Welcome to the second installment of the “Ask an Adoption Attorney” series! The purpose of this series is to explore what it means to be an adoption attorney and to highlight some of the wonderful attorneys that we have working with us at Adoption Choices. This week’s feature attorney is Kathleen “Casey” Copps DiPaola Esq.
Casey is a talented and experienced attorney. She is a member of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA), she is the author of numerous publications regarding adoption, and regularly participates in pro bono activities. Casey has been awarded multiple times in her career including the Outstanding New Lawyer Award by the Capital District Women’s Bar Association in 2013 and the Rising Star Award (Family Law) by Super Lawyers Magazine from 2014 to 2018. Here are some great insights from our interview.
Interviewer: Davina Ward
Interviewee: Casey Copps DiPaola
Q. How did you get started as an adoption attorney?
So, I actually got into the adoption field through my mother. She was an adoption attorney for most of her legal career. I’d get brought along to different things as a child. I always heard her talking about it. So, I joined her in practice a couple of years after I graduated from law school.
I was working at a large firm doing litigation. I was rebelling against following in her footsteps exactly. Then I ultimately decided that I was being silly and that practicing adoption law with her would be the perfect thing to do. Those years in litigation were helpful because I do handle a lot of litigated adoptions. So, I got a lot of great experience there for those three years before I joined her.
Q. As an adoption attorney, what does a typical day look like for you?
I think the answer, is that there is no typical day for me. I travel quite a bit because I represent a lot of birth parents. Some days, I will travel to Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and all over New York State. Sometimes I will spend an entire day traveling meeting the birth mom in the hospital and then traveling back.
Not all attorneys represent birth parents or represent them so far away, but I really love that part of my work. So, I’m always happy to take on a birth mom no matter how remote her location. So, I spend a lot of time in my car.
Then there are days where I’m spending the whole day in consults, answering emails and phone calls from clients, and working them through situations. Other times, I’m in trial all day long on a litigated adoption.
Q. What is some advice that you have for prospective parents?
I spend a lot of time educating them on the different types of adoption. So, that even though they might have come in with a certain idea about one kind of adoption, they understand everything that’s out there and they can make a really educated decision about which path to pursue.
I also tell them to really do some soul-searching about what the right situation is for them. In terms of: What age are they willing to adopt? Are they willing to adopt sibling groups? Are they comfortable with an interracial adoption? Are they comfortable adopting a handicapped child? It important that they really give everything a lot of thought before they dive into the process.
I don’t want to force them to be more open to situations than they actually are. I encourage people to really think about, for example, does their lifestyle fit, could they really adopt a child with significant medical needs? Or does that not work for them? So that when they’re tailoring what types of potential situations fit for them, they’re being realistic about it.
I also give them resources for counselors that they can talk to about different issues. I talk to them about what post-adoption contact looks like and help them consider what level of openness would work for them.
Q. What advice would you give to birth parents who are considering adoption?
For birth parents, I think that it is important for them to understand what the legal landscape looks like for them. It’s good to be knowledgeable about what happens when they put pen to paper and sign a consent or surrender to an adoption. I always want them to be very sure about the decision that they’re making.
I strongly encourage them to speak to a counselor who is familiar with adoption issues. I also talk to them about their right to change their mind all the way up until they sign, so that they know they’re not locked in just because they’re exploring the idea of adoption.
I have detailed conversations about their ideal open adoption, since most adoptions are open adoptions these days. We talk about things like what their open adoption looks like, how much contact they want, and geographically where the family needs to live in order for that to be practical. These things are all very important to consider.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of being an adoption attorney?
I have children and they are the light of my life and getting to help other individuals and couples get to that moment where they have children of their own is everything.
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of New York. We can reached via our website or our phones: 303-670-4673(HOPE).
About the Author
Davina grew up in the outskirts of New York City, before eventually moving to Buffalo, New York at the age of 10. Her passion for adoption comes from her own experiences of being in foster care and being an adoptee herself. She hopes to help others to understand the intricacies of adoption and encourage them to consider it as an option.
Davina is a proud Geneseo Knights alum having graduated in 2018. She has been writing for as long as she can remember and chose to pursue a degree in English with hopes of making her hobby a career. Thus far, she has enjoyed her time as an intern for Adoption Choices Inc. and looks forward to a bright future in writing. When she is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, building websites, and making lists.