Determining whether adoption is best for a child is a major decision for all parties involved. In some instances, birth parents, adoptive parents, and even the child agree on every aspect of an adoption, which allows for the child to be adopted quickly and without contention. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes adoptive and birth parents have differing ideas about what is best for the child, especially when it comes to post-adoption contact with the biological parents. While these issues can be litigated in court, in many instances it’s wise to try to negotiate these matters without court involvement.
Negotiating a post-adoption contact agreement
Don’t go into post-adoption contact negotiations blindly. Doing so could put your relationship with the child and your child’s wellbeing at risk. So, before sitting down at the negotiation table, consider each of these factors that could contribute