Even if you aren’t familiar with the process, you’ve probably heard of private adoptions. Private adoption is becoming common in the U.S. These types of adoptions are often used by individuals who want to adopt a baby without going through a government agency or attorney’s office. If you’re considering a private adoption for your family, there are certain things you’ll have to follow legally to do so correctly and safely.
1- Birth Mother’s Rights
Private adoptions don’t involve social services, as they occur between two individuals, so the birth mother’s rights must be established before you enter into an agreement with her. At what point is she willing to relinquish her parental rights? Before or after birth? Are there any conditions she wishes to place on your role as a parent? These questions must all be addressed before you proceed.
If, however, a birth mother changes her mind and decides she wants to keep her baby after it has been born and placed with you, she will have six months (nine from signing an agreement) to take action. During this period, you will have no parental responsibilities or rights over your child until this time has passed.
2- Birth Father’s Rights
What are the birth father’s rights in relation to private adoption? It depends on his relationship with the birth mother. If he’s married to her, he automatically has parental rights and must give consent to the adoption. If he is not married but is a registered parent of the child, he also needs to give his consent. In other words, if he is listed as the biological father on the child’s birth certificate, then he has parental rights.
In cases where a birth father is not registered as the biological father, laws vary by state. Some states will allow an unwed mother to legally terminate the father’s rights before or after birth, so it would be wise to get legal advice before going forward with a private adoption.
3- Home Study Approval
Once you have identified an expectant mother who has decided to place her baby with you for adoption, you will need to have a home study prepared. This type of report documents that your home is safe and suitable for raising children and will help to reassure both parties that placement with you is in the child’s best interest. In order for your adoption to be finalized, this home study must be approved by a judge in court.
4- Relinquishment of Parental Rights
A birth mother usually relinquishes her rights either at the hospital or through an attorney. Most states require this process to be witnessed by a third party. Many states also have a mandatory waiting period, typically between 24-48 hours, for a birth mother to sign relinquishment papers after giving birth. This waiting period gives her time to decide if she truly wants to give up her parental rights permanently.
Understand that if you are adopting from foster care, the birth parents’ rights have already been terminated, and there is no need for them to sign a relinquishment form prior to adoption finalization.
5- Adoption Agreement
The first step in the private adoption process is making an adoption agreement with the birth parents. These agreements are made between the adoptive parents and the birth parents with the help of their lawyers.
The agreement should include information about contact after the adoption is finalized, any medical or financial issues and how both parties will handle them, and what will happen if one party does not uphold their end of the agreement.
6- Court Approval and Finalization
One of the most important steps in any type of adoption is obtaining court approval and then finalizing the adoption. In court approval, the judge decides whether or not the proposed adoption should be allowed to go forward. In finalization, the judge grants formal legal status to the adoptive parents and their new child. Because courts have their own rules and procedures for everything from determining who has standing in particular cases to the process of filing documents, it’s very important that you know what these rules are ahead of time — and that you follow them to the letter.
It is best to work with a lawyer to help you set up your private adoption. It might seem like adding in a lawyer will cost you an arm and a leg, but it could be well worth it in the long run. Your lawyer will protect your rights and make sure that the process runs smoothly.