Adoption is a challenging process and can come at no small expense for the adoptive parents. When done without the benefit of a licensed agency, the process is called private adoption, independent adoption or–to use the term we’ll use going forward in this space–a third-party adoption.
A third-party adoption can seem attractive to prospective parents, who want to find some way to reduce the overall costs. A third-party adoption can be attractive to a birth mother as well, who might prefer to handle the question of where her biological child will live and be raised on her own.
Those are good reasons. But before moving forward, make sure you ask yourself the following 10 questions before starting a third-adoption case.
Do You Have a Lawyer?
Sure, we have a professional bias towards the importance of an attorney. But the reality is that adoption is a complex legal process. There’s extensive documentation to fill out and court hearings to attend. For the prospective parents, a lawyer can even aid in the process of finding a birth mother looking to give up their child for adoption. And all of this doesn’t even cover the importance of an attorney in answering the nine questions we still have coming.
Is There a Match Already in Place?
It’s not uncommon for third-party adoption to be pursued when the birth mother and prospective parents already know of each other, and they simply want legal help in getting through the process. This is not always the case, though. There are times when a birth mother needs help locating suitable parents. As for the parents, they may need some assistance putting together a media profile that will demonstrate the quality of their home to a birth mother.
How Will You Get the Word Out?
This question presumes that the answer to the above was no. Lawyers with experience in the adoption process may keep themselves networked with possible matches. It’s also possible that prospective parents and birth mothers may find each other through social support networks, including their churches. Prospective parents who have been approved by the state are able to advertise their availability to adopt.
Will the Birth Mother Have Visitation Rights?
The birth mother will face a point of no return, when they will legally give up all parental rights to their child. If visitation is not negotiated, the adoptive parents may be able to prevent the child and their biological parents from seeing each other. The adoptive parents and birth mother must know how they feel about visitation and work out a legal agreement that codifies those preferences.
Where Is the Father?
It is strongly suggested that the biological father’s consent to the adoption be secured in advance. Biological fathers do have parental rights and if those are not formally given up, there could be serious problems in the future–like the father legally establishing his paternity and then asserting parental rights. If the father is not in the picture at the time of the adoption, a lawyer can help track them down and secure consent.
Has the Mother Been Screened?
An unfortunate reality is that fraud can happen in the adoption process. It’s devastating emotionally and wreaks financial havoc on the prospective parents, who lose any money that paid out in advance, including that of the birth mother’s medical expenses.
Have the Prospective Parents Been Screened?
The birth mother will also want to be certain their child is going to a safe and nurturing home. A home study should be conducted. This is something an adoption agency would normally do. Even though you aren’t using the agency for the entire process in a third-party adoption, they can still be hired for a “one-off” on the home study
Have You Taken Parental Training?
Presuming the adoptive parents don’t already have children, it’s a good idea to take courses on how to be an adoptive parent. You might not need it. You might not even learn anything for it. But going through it will make your ultimate custody look better in the eyes of the judge who has final say.
What Expenses Are Being Covered?
Further up, we alluded to a birth mother having some expenses taken care of by the adoptive parents. These need to be spelled out in a legally binding agreement. If they are to receive living expenses, in addition to have medical costs covered, the agreement needs to say that and for how much. The last thing either party needs is a dispute over whether expenses have been paid after the child is born.
Is There Emotional Support and Counseling Lined Up?
This is for the birth mother. Giving up your child for adoption is hard, especially when it happens right after the incredible emotional moment of giving birth. Even if you know you did the right thing. Even if you love the parents that your child is going to. Even if you have visitation rights. It’s still hard and it’s important to prepare by lining up counseling and a support network for the aftermath.
If you need help with adoption or any other family law concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to Pacific Cascade Legal. We have a deep and talented team of lawyers, paralegals, and support staff ready to help you and answer your questions. Just give us a call at (888) 981-9511 or contact us online today.