This guest post is by Karie Boyd, an adoption attorney.
The process of adopting a child is complex and parents have a lot to consider. One of the most important considerations is whether the adoptive parents choose to maintain contact with the birth parents after adoption.
These so-called “post-adoption contact agreements” outline what birth parents can expect to receive from the adoptive parents, whether it’s photos, updates, or even visits with the family.
If you’re considering an open adoption, here are a few essential things to know about post-adoption contact agreements.
Adoption Contracts and Custody Agreements Are Different
The process of adoption requires birth parents to relinquish their parental rights. As such, a post-adoption contact agreement only regards things like visits, updates, and photos of the child.
An open adoption agreement is in no way the same as co-parenting a child. You, as the adoptive parent, will have all the rights and responsibilities of custody.
Adoption Contact Agreements Are Not Legally Binding or Enforceable
In the vast majority of cases, a post-adoption agreement is not subject to legal enforcement.
Adoption agencies do not have the power to hold adoptive parents accountable to a degree of openness.
Firms have the freedom to request photos or visits that did not come, but they cannot do much more than that.
Further, all a judge can do is order an agency to request the contact. However, the adoption firm may choose to discontinue services, like facilitating further adoptions.
Birth parents can similarly choose to discontinue the degree of openness at any time without legal consequence.
You Can Discontinue a Contact Agreement at Any Time
Just as contact agreements are non-enforceable, you have the power to discontinue it at any time.
As such, think of these agreements as more of a good faith measure – if at any time you feel that a degree of openness is not helpful or working out, you can discontinue the agreement without consequence.
In the rare case that an adoption agreement is a legal contract, you, as the adoptive parent, can appeal to the agency or the court to cancel the contract if you feel that continuing contact would lead to danger or harm of your child.
If You Have an Open Adoption, Have a Contract
Even though post-adoption contracts are not legally enforceable, having one can help create clear expectations for the birth parents.
Open adoptions are open to a lot of interpretation, and having an agreement helps you spell out exactly what the term means in your situation.
In some cases, open adoption means visitation. In others, it means a photo of your child with an annual holiday card.
Establishing a contract helps all parties stay on the same page regarding contact and visitation, while avoiding hurt feelings or a sense of betrayal.
Don’t Make Too Many Promises
As adoptive parents yearning for a child, it might be tempting to make promises to the birth parent with regard to updates, photos, and visitation.
However, you might find it difficult to keep those promises after placement. Even if it’s possible to send those updates at the beginning, it might become wearing after five, ten, or fifteen years.
When making post-contact adoption agreements, it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver, instead of the other way around.
Think about the bare minimum you can provide, and only offer that much.
Post-adoption contact agreements are essential if you’re considering an open adoption.
The best agreements are specific and only cater to what you can provide long-term. Unlike legal contracts, these agreements are not legally enforceable and may be discontinued as you see fit.
Please note: The information contained in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.
Karie Boyd is an experienced family law attorney with offices in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Karie Boyd’s legal team has extensive experience handling adoption, step parent adoption, open adoption, closed adoption, and more.
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