Adoption refers to the legal process in which an adult becomes the legal parent of a child that is not their biological child. The adoption process requires court approval, and each state has its own laws and requirements to be fulfilled before the adoption may take place. Adoption services are offered by private agencies, as well as public agencies.
However, some adoptions occur through a purely private process that does not involve any agency at all. The adoption process establishes a formal parent-child relationship between the adoptive parent and the adopted child, for legal purposes.
The adopted child is considered as the adoptive parent’s biological child for the purposes of:
- Child support obligations;
- Custody rights and obligations;
- Inheritance rights; and
- Other basic, legal rights and duties given to parents, such as making decisions regarding the child’s health care and education.
Once a person places their child for adoption, they essentially forfeit their parental rights to the child. There is no set rule in regards to post adoption visitation rights. This means that whether the child’s birth parent is allowed to visit the child once they have been adopted, is up to the court to decide based on individual state adoption laws.
Some states allow visitation between the biological parent and the child post adoption, so long as it is in the child’s best interests. Other states do not allow for post adoption visitation at all, claiming that such rights violate the adoptive parents’ right to full, legal custody.
Courts will generally consider a number of factors when deciding whether to award post adoption visitation rights. Some examples of such factors include but may not be limited to:
- Did the child’s natural parents consent to the adoption?
- Have the child’s adoptive parents consented to visitation by the child’s biological parent(s)?
- Was the adoption conditional on the biological parents being granted visitation rights?
- What is the relationship between the biological parents and the adoptive parents?
- Would allowing the biological parents to visit with the child hinder the child’s development or relationship with their adoptive parents?
As always, the child’s best interests are considered above all else. What that means is that even if the adoptive parents have consented to allowing the biological parents to visit the child, a court may invalidate that consent if it would harm the child’s wellbeing.
What Are the Adoption Choices That Allow For Post Adoption Visitation?
There are several different types of adoptions, each with varying degrees of involvement from the child’s biological parents. Some adoptions are very open and flexible, while others do not allow for any contact or visitation at all. In general, an adoption can be categorized in one of the following ways:
- Confidential Adoption: This type of adoption does not allow for any contact or information exchange at all. The biological parents and the adoptive parents never know each other, and the adopted child never knows their birth parents. A confidential adoption may also be known as a closed adoption;
- Open Adoption: In an open adoption, the adopted child is given the opportunity to develop a relationship with their biological parents. It is a type of independent adoption in which the birth mother specifically may maintain limited contact with the child post-adoption. Parental rights to the child are still possessed by the child’s adoptive parents; and
- Partially Open Adoption: This type of adoption allows for a small degree of contact between the biological parents and the child. Some examples of allowed contact could include the infrequent exchange of letters and photos.
Some states allow divorced biological parents to obtain post adoption visitation rights so long as the child’s best interests are being met. Such a situation would generally occur when one of the biological parents was not awarded custody of their child during a divorce decree, and the custodial parent puts the child up for adoption. In this case, courts may allow visitation on the basis that the non custodial parent never actually had a say in the adoption process and therefore did not consent to the adoption.
What Does the Adoption Process Generally Consist Of?
A petition for adoption must be filed for a family court judge to review. This petition typically includes:
- Basic information for the adoptive parents, the child, and the biological parents;
- A statement from the adoptive parents asserting that they understand their rights and duties;
- Legal grounds or reason for termination of the biological parents’ rights;
- The nature of the relationship between the adoptive parents and the child; and
- A statement asserting that the child’s best interests are being met through the adoption.
The adoptive parents then provide required notice of the petition to all legally interested parties. Once all legally interested parties have been served notice, the adoptive parents appear before the judge to be questioned under oath in regards to their rights and duties as adoptive parents. If the judge finds that the adoption is indeed in the child’s best interests, the judge issues an order of adoption.
Do I Need an Attorney for Post Adoption Visitation Rights?
If you are a biological parent seeking visitation post adoption, you may want to contact a skilled and knowledgeable adoption attorney. An experienced adoption attorney can review the adoption documents to determine whether you are entitled to any visitation rights, as well as if you have legal grounds to file a visitation claim. They can also inform you of your state’s specific adoption laws.