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Prior to an adoption being finalized by the court, the birth mother, or birth father, will retain the legal rights to their child. After the adoption process is finalized by a court, both birth parents lose all legal rights to their child. This means that a biological mother will not have the right to make important life decisions on behalf of her child, nor will she have the right to petition for custody or even visitation.
When an adoption is finalized by the courts, the birth parents are terminating all parental rights. Terminating all parental rights allows the adoptive parents to step in to become the child's legally recognized parents. In order to complete the adoption process, birth parents must relinquish their parental rights.
Once the birth parents sign the consent to terminate parental rights, after the child is born, the ability to stop the adoption becomes much more limited. All states allow biological parents to freely change their mind after the child is born, but before the process is finalized by the court, even if an agreement was signed before the birth. Additionally, some states allow for the revocation of a birth parent's consent to terminate parental rights signed after birth but before the adoption is finalized in certain specific situations. Some of those circumstances include:
These circumstances are not only limited in their availability in each state, but also have very firm and often incredibly short deadlines. In some states, even if fraud, duress, or coercion was used to obtain the consent, a birth parent can be required to file a petition with the court within seven days. Once the time has passed for a birth parent to revoke their consent to terminate parental rights, the consent becomes irrevocable, meaning that there is no turning back.
While the current trend for adoptions is to allow open adoptions that encourage birth parents and adoptive parents and the children to maintain contact, there is not much a birth parent can do if the adoptive parents do not want them in their adopted child's life. To protect against this, birth parents may wish to enter into an agreement with the adoptive parents allowing for such things as visitation or regular updates. These agreements can be wrought with pitfalls and should be considered carefully by both adoptive parents and birth parents before being entered into.
While states vary on this issue, courts, generally, will be unable to grant birth parents visitation after the adoption is finalized, unless a visitation agreement was approved by the court at the time of adoption. If an agreement for visitation was put in place at the time of the adoption, which courts may allow if the birth parent has a pre-existing relationship with the child, then a court may be able to enforce a visitation agreement. Without an agreement, adoptive parents are able to prevent birth parents from being a part of their child's life and/or even visiting with their child.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.