Adoption Laws and the Legal Process

Adoption is a life-changing decision, so whether you’re starting your adoption process or are still considering placing your child for adoption, there are important American adoption laws you need to know.

In this guide, we will answer important questions like:                                               

What’s involved in a legal adoption and what are my adoption legal rights?

How can you make sure you’re following the proper domestic adoption laws?

Who can help me understand the current adoption laws in my state?

By the end, you will  understand your rights as a prospective birth parent wondering how to legally give up a child for adoption. You can’t move forward with the best decision for you and your baby before knowing the importance of current adoption laws and what you have rights to within the adoption process.

If you want to learn more about domestic adoption laws, you can also get free information online or speak with an adoption specialist today.

Why American Adoption Laws Matter

Adoption laws in America have a long history. Like most legal matters, these laws can be confusing and complex. But, they are also important to understand.

Decades ago, adoption was based almost exclusively around the needs of adoptive families. Thankfully, American adoption laws have continuously evolved and changed over the years. As these laws have changed to offer more, here are some of the important roles these laws related to adoption serve:

  • Allow prospective birth parents to receive adoption information with no pressure to place their child for adoption
  • Ensure prospective birth parents have the right to change their mind about placing their child for adoption
  • Ensure that adopted children are placed in safe homes
  • Protect adoptees’ right to personal and medical adoption history
  • Allow prospective birth parents to receive financial assistance and support throughout the adoption process
  • And more

Adoption is not an easy decision for birth parents to make. These laws are put in place to help you feel safe and confident in your decision to place your child for adoption.

You shouldn’t have to worry about all of the details, such as finances or legal representation, so these laws ensure that your adoption legal rights and your child’s rights are protected and enacted.

Your Adoption Legal Rights During Your Pregnancy

As the prospective birth parent, you have certain parental rights as you progress through the adoption process. Your most important right, of course, is having the right to do what is best for you and your baby, no matter what others tell you.

Your right to place your baby for adoption includes more than just your right to this option and completing the process legally. You also have rights to plan your own adoption, and we’ve outlined those rights below:

  • Right to Change Your Mind at any Point: Having this right means you will always have the right to choose to parent your child, no matter where you are at in your pregnancy or have already given birth, as long as you have not legally given consent for the adoption. There is also never an obligation for you to choose adoption, regardless of where you may be in your adoption plan. Adoption is only a decision that you, as the mother of the child, can make.
  • Right to Receive Free Unplanned Pregnancy Counseling: You have the right to choose what is best for you and your baby, so you will also always have objective information available to you. This information covers all of your unplanned pregnancy options. Even when you contact an adoption agency, you do not have to choose adoption. You can speak with an adoption specialist to ask any questions and get free information.
  • Right to Create Your Own Adoption Plan: As the birth mother, you are in charge of every step of your adoption process. That means creating your adoption plan and making every decision that’s part of that plan. If you work with an adoption agency for your adoption, your adoption specialist will be there to support you every step of the way. No one can force you into any decisions you are not comfortable with, and you have all the time you need to make your plan.
  • Right to Choose Your Child’s Adoptive Family: The biggest decision you will make when creating your adoption plan is choosing the adoptive family that will raise your child. Your adoption specialist will work with you at length about your preferences and desires for the adoptive family. During this time, your specialist will present you with adoptive family profiles that match your preferences. Once you choose a family, you can take the time to meet them and get to know them. You also have the right to change adoptive families if you don’t feel you find the right one first.
  • Right to Choose Your Post-Adoption Relationship: You have the right to choose what kind of contact you want to have with the adoptive family before and after your adoption is complete. Most birth parents choose an open or semi-open adoption, but you can also choose a closed adoption if you don’t want any contact.

Open adoption and semi-open adoption both allow you to remain a part of your child’s life. Your adoption specialist can help mediate communication with the adoptive family however you need.

  • Right to Giving Legal Consent: A big part of your adoption process involves working with an adoption attorney. With legal representation, you can be well-educated and aware of all of your adoption rights. Adoption is a permanent choice that terminates your rights as a birth parent. When you make a voluntary adoption plan, no one can adopt your child without your full, legal consent.
  • Right to Choose When to Sign Adoption Paperwork: You are never expected to complete your adoption paperwork until you are fully comfortable with your adoption decision. Every state has different adoption consent laws, so you may have to wait a few hours or days after giving birth before you can sign any paperwork. While you may have to wait to complete your adoption paperwork until state laws allow, you always have the right to take as much time as you need for this decision.

