Ethics Code

Code of Ethics
American Academy of Adoption Attorneys

In order to further the cause of ethical adoption, the members of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys hereby make and establish this CODE OF ETHICS. Each member of the Academy agrees as follows:

1. A member shall be licensed to practice law in each state in which the member practices law, shall fully comply with the Ethical Rules, Disciplinary Rules, Ethical Canons, or other Rules of Professional Conduct in effect in each state in which the member practices law, and shall maintain the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct (5/10). A member shall not engage in activities which bring discredit upon the Academy.

2. (a) A member shall assure that the member’s clients are aware of their legal rights and obligations in any adoption, and that all parties to the adoption are aware of their right to separate legal counsel (5/10); (b) A member may inform a client as to the member’s understanding of the laws of a jurisdiction in which the member is not licensed provided that the member discloses that the member is not licensed to practice in that jurisdiction.

3. A member shall not simultaneously represent both the prospective adopting parent(s) and one or both birth parents, where such representation is specifically prohibited (5/10). This rule shall not preclude a member from undertaking such representation of multiple parties if the member desires to challenge the statutes, court rules or case law of that jurisdiction, provided that the member has fully disclosed such intent and risks incident thereto in writing to each party to the adoption and has obtained the written consent of each party.

4. A member shall actively discourage adoption fraud or misrepresentation, shall not engage in such conduct, and shall take all reasonable measures consistent with the confidentiality of the attorney/client relationship to prevent adoption fraud or misrepresentation, withdrawing from representation where necessary to avoid participation in any such conduct (5/10).

5. (a) A member shall assure that parties to an adoption are aware of any laws which govern permissible financial assistance to birth parents.
(b) A member shall not assist or cooperate in any adoption in which the member has reason to believe that the birth parent or parents are being paid, or given anything of value, in exchange for the placement for adoption, for the consent to an adoption, for a relinquishment for adoption, or for cooperation with the adoption of his or her child, without first making full disclosure to the appropriate court. This rule does not make it improper for a member to assist or cooperate with an adoption in which the birth parent or parents are reimbursed for reasonable and necessary pregnancy-related expenses actually incurred by the birth parent, or in which such expenses are paid directly on behalf of the birth parent, provided that such payment or reimbursement is allowed under the law of the applicable jurisdiction (5/10).
(c) A member shall comply with such standards regarding birth parent expenses as are, from time to time, established by the Academy or by its Board of Trustees.

6. A member shall assure that the member’s fee arrangement with each client is carefully explained and fully understood by the client at the time the member accepts employment by an adoption client, and the fee agreement shall be in writing, as soon as practicable, once legal representation is commenced (5/10).

7. A member shall not enter into an agreement for, charge, or collect an illegal or unconscionable fee. Advanced fees collected by a member shall be returned to the client if not commensurate with the services that have been provided by the member. A member shall not, directly or indirectly, charge a finder’s fee for locating a birth parent. In determining whether a fee is unconscionable, the factors to be considered shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(a) The amount of the fee in proportion to the value of the services performed;
(b) The novelty and difficulty of the questions involved and the skill requisite to perform the legal services properly;
(c) The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(d) The time and labor required; and
(e) The experience, reputation and ability of the member performing the services.

8. A member shall not possess a financial stake in the success of any adoption in which the member is retained as counsel for any party. A member shall be considered to have a financial stake in an adoption if the member enters into a fee agreement by which the member is to receive a greater fee for a successful adoption than is warranted based upon the reasonable value of the services performed by the member or if the member enters into a fee agreement in which the member is contractually entitled to a lesser fee than the reasonable value of the services performed by the member if the attempted adoption is unsuccessful.

9. A member shall disburse client trust funds only for those purposes specifically authorized by the client, and the member shall not exercise independent judgment or discretion over trust fund disbursements unless the client has specifically authorized the exercise and scope of such discretion. A member shall promptly account for all client funds held by the member, upon request by the client, and shall promptly reimburse to the client all unearned client funds upon request by the client or upon completion of the case (5/10).

10. A member shall not make false or misleading claims in advertisements. (4/09). A member shall not advertise in a manner which is unprofessional or which brings the adoption bar into disrepute. A member shall comply with those guidelines regarding advertising as, from time to time, may be established by the Academy or by its Board of Trustees.

11. (a) A member shall extend every possible professional courtesy to other members and to the clients of other members. If a member is offered employment to represent a birth parent, and that birth parent has consulted with another member, then the member being offered employment to represent the birth parent, with disclosure to and the consent of the birth parent to be represented, shall forthwith contact the member who previously consulted with the birth parent (5/10). If a birth parent has previously consulted with another member, and has received financial assistance from the clients represented by the other member, the member shall endeavor, if possible, to secure reimbursement of the financial assistance to the person(s) who provided same from the prospective adopting parent(s) represented by the member, so long as the reimbursement represents legally permissible and reasonable expenses (5/10).
(b) A member shall not induce or encourage a birth parent to change attorney representation unless the member is aware that the original attorney is not knowledgeable in the field of adoption law. A member shall not induce or encourage a birth parent to change selection of prospective adopting parents unless the member knows or has reason to believe that the proposed adopting parents can not obtain court approval of a placement with them.

12. A member shall not enter into any agreement with any person which would have the effect of restricting the member’s ability to exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of the member’s clients.

13. A member may, when appropriate and/or when requested by a client, refer parties to competent and professional medical providers, legal counsel, psychological counselors, or adoption agencies. A member shall avoid any appearance of impropriety and shall advise the parties of any family or professional relationship between the member and any other professional to whom the member may refer a party, including a doctor, hospital, counselor or birth coach. A member shall fully disclose to the parties any financial benefit received by the member from any professional, organization or counselor to whom a party may be referred by a member, or any financial benefit bestowed by the member upon any other person or entity for referring a party to the member.

14. A member shall be under a duty to investigate any representations made to the member by prospective birth parents and prospective adopting parents if the member believes or has reason to believe that such representation is false. Under all other circumstances, a member may ethically rely upon representations made by the parties to an adoption.

15. Any changes or amendments to the Academy Code of Ethics shall be made in the same manner as set forth in Article XI of the Bylaws of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.