What are my Legal Rights As a Birth Parent of an Adopted Child?
Adoption, like childbirth, is a life-changing event in your life. If you are seeking to adopt a child, or if you have already started the adoption process but you are encountering legal barriers, you will need to be advised by the right legal team. Learn about a biological parent’s rights after an adoption below.
Deciding to give up a child for adoption is a very difficult decision and definitely should not be committed until you, as the biological parent, have fully understood what this means for your parental rights. Once the adoption process is finalized, you have relinquished your parental rights and responsibilities by law. However, during the pregnancy, you have undeniable parental adoption rights throughout the adoption process.
If you are considering adoption, it is important to know the limits of your parental rights and how they may affect you long-term.
First, let’s discuss the rights you do have prior to the adoption, during pregnancy.
The Right to Change Your Mind at Any Time
Prior to completing any adoption paperwork, the birth mother has a legal right to change her mind at any point in the process. This means you will always have the option to parent your child, whether you change your mind early in pregnancy, after you’ve met the adoptive parents, or even after you’ve given birth, as long as no paperwork has been completed. Your adoption specialist will respect these inherent legal rights you have as the biological parent.
The Right to Create Your Own Adoption Plan and Choose the Adoptive Family
As the birth mother, you have the right to create your own adoption plan from start to finish. You will have an adoption specialist with you to support and help you through the process, but you should never be forced into making decisions you’re not comfortable with. Once of the decisions you also get to decide is if it’s going to be an open or closed adoption. With open adoption, you also have the right to choose the family that you wish to place your child with. Normally, your adoption specialist will thoroughly discuss with you what your desires for the adoptive family are, and show you profiles of families who meet those preferences.
Additionally, you will be able to meet with and get to know the prospective families. You can take as long as you need to find the family you believe is the right fit for your child.
The Right to Choose Your Post-Placement Relationship
Another factor in open adoptions is choosing the contact you want to have with the adoptive family before and after the adoption is complete. While you have no legal parental rights after you give up your child for adoption, open adoption allows you to remain a part of your child’s life. Your adoption specialist helps coordinate communication to make sure the adoptive family maintains their communication with you.
The points discussed above dealt with rights parents have prior to the adoption being finalized, but following the finalization, your parental rights are completely terminated. Let’s discuss what this means and if there are other options.
Voluntary vs Involuntary Termination
Generally, birth parents have the right to choose what’s in the best interest of their children, this includes the difficult decision of adoption. When parents choose to offer their child for adoption, they are voluntarily terminating their parental rights. Alternatively, when birth parents are forced to terminate their parental rights, it’s known as an involuntary termination. This can determine how the adoption moves forward and the long-term situation.
Before voluntary termination can take place, one or both parents must legally consent to the adoption. Most states require this to be done in writing and before a judge or court-appointed person.
There are other times when birth parents’ rights are terminated involuntarily. For this to take place, someone must be going on that endangers the well-being of the child. Common occurrences include:
- Child abuse or neglect
- Mental illness
- Incapacity based on alcohol or drug use
- Conviction of a crime by the parent
The exact moment the birth parents’ rights are terminated depends on the state, but can range from immediately after the child’s birth to 30 days after. Terminating birth parents’ rights is a serious matter and most states have very strict timing requirements that must be set and agreed to prior to the termination.
Following the adoption, the adoptive parents have sole authority to decide on visitation rights. If they feel it’s in the best interest of the child, they may enable a healthy relationship with the birth family.
Although, if a post-placement relationship was agreed upon and put into the paperwork, you have the authority to choose what kind of relationship you wish to have with your child.
It’s important to note that, generally, adoptive parents are not required to communicate with birth parents after the adoption. The only exceptions being severe illness or death.
Free Counseling for Birth Parents
Every birth parent has the right to counseling during both the pregnancy and following the adoption. This can help a lot of mothers and fathers cope with emotional and physical trauma. Birth mothers are at a much greater risk of experiencing depression due to the negative feelings of guilt and shame. Which makes pre-adoption counseling very beneficial for all parties involved.
In most states, consent to adoption is irrevocable since consent is meant to be a lasting and building agreement to help ensure a stable environment for the child. Although, in extreme cases, some states allow for revoking consent to adoption, usually only before the adoption has been finalized. Some situations include;
- Fraud or coercion was involved
- The state allows a set period of time for revoking consent
- The state determines the revocation is in the best interest of the child
- The birth parents and adoptive parents mutually agree
Can Adoptive Parents Cut Off Acces?
The current trend for adoptions seems to be to allow open adoptions that encourage a relationship between birth and adoptive parents. Unfortunately, if the adoptive parents do not want them in the child’s life, there is not much you can do as a birth parent. Again, this is why it’s important to enter a visitation agreement into the paperwork.
Adoption is a lifelong commitment and a permanent decision. Once you have given consent and signed the paperwork, it’s extremely difficult to go back. That’s why it’s so important to work with a legal team that understands these kinds of situations and knows just what to do. Our award-winning attorneys at Masters Law Group have seen it all and can help create solutions right for you. We’re here to help guide you through these difficult times.
If you need help with any family law issues, reach out today.