Legal Services

Adoption: birth parent and adoptive parent representation

Adoption is the official transfer through the court system of all of the parental rights that a biological parent has to a child to an adoptive parent. An adoptive parent takes on the responsibility for the care, nurturing, physical and emotional health, and financial support of the child. I handle several types of adoption proceedings: direct placement adoptions (where the birth parent places the child with selected adoptive parents), agency adoptions (where the agency places), interstate adoptions (where I represent Minnesota birth parents and adoptive parents), contested adoptions, and adoptions involving the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Foster Care and Permanency Proceedings

Court-ordered foster care is provided to children who are unable to live in their own homes, usually because their parents have abused or neglected them. Once children are placed into foster care, the parents usually have between six months to one year to address the problems that led to the placement. My role in foster care cases is to advocate for fost-adopt parents, relative or nonrelative, in “permanency” proceedings to determine whether and where the children should be placed on a permanent basis.

Guardians ad Litem

A “Guardian ad Litem” (GAL) is appointed by the court to protect the rights of a child involved in a court proceeding. Typically a Guardian ad Litem advocates for children on their own without legal counsel. I represent Guardians ad Litem in juvenile and family court proceedings where the GAL determines legal assistance is necessary. I have represented Guardians ad Litem on contract with Minnesota State GAL Program and on behalf of several judicial district GAL programs.

Third Party Custody

“Third party custody” cases involve legal actions brought by someone who is not a child’s parent to establish custody of a child they are caring for. These cases usually involve grandparents or other relatives who have cared for a child due to the parents’ neglect, abandonment, or other disability such as drug or chemical abuse. Where the person caring for the child has had the child for six months or more, the caretaker may be considered a ‘De Facto’ custodian. If the caretaker has had custody of the child for a shorter period of time, the person may be ruled by the court as an ‘Interested Third Party.’ Both De Facto Custodians and Interested Third Parties may initiate custody proceedings for child who is not their biological offspring. I am well versed in third party custody law since I drafted and lobbied for its passage.

ICWA – Indian Child Welfare Act

This is what Mark is best known for! Just “Google” him.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a law passed by Congress to help preserve Indian families and culture by providing enhanced procedural protections to prevent the unwarranted removal of Indian children from their homes and to ensure that when Indian children are removed from their families, they are placed in culturally appropriate homes whenever possible. ICWA applies to cases involving an “Indian child” and to custody proceedings in juvenile court, including foster care, termination, and adoption proceedings. ICWA also may apply in third party custody cases in family court.

ICWA – Voluntary Adoptions

ICWA provides flexibility to protect the best interests of Indian children. It gives birth parents the right to place their children with families of their choosing. I have developed effective procedures to comply with the ICWA and work in conjunction with birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoption agencies to promote voluntary Indian adoptions. Tribes may be consulted about these adoptions, but it is a myth that tribes have veto power over the decisions of fit birth parents.

ICWA – Nationwide Attorney Consulting

Have a tough ICWA case? I frequently consult with attorneys from other states who require assistance handling their ICWA cases. I serve as co-counsel to provide crucial assistance, briefs, case law, strategic advice, and instant “on tap” know-how to attorneys from all over the United States. In special cases, I appear as co-counsel with local attorneys in other states.