Adoption Law in Florida

Board Certified in Adoption Law

Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and EducationAdoption law was established as a certification field in 2009. Rule 6-28 sets out the standards for board certification in adoption law.

A lawyer who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and meets the standards prescribed below by the Florida Board of Legal Specialization and Education (BLSE) may be issued an appropriate certificate identifying the lawyer as "Board Certified in Adoption Law."  The BLSE and The Florida Bar governs the rules and policies for each of the certification areas and oversees the committees that implement each areas's standards.

The purpose of the standards is to identify those lawyers who practice adoption law and have the special knowledge, skills, and proficiency, as well as the character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism, to be properly identified to the public as board certified in adoption law.

 FInd a Lawyer in Florida Board Certified in Adoption Law.


Definitions for Adoption Law

Under Rule 6-28.2, the following definitions apply to adoption law certification:

(a) Adoption Law.

"Adoption law" is the practice of law dealing with the complexities and legalities of interstate and intrastate adoption placements, including civil controversies arising from termination of the biological parents’ parental rights, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and interstate placements. In addition to the actual adoption placement, “adoption law" includes evaluating, handling, and resolving such controversies prior to the placement of a child for adoption and all post placement proceedings. The practice of adoption law in the state of Florida is generally unique in that decisional, statutory, and procedural laws are specific to this state.

(b) Practice of Law.

"Practice of law" for this area is defined as set forth in rule 6-3.5(c)(1).


Minimum Standards for Adoption Law

Rule 6-28.3 contains the minimum standards for adoption law:

(a) Minimum Period of Practice.

The applicant must have at least 5 years of the actual practice of law, of which at least 50 percent has been spent in active participation in adoption law.

(b) Minimum Number of Cases.

The applicant must demonstrate substantial involvement, as defined in subdivision (c) below, in a minimum of 50 adoption placements in circuit courts during the 5-year period immediately preceding the date of application.

All such placements must have involved the placement of a minor child with an adoptive family who is not related to the child within the third degree of consanguinity or is not the minor child’s stepparent. In each of these 50 adoption placements the applicant must have appeared before the court as the adoption entity, as defined in chapter 63, Florida Statutes, on behalf of the adoptive parents or as the lawyer for the adoption entity.

In each of these 50 adoption placements, the applicant must have been responsible for all or a majority of the legal decisions concerning the minor child’s adoption placement, termination of the biological and legal parents’ parental rights, and finalization of the adoption. If the applicant does not meet the minimum requirement of 50 adoption placements, the applicant must demonstrate substantial involvement, as defined in subdivision (c) below, in a minimum of 15 contested adoption proceedings or appeals within the 5-year period immediately preceeding the date of application. In each of these 15 contested adoption proceedings or appeals, the applicant must have been responsible for all or a majority of the legal decisions in each case.

(c) Substantial Involvement.

The applicant must demonstrate, within the 5-year period immediately preceding the date of application, substantial involvement in the placement of minor children for adoption sufficient to demonstrate special competence as an adoption lawyer.

Substantial involvement includes active participation in interviewing and counseling adoptive parents, providing full disclosure to adoptive parents regarding applicable law and the subject minor child, providing legally mandated disclosure to biological and legal parents, investigating issues necessary to assure a legally stable adoption placement, preparation of pleadings, providing notice to individuals legally entitled to notice, taking consents for adoption, presentation of evidence in a termination of parental rights and adoption proceedings, attendance at hearings, preparation of interstate adoption documentation, and drafting and preparation of post placement communication agreements.

Substantial involvement in a contested adoption proceeding requires that the applicant demonstrate responsibility for at least 50 percent of the legal work in preparing and presenting the case for any trial or evidentiary hearing for disposition by the trier of fact.

(d) Peer Review.

(1) The applicant must select and submit names and addresses of 6 lawyers, who neither are relatives nor current associates or partners, as references to attest to the applicant's substantial involvement and competence in adoption law, as well as the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism. At least 3 of the lawyers shall be members of The Florida Bar, with their principal office located in the state of Florida. Such lawyers should be substantially involved in adoption law and familiar with the applicant's practice.

(2) The applicant must select and submit the names and addresses of 2 judges who have presided in circuit courts in the state of Florida before whom the applicant has appeared as an advocate and/or adoption entity in an adoption law case in the 2-year period immediately preceding the date of application.

(3) Peer review received on behalf of the applicant must be sufficient to demonstrate the applicant's competence, ethics, and professionalism in adoption law. In addition, the adoption law certification committee may, at its option, send reference forms to other attorneys and judges, and make such other investigation as necessary.

