An Overview of State Laws About Adoption Consent
As you are probably well aware of by this point, adoption is many things, but, at its heart, the actual adoption itself is a legal process. Very generally, in an adoption, you as the birth mother are giving up your legal rights to be the legal parent of the child (the father will be giving up his parental rights as well), while also being relieved of any legal obligation to raise and care for the child. At the same time, the adoptive parents are assuming both the legal right to raise the child as their own as well as the legal obligation to provide care for the child until he or she is an adult.
It is critically important to understand, however, that adoption is a state law matter, and so the specifics about how the adoption process will play out in your situation will be based on either the law of the state in which you live or the law of the state in which the adoptive parents live.
This means that whatever rule you might have heard about in other person’s adoption might not apply to your situation you or the adoptive parents are in a different state. So don’t assume that you know the law that will apply to you just because you heard of what “the law” is from another person or in a TV show or movie.
In all cases, you will want to consult with an adoption attorney who can provide you with an understanding of the law that will apply to your adoption, but here is an overview of the types of state laws you will want to be thinking about.
The Length of Time to Change Your Mind and Revoke Consent
The decision to place a child you’ve carried for adoption is probably the most difficult one a mother will ever make, and, as a result some states provide the birth mother with the ability to change her mind and revoke consent to the adoption after signing the adoption agreement.
To be clear, not all states offer this right, and so you will want to be clear on whether you have this right at all. This right can also depend upon whether you are doing a private adoption or an adoption through an agency.
For example, in California, you have up to 30 days after a private adoption agreement to revoke consent, unless you waive your right to revoke in the agreement. In Texas, you have up to 60 days to revoke after signing a private adoption agreement. In both Texas and California, however, the right to revoke after an agency adoption agreement is extremely limited.
The Birth Father’s Rights
The birth father also has rights in most cases to raise his objections to an adoption, but the extent of his rights will generally depend upon whether he is a “presumed” father or an “alleged” father.
Again, who fits in these distinctions will change from state to state, but a presumed father in most states is one who was married to the mother at the time of conception or birth or whose name is on the birth certificate. If a man is the presumed father, he will need to either consent to giving up his parental rights, or a court will need to take action to terminate his parental rights, which can be challenging depending on state law.
If a father is an alleged father – usually meaning he was not married to the mother or his name was not on the birth certificate – he will in most cases still need to be notified of the adoption plan so he can raise objections. Some states have putative father registries in which men can place their names to be notified in such a case. When and how an alleged father should be notified, and what his rights are after notification, will again vary from state to state.
Your Ability to Enforce a Post-Adoption Contract
As part of an adoption, some birth mothers choose to enter into what is called a “post-adoption contract,” the purpose of which is to dictate issues such as what rights the birth mother (and/or father) will have in being a part of the child’s life after the adoption. This can include giving the birth mother the right to contact the child, to receive pictures and/or updates about the child, and even to have visits with the child as he or she grows up.
Some states, however, are not inclined to enforce post-adoption contracts, as such a contract does by its nature place limits on the ability of the adoptive family to parent the child as they see fit over his or her childhood. Other states may require that such a contract meet certain requirements to be enforceable.
Even where a state does not enforce such contracts, having the contract can give the adoptive family some sense of obligation to the birth mother, but the important thing is for the birth mother to understand exactly how much weight that contract will be given in a state court should an issue arise later.
New York, for example, will enforce post-adoption contracts, but only where they are part of a written court order approved by the judge as being in the best interests of the child. Michigan, on the other hand, has no specific state law on whether such contracts can be enforced, making experienced legal guidance in entering into such a contract all the more critical.
How Much Living Expenses You Can Receive
Despite internet rumors to the contrary, you are not allowed to “sell your baby” in the United States, as this clearly goes against American ideals regarding human life. That said, in most states you are able to receive financial support from the adoptive family during the time of your pregnancy, which makes sense as you are giving your time and resources to carrying and delivering a baby that will live with another family.
State laws place limits on how much and what type of financial resources a birth mother can receive from an adoptive family so as to prevent a situation in which the adoptive family is basically paying the mother for the baby. The general principle with these laws is that they do allow the adoptive family to help support the mother with costs and finances during a time when she faces unusual expenses and is likely not able to work for at least some period of time.
The expenses that might be allowed as payable from the adoptive family to the mother include (again, based on your specific state law):
- Medical costs
- Child care for other children
- Maternity clothes
- Rent (e.g. three to four months)
- Food over the course of several months
- Transportation to medical appointments
- Utility and phone bills for a few months surrounding the pregnancy
Your state law may dictate: 1) how much total expenses can be paid by the adoptive family; 2) what expenses can be paid by the family; and 3) how that financial support should be delivered (e.g. directly to the landlord).
Again, as with all of these issues, consult with an adoption attorney that represents your interests as the birth mother to determine what law applies to your situation. All of the agencies and attorneys working with AdoptMatch are highly ethical and committed to providing you with the support you need within the framework of their state’s laws. Go here for a full list of our Approved-Adoption Professionals.