A. While laws vary in different states, most jurisdictions follow the same general pattern.
Usually, if the child's natural parents are married, both must agree
to the adoption. If they are unmarried, the mother must consent; whether
the fathers consent depends from state to state. If the
adoption is to proceed without the consent of the natural parent, a
court must terminate parental rights. Adoptive parents are not permitted
to pay excessive fees to an intermediary or to the child's natural
parents. A court must make a determination that the adoption is
in the best interests of the child. Normally, there will be an
investigation of the adopting parents through a state agency; this
investigation may be made and the parents pre-qualified before a child is
located; this procedure is recommended to avoid delays if a child becomes
available for adoption or a natural mother is about to give birth.
A. The three basic types of
adoptions are: agency adoptions, relative adoptions and private adoptions.
Agency adoptions are arranged by agencies licensed
through the state. A formal application or investigation will be required
by the agency to determine whether the adopting parents are fit. Various
states regulate the amount of fees chargeable by an agency. Private
adoptions are not legal in all states. normally an attorney is the
primary contact in a private adoption. The attorney may work with
physicians who are aware of patients who seek to give their children up. Generally, adopting parents are allowed to pay certain of
the natural parents bills, including maintenance and medical
expenses related to the pregnancy as well as attorneys fees. Payments that
suggest that a child is being purchased are not allowed; this is a crime
in every state. In a private adoption there is always the risk that the
natural mother will change here mind about the adoption after the child
is born. This may happen after the adoptive parents have spent
considerable sums in medical and maintenance expense. This situation is
often a cause of heartbreak and economic loss for adoptive parents who are
anxiously looking forward to parenting. Often state agencies
will meet with the natural mother after birth and try to convince her
not to give up the child. Should the natural mother not proceed with
the adoption, it is usually impossible to recover money that was paid in
good faith to the physician, mother, hospital and attorney in anticipation
of the delivery. Relative adoptions take place when a blood relative
adopts a child whose parents have died or are incapable or unwilling to
raise a child. Adopting relatives must obtain a court order to make the
A. Subject to certain limitations,
consent may be revoked before an adoption order is final. In most states,
the consent of the natural mother must be executed after the birth of
the child, and she will have several days to revoke her consent. There has
been some sad litigation involving revocation after consent and before the
adoption becomes final. The case law in each state must be consulted to
determine whether the consent may be revoked. Some courts have allowed
revocation of consents obtained by duress or fraud long after the adoption
has taken place. A natural father who was unaware of the birth of a
child may file a proceeding to set aside the adoption after he learns of
the true facts. These are complicated issues that are often regulated by
state statutes or determined by legal precedents in each state.
A. In a most of the states, the
mother can, if a minor, place the child for adoption with legal approval
and with parental consent. In some states, the minors parents must receive
notice and have an opportunity to be heard in the adoption proceeding.
A. A majority of states require that the
natural father consent to an adoption if he is known.
Depending on state law, the consent of the natural father, even if not
married to the natural mother, may still be required, especially when
he has provided support in the past or has been involved in the child's
A. Step-parent adoptions are those
in which the child's natural parent marries someone who wants to adopt
the child. If the other natural parent is alive, consent will generally
be needed unless the child has been deserted or the court finds that the
natural parent is unfit. If the adopting step-parent ultimately
divorces the natural parent, they will each have the same child support
obligation applicable to natural children.
A. Adopted children have the same
legal status as natural children of the adoptive parents. After the adoption,
the natural parent no rights normally associated with
parenting. Neither the child nor the natural parent may inherit from
each other by benefit of their former relationship; a will making a
specific bequest is necessary. Any duty of the natural parent for
future support under law, order or decree is cancelled upon adoption. Past
child support arrearages owed but not paid are not discharged by the
A. In an open adoption the
natural parents are told of the identity of the adopting parents.
Occasionally, some type of limited contact between the child
and the natural parent is agreed to. The enforceability of visitation
and contact rights under such an arrangement is questionable.
A. In most states, adoption records
are sealed and can be opened only by court order. Many states do make the
natural parents medical records available, since a entire medical
history of the natural parents may be relevant in treating, diagnosing
and preventing genetically related conditions.
A. In some states, surrogate
parenting can be legal. Essentially, a couple can contract with a female
surrogate who agrees to be artificially inseminated by the husbands sperm.
After birth, the baby will be given to the contracting couple. It is
also possible for an ovary that the female donates to be fertilized in vitro
(test-tube baby) and then implanted into the surrogate. If the husband is
not fertile, a male surrogate or sperm bank may be contracted with to
provide sperm. A carefully drawn contract is necessary to determine
parental rights should the surrogate have a change of heart after the baby
is born. In the event the surrogate will not deliver the baby to the
contracting party, the ensuing litigation will certainly be complex and
A. Conventionally, adoption records are highly confidential and determining the identity of the natural parent may be difficult, although not impossible. Ordinarily, the services of an attorney familiar with adoption law should be retained to assist with the process.