per case, depending on the adoptive parents’ income, but most East Tennessee families, including middle and upper middle class families, receive a credit for all or most of their adoption expenses.
The state pays Dawn’s fees to finalize the adoptions of special needs state foster children.
Adoptive parents usually pay Dawn’s fees when she represents a birth parent in a voluntary placement.
There are also some sources of grants and loans for adoption.
All cases are undertaken either on an hourly basis of $300 per hour or on a flat rate.
Flate Rate Cases
Generally, Dawn decides in conversation with you, either on the phone or at the first meeting, whether a flat rate is offered, and if so, the rate.
Cases are taken using a flat rate when the amount of legal work necessary looks pretty predictable. Court costs and other similar non-fee costs are not included in flat rates but when a flat rate is offered, the cost of the first meeting is included in the flat rate.
Most people prefer the predictability of a flat rate when that option is available. However, if you prefer to be billed hourly, you can always select that instead at the beginning of the case.
If the basic assumptions underlying a flat rate calculation change, for example, the birth parent who said they would consent won’t consent and is now contesting, the case is converted to hourly billing. Contested cases are never billed on a flat fee basis.
Fees for foster parents
If you are a DCS foster parent, you are allowed to hire the attorney of your choice to represent you when you adopt your foster child, and if the child meets DCS’s special needs criteria, DCS will pay the fee.
Dawn accepts DCS payment and includes extras for you in that fee that some other attorneys don’t offer. Dawn is also sometimes hired by foster parents on an hourly basis to help them understand and navigate issues that arise before it is time to file an adoption petition. Learn more about hiring Dawn Coppock in a DCS case.
Range of Fees for Common Cases on a Flat Fee Basis
The information provided here is not price quotes for your case. It is a guide that we use to set a specific price or retainer to cases based on legal services required to complete different types of adoptions.
The ranges provided assume one child and filing in Knox, Sevier or Jefferson Counties with one trip to the courthouse for finalization. Modest travel fees apply to other travel in flat rate cases. Dawn’s common travel range is between Nashville and Tennessee’s eastern border and includes Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and Johnson City
- Relative, step-parent and adult adoption: $1800- $4000
- The primary variables that determine the fee are the number of birth parents involved, if they will consent, and the ease of service of those who will not consent. Consent of the parent(s) to be terminated is not required in an adult adoption.
- Adoption after placements by private adoption agencies, domestic and also including international with (IR-4 Visa): $1500
- For domestic agency placements for out of state agencies: $2200
- International Readoption (IR-3 Visa): $1000
- Additional full siblings can be added on the same petition for about $800 each.
Hourly cases are billed at $300.00 per hour for Dawn’s time.
Paralegal time is billed at a lower rate.
Dawn provides a realistic, initial estimate of the legal fees or range of possible fees for the legal work requested, so you can plan. A retainer is charged at the beginning of the case. The amount of the retainer is Dawn’s realistic but optimistic guess of what the case will cost. Unearned portions of retainers are always refunded to clients when the case ends. If the requirements of the case exceed the initial retainer, an additional retainer is requested.
Independent adoptions and contested adoptions are not undertaken on a flat rate basis because the legal services required in these cases vary widely. Those cases are always billed hourly. Still, it is not unreasonable to want some idea of a general range of fees before contacting our office.
Common Hourly Retainers
All parties in Tennessee:
- Dawn representing the prospective adoptive parents: $4500 – $5500
- Dawn representing the birth mother with competent TN counsel representing the prospective adoptive parents: $2000
Interstate Adoption – (adoptive parents and birth mother in different states)
- Dawn represents the adoptive parents in TN and competent out of state counsel terminating the birth parents’ parental rights: $2000
- Dawn represents either the birth mother or the adoptive parents when the birth mother lives in Tennessee and the adoptive parents are elsewhere. Assume finalization by competent counsel in the receiving state: $4500 – $5500
Dawn never represents both the birth parent and the adoptive parent(s) in the same case.
These estimates don’t include travel and assume cooperative or inactive birth parents.
- New filings of termination of parental rights and adoption that are expected to be contested: $15,000 – $40,000
This estimated range does not include travel or appeals but does assume a contesting birth parent.
Related Hourly Services
Dawn can also be hired to consult with your primary attorney.
Or if she does not yet represent anyone in the case, she can be engaged as a mediator.
Hourly cases are billed monthly even though you will usually have a credit balance. This allows you to see how your retainer is used and to promptly ask questions or provide direction. Billing questions are always free.
Can I get a federal adoption tax credit?
The federal government offers a valuable tax credit for many types of adoptions. Refer to the IRS publication for specifics. Adoption Tax Credit Information
Generally, the following types of adoptions are eligible for a federal tax credit:
- Special Needs Adoptions- this type of adoption may permit a tax credit in excess of money spent pursuing the adoption
- State Agency Adoptions (in Tennessee this is the Department of Children’s Services)- this type of adoption may permit a tax credit in excess of money spent pursuing the adoption
- Private or Independent Adoptions
- Agency Adoptions
- Relative Adoptions (except step parent adoptions)
- Intercountry Adoptions (only eligible if finalized)
- Expenses paid pursuing all the above types of adoption, except intercountry, could be credited even if the adoption is never finalized.
The following types of adoptions are NOT normally eligible for the federal adoption tax credit:
- Adoptions in connection with surrogacy arrangements
- Step parent adoptions
- Adult adoptions
Dawn is Ready to Help with Your Unique Adoption Case
For over 30 years, Dawn has been an adoption and child-welfare advocate nationally and in Tennessee. She knows where the system is working and the many places that it is not. When she provides her frank assessment to policymakers, they listen.
If you are a prospective adoptive parent(s) or a birth parent residing in the State of Tennessee, or if the adoptive or birth parents in your case resides in Tennessee, or if you are a Tennessee family beginning the adoption process or are otherwise in need of Tennessee legal services related to adoption: please contact Angela Cameron, paralegal, for information on scheduling an appointment or a telephone consultation.