Every year, thousands of children are adopted in the US. While there is no single source for adoption numbers, estimates show that between private adoptions, adoptions from foster care or the child welfare system, or adoptions from other countries, over 100,000 children are adopted each year.
Choosing adoption is a big decision, whether you are a woman considering putting her child up for adoption, or someone considering adopting a child. There are many questions surrounding adoption, including those regarding the rights of birth mothers after the adoption is finalized.
Read on to learn more about the various birth mother situations that are possible and what rights they retain.
A birth mother has the right to change her mind at any time prior to the birth of the child. Even if she has agreed that you will adopt the child when they are born, she can change her mind and you have no recourse.
If you have been paying for medical care or other expenses, you may be able to sue her for reimbursement of this compensation. Many agencies will have birth mothers sign a financial agreement that stipulates that they must pay back any money received if they change their mind. However, few birth mothers have the finances to actually do this.
Most adoption agencies or attorneys assisting with adoption help birth mothers work through any doubts they may be having before the birth and they typically attend counseling as well.
After the mother gives birth to the child, she must wait 48 hours before she can consent to the adoption. The exception to this is if she is released from the hospital before the 48 hours are up; in that case, she may consent before the 48 hour period. If she is released early, it must be in writing, either in her patient chart or release paperwork, and must come from a licensed hospital or birth center.
Consent must be given by a sworn document in front of two witnesses and a notary, who will notarize the consent. Once the consent is given, it is legally binding. If the child is a newborn or infant under the age of 6 months, the mother cannot change her mind later.
The only way the consent could be withdrawn is if the mother petitions the court to withdraw the consent and can show that she was under duress or the consent was obtained by fraud. If the child is older than 6 months, the mother has a revocation period of 3 days during which she can revoke her consent.
This is good news for adoptive parents; the law recognizes them as the legal parents and the birth mother cannot change her mind as soon as the consent to adoption is executed. This should provide some peace of mind for potential adoptive parents in Florida wondering “what if the birth mother changes her mind after we bring the baby home?”
While the birth mother cannot change her mind after the consent is given and signed, the court process isn’t over. The adoption must be finalized, but before that can happen, the court requires several other things to be completed.
You must have at least three post-placement visits at your home. These must be conducted by a licensed provider of home studies. If you worked with an adoption agency or attorney to set up the adoption, they will have completed a home study prior to the adoption agreement.
They can come back and conduct the three post-placement visits to meet the legal requirements in Florida. These are meant to ensure that the child is adjusting appropriately and being cared for. Once these are completed, the adoption finalization process can occur. This is a relatively quick and simple court hearing where a judge will issue the adoption decree, and then you can alter the birth certificate to includes your name.
Part of the adoption plan that is decided upon before the mother consents to the adoption is whether the birth mother wants to remain in contact with the child and the adoptive family. She may want periodic updates, letters, photos, or even the opportunity to visit the child. Or, she may not want any communication with the child or her information shared with the child.
Whatever the mother wishes must be included in the adoption plan and agreed upon by both her and the adoptive parent(s). There is also something called the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry where birth mothers and adopted adults can register. If two or more people affected by an adoption list themselves on the registry, FARR will reach out to both parties to determine if they want to be reunited.
Florida law is designed to provide rights to both the birth mother and the adoptive parent(s). The laws are meant to protect both parties and ensure that adoption is entered into willingly but also recognize that once a child is placed with an adoptive family, it is not in the child’s or the adoptive family’s best interest to allow a birth mother to change her mind.
If you are considering adoption, you should work with a licensed adoption agency or law firm that handles adoption law, including private placement adoption of infants and children, step-parent adoption, relative adoption, and foster care adoptions to ensure they have the experience with your particular type of adoption.
Contact us today at Florida Adoptions. We are a small law firm that handles all aspects of adoption law.