Adoption Law: Should You Enter Into Contracts With Birth Parents?
In the not too distant past, most adoptions were closed, and many surrendered children never learned their birth parents’ identities. But times have changed, and today, nearly 70% of adoptions are “open.” Keeping communication lines open can be fulfilling for all involved, but things tend to go smoother when boundaries are clearly defined, making formal adoption agreements a wise idea.
What Are Open Adoptions?
There are two main types of adoptions: closed and open. Under the former, birth parents don’t play any role in the child’s life. In some closed cases, birth parents’ names are sealed permanently, and the child can never learn their identities.
Conversely, open adoptions allow for some contact between the adoptive parents, birth parents, and child. Agreements vary. In some situations, the birth parents and adoptive parents raise the child together in a modern, blended family. On the other side of the spectrum, some adoptive parents agree to send the birth parents yearly updates and pictures, but the children never meet or spend time with them.
Contracts and Courts
When entering into an open adoption, contracts are frequently a good idea. More often than not, beautiful friendships and bonds form between parents and children in open adoption situations. But every so often, conflicts sprout. Sometimes, the birth parents overstep agreed-upon boundaries; other times, adoptive parents don’t honor visitation schedules.
When unfortunate situations arise, you may need to go to court, and in those cases, having a contract can help tremendously. However, the agreement must be signed by all involved parties, legally binding, and not flout federal or state laws.
The Typical Open Adoption Contract
Most open adoption contracts outline the rights and responsibilities of all involved parties. Typically, it will stipulate a time frame wherein the adoptive and birth parents can develop a relationship without the child. It’s an important trust-building phase. After the child has bonded with their adoptive parents and understands the situation — which may take years — some families allow the birth parents to play a role in the kid’s life.
In cases where the birth parents are present, an adoption visitation schedule is almost always included in the agreement. Situational boundaries are also built into most open adoption terms. For example, adoptive parents may want the children to celebrate the holidays with them or limit biological parental visits to once a quarter. And many contracts forbid birth parents from contacting the kids without permission or showing up at their schools unannounced.
When Should You Get Adoption Contracts?
Heightened emotions are a hallmark of the pregnancy and birth process. As a result, many people prefer to get contracts taken care of earlier rather than later. But every situation is different. It’s best to speak with a New Jersey adoption attorney who can assess the situational particulars and help you chart the best course.
Consequences of Not Having an Open Adoption Contract
Things can get messy without an adoption contract. Sometimes, agencies make both parties sign an agreement, which can act as formal terms. However, they’re not always thorough, and in some instances, the language unfairly favors one party over the other. Plus, agency agreements aren’t always legally binding and may not pass court muster.
Additionally, the lack of a contract may lead to a protracted process. It could take years to sort out conflicts. In those situations, legal costs can skyrocket, and in the end, a court may rule against you.
Consult With a New Jersey Adoption Attorney
Reach out today to learn more about your adoption rights and options. We understand the related sensitivities and will guide you through the adoption process. Adoption is a noble, commendable, and profoundly loving way to grow a family — and we’re here to support your excellent choice. If you live in the Haddonfield or Woodbury area and are considering an adoption contract, contact Cofsky & Zeidman at (856) 429-5005 or through our secure contact form.