Legal Adoption Process

Over the years, adoption has shifted towards giving birth parents more power during the adoption process. This process is different from state to state for all expecting mothers, and there are also differences between different adoption agencies. But, most U.S. adoptions follow a similar process. Below are the steps you can expect:

  1. Choosing adoption: This is the biggest part of the adoption process for birth mothers. Choosing adoption is a selfless, loving, and brave decision, but it’s also not an easy decision to make. There are resources and support out there for you so that you can feel more comfortable and confident in your decision.
  2. Choosing an adoption agency: Possibly one of the best forms of support out there is an adoption professional or agency. Working with an adoption agency offers you so many benefits and resources that make the adoption process go more smoothly for you. You get to work with an adoption specialist from the agency who will guide you through the adoption process every step of the way.
  3. Creating your adoption plan: Once you decide that adoption is the best choice for you and your baby and you choose to work with an adoption agency, your adoption specialist will talk with you in-depth and support you as you create a personalized adoption plan. In your adoption plan, you’ll make decisions on the adoptive family for your baby, how you want your hospital experience to go, and much more. You always have the right to change any part of your adoption plan at any time, prior to terminating your parental rights.
  4. Giving consent after birth/signing documents and paperwork: During this part of the adoption process, you will sign documents that legalize the adoption. Documents will differ in every state, but the general purpose of these documents is to transfer the legal custody and physical care of a child from the biological parents to the adoptive family. Depending on the state you live in, you might have to wait several days after giving birth before you can legally give your consent or sign any documentation.
  5. Choosing your post-adoption relationship: When you’re creating your adoption plan, another important decision you’ll make is what kind of post-adoption relationship you want to have with the adoptive family and your child. You can choose open adoption, semi-open adoption, or closed adoption, and each of them have their pros and cons. Many adoption agencies encourage open adoption or semi-open adoption, as they allow birth mothers the opportunities to still be part of their child’s life. However, if you feel that total privacy and distance is what you need to help you process and move on from the adoption, a closed adoption may be a better choice for you.

Birth Father Rights

Despite being the one to carry your child through the entire pregnancy, the birth father is another important person in the adoption process. He can impact the process in a positive or negative way depending on his involvement and support.

Many women have questions like:

  • Can a woman choose adoption without the birth father’s consent?
  • What if the birth mother is a single mother?
  • What if the birth mother doesn’t know who the birth father is?

To answer all of these questions, let’s take a look at some of the most common situations with birth fathers. This will help give you a better idea of what the birth father’s adoption legal rights are when you are pursuing adoption for your child.

Supportive Birth Father

If the birth father is supportive of you and the choice of adoption for your baby, he can be as involved as you would like him to be in the adoption process. He also has the opportunity to consent voluntarily to the adoption and maintain a post-adoption relationship with your child, if so desired.

Unsupportive Birth Father

It is especially difficult for any birth mother to deal with an unsupportive birth father when it comes to the adoption process. It’s in your best interest as the birth mother to speak with an adoption professional right away if the child’s birth father is unsupportive of your decision to place the child for adoption.

The adoption professional will help you understand the birth father’s adoption legal rights and what impact he may have on the adoption.

Unknown Birth Father

Even if you are unsure or do not know who the birth father is, adoption is still an option for you. There are many states that have what’s called a Putative Father Registry, which the father must sign to protect his parental rights. Should the birth father not register, an adoption attorney may not be required to notify him of the adoption.

If the birth father has also not provided any kind of financial support during the pregnancy or legally established his paternity to the child, you may be able to pursue adoption with his consent. However, legal decisions about birth father rights always come down to a case-by-case basis.

Uninvolved Birth Father

Although this type of birth father may or may not care whether the child is placed for adoption, he may still have adoption legal rights regarding the choice for adoption by the birth mother. Contacting an adoption agency or attorney is a good first step to take early on to determine whether an uninvolved birth father has rights before proceeding with your adoption.

Taking Your Next Steps Forward

Whatever your situation, adoption professionals are always ready to guide you through understanding current adoption laws in your state and what rights the child’s birth father may have during this process. Navigating the ever-changing laws and regulations can be tricky and overwhelming, so having the support and guidance from an adoption attorney can especially be advantageous.

By contacting us online, we can connect you with an adoption professional who will help answer your questions about United States adoption laws and birth father adoption legal rights and help you take your next step towards a successful adoption.

About the Author

Lindsay Arielle has been a proud birth mother since placing her son for adoption in 2011. Her post-placement agreement has always been an open adoption. She loves the time she gets to spend with her son and his parents during visits. Lindsay truly believes that for herself and her family, adoption has been a blessing, and she enjoys writing about spiritual healing for birth mothers.

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