The adoption process can be both joyful and taxing. Whether you are the prospective adoptive parent or the biological parent, knowing your rights and how to approach the process from start to finish can make the difference between a bumpy experience and a smooth one.
To view adoption from a few angles, read on to learn about:
How your rights change as the biological parent or petitioner,
Consenting to Adoption -- for both parents and the prospective parents; And
Contesting an Adoption, and how it might affect a child's future.
Your Rights, Before and After
As we look at the roles of both the biological and prospective parents in an adoption, it is essential advice to work with a skilled attorney to help with all legal issues. It can be a financially and emotionally burdensome process; leave the hard stuff to a knowledgeable and compassionate lawyer so you can focus on what matters.
That said, it's still important to know your rights in the event you'd like to exercise them.
Your rights will change significantly from pre-to-post adoption. Likewise, your rights as a biological parent will go from full-to-no legal rights upon finalization, depending on your level of involvement in the child's life. This change can be a very jarring experience, so it's best to be prepared.
To better explain this, we've put together a list of before-and-after rights and changes to expect for biological and adoptive parents:
Biological parents have the right to make crucial decisions on behalf of their child/children.
Upon finalization, the birth parents terminate these rights and yield them to the adoptive parents.
Up until finalization, the biological parents may stop the adoption process whenever they want. (More on Consent later).
After, biological parents' options to challenge become more limited. In Maryland, adoptions may be challenged up until one year after finalization.
Biological parents may have custody of their child during the adoption process.
After, biological parents have no rights to visitation, and it is up to the adoptive parents if they want to cease contact.
The child will have a single birth certificate with their birth name.
After, the child will have their birth certificate and their adoption certificate with the adoptive parents' names.
A child's social security number will show their biological parents as their parents.
After, adoptive parents will have to certify their child's social security number shows them as their parents (for tax purposes).
Knowing how your role as a parent will change is something you should prepare for regardless of which side of the process you're on. Even after the adoption is finalized and the challenge period is up, you should still keep in touch with a lawyer.
In between the before-and-after, though, is a crucial part of the adoption process known as…
Consent: What you should know as the biological parent
A parent or guardian must agree and consent to the adoption for it to happen. Though this seems like a simple premise, there are a few situations where the process gets tricky.
In Maryland, both you and your spouse must consent to the adoption before finalizingif you are the biological parents.
In certain circumstances where a spouse cannot consent because they are absent, the court can still grant an adoption if the spouse cannot be located or has not contacted the Department of Human Services for 180 days. If this is the case, at least one parent will need to consent.
Also: if the child adoptee is at least ten years old, they must also consent to the adoption.
As mentioned in the above table, you have a year to challenge the adoption; however, there is a period after consent that you may revoke it.
You may revoke your consent any time within the following periods:
Thirty days after you sign the consent form, or
Thirty days after filing the petition.
In any case, with consent, you are well within your rights to not consent or revoke consent regardless of your place in the process and personal commitments with the petitioning parents.
If there is evidence, Maryland law lists the following as cases where a court may allow adoption without parental consent:
The biological parent has not had custody of their child forat least one year.
The child to be adopted has/has developed significant emotional ties to the adoptive parent.
In an event where the adoptive parent has custody, the biological parent has not maintained or made an effort to make meaningful contact with the child.
The biological parent subjected the child to physical, mental, sexual abuse, chronic neglect, or torture.
A biological parent is convicted for a crime against someone related to the child or the child.
The biological parent has lost parental rights to a sibling of the child.
However, if parental rights have already been terminated, the court will not need to obtain your consent for the adoption.
Contesting Adoption: From the back end of the process
If you are thinking of contesting an adoption or fear dealing with it from your spouse, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Spouse absent or has little involvement in you and your child's life? Abandonment is something the court will take into account. As mentioned, courts will only require consent from a single parent if the other hasn't been trackable or hasn't responded to the adoption petition. There's always a chance that the spouse does return and contests; in this event, the courts will review all pertinent information regarding their situation.
What is that pertinent information? Well, if you are the parent contesting the adoption, you should know the court will review the following:
Whether or not you have established aparental role, either before or after birth, provides emotional and material support to your spouse.
Your contact with your child: some courts may not give the right to contest in the case of a prolonged absence.
Even if it is determined you have not established a parental role, the judge may set up a separate hearing to review what is in the child's best interests.
If you can prove you are the biological parent and your ability to take physical custody of the child during the adoption process, the court may grant your right not to consent.
Overall, though, you should focus on your mental well-being during adoption and look forward to the next steps of you and your family's lives. Again, a lawyer who cares can help alleviate the stresses that may arise from the process.