(e) Education. The applicant must demonstrate completion of at least 30 credit hours of approved continuing legal education in the field of adoption law during the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of application. Accreditation of educational hours shall be subject to policies established by the adoption law certification committee or the board of legal specialization and may include such activity as:

(1) teaching a course in adoption law;

(2) completion of a course in adoption law;

(3) participation as a panelist or speaker in a symposium or similar program in adoption law;

(4) attendance at a lecture series or similar program concerning adoption law, sponsored by a qualified educational institution or bar group;

(5) authorship of a book or article on adoption law, published in a professional publication or journal; and

(6) such other educational experience as the adoption law certification committee shall approve.

(f) Examination. The applicant must pass an examination administered uniformly to all applicants to demonstrate sufficient knowledge, skills proficiency, experience, and professionalism in adoption law to justify the representation of special competence to the legal profession and the public.


Rules in Florida for Recertification in Adoption Law

The rules for recertification in adoption law are contained in Rule 6-28.4. During the 5-year period immediately preceding the date of application, the applicant must demonstrate satisfaction of the following requirements for recertification:

(a) Substantial Involvement.

The applicant must have continuous and substantial involvement in the field of adoption law. The demonstration of substantial involvement shall be made in accordance with the definitional language set forth in subdivision 6-28.3(c).

(b) Minimum Number of Cases.

The applicant must have had substantial involvement as defined in subdivision 6-28.3(c) in a minimum of 50 adoption law cases as follows:

(1) The applicant must have either presided over as a judge or general magistrate, or handled as an advocate, a minimum of 50 adoption placements. All such placements must have involved the placement of a minor child with an adoptive family who is not related to the child within the third degree of consanguinity or is not the minor child’s stepparent. In each of these 50 adoption placements the applicant must have appeared before the court as the adoption entity, as defined in chapter 63, Florida Statutes, on behalf of the adoptive parents or as the lawyer for the adoption entity. In each of these 50 adoption placements, the applicant must have been responsible for all or a majority of the legal decisions concerning the minor child’s adoption placement, termination of the biological and legal parents’ parental rights, and finalization of the adoption. If the applicant does not meet the requirement of 50 adoption placements, the applicant must demonstrate substantial involvement, as defined in subdivision (c) below, in a minimum of 15 contested adoption proceedings or appeals within the 5 years immediately preceeding the date of application. In each of these 15 contested adoption proceedings or appeals, the applicant must have been responsible for all or a majority of the legal decisions in each case.

(2) The applicant must have either presided over as a judge or general magistrate, or handled as an advocate, a minimum of 50 adoption cases in which the applicant was substantially involved. Substantial involvement includes active participation in interviewing and counseling adoptive parents, providing full disclosure to adoptive parents regarding applicable law and the subject minor child, providing legally mandated disclosure to biological and legal parents, investigating issues necessary to assure a legally stable adoption placement, preparation of pleadings, providing notice to individuals legally entitled to notice, taking consents for adoption, presentation of evidence in a termination of parental rights and adoption proceedings, attendance at hearings, preparation of interstate adoption documentation, and drafting and preparation of post placement communication agreements. Substantial involvement in a contested adoption proceeding requires that the applicant demonstrate responsibility for at least 50 percent of the legal work in preparing and presenting the case for any trial or evidentiary hearing for disposition by the trier of fact.

(3) On special application, for good cause shown, the adoption law certification committee may waive compliance with rule 6-28.4(b)(1) and/or (2) for an applicant who has been continuously board certified in adoption law under these standards for a period of 14 years or more.

(c) Education.

The applicant must demonstrate completion of 75 credit hours of approved continuing legal education in the field of adoption law. The continuing legal education must logically be expected to enhance the proficiency of attorneys who are board certified adoption lawyers. If the applicant has not attained 75 hours of approved continuing legal education but has attained more than 50 hours during such period, successful passage of the examination given to new applicants shall satisfy the continuing legal education requirements.

(d) Peer Review.

(1) The applicant must submit the names and addresses of 3 lawyers, who neither are relatives nor current associates or partners, as references to attest to the applicant's substantial involvement and competence in adoption law, as well as the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism. Such lawyers shall be involved in adoption law and familiar with the applicant's practice.

(2) The applicant must submit the names and addresses of at least 2 judges before whom the applicant has appeared on adoption matters within the 2-year period immediately preceding the date of application to attest to the applicant's substantial involvement and competence in adoption law, as well as the applicant's character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism.

(3) The adoption law certification committee may, at its option, send reference forms to other attorneys and judges.


Additional Resources:

Adoption Law Certification in Florida  - The AAAA is a national association of approximately 340 attorneys who practice in the field of adoption law. The organizations promotes reform of adoption laws and the disseminatio of information on ethical adoption practices.

American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys - The AAARTA is a professional organization that advances best legal practices in the area of assisted reproduction. The organizations protects the interests of all parties, including the children, involved in assisted reproductive technology matters.

Florida Adoption Council - FAC is a not for profit state wide association of adoption professionals, including attorneys, agencies and social workers, dedicated to the furtherance and improvement of the adoption process within the state of Florida.


This article was last updated on Monday, February 29, 2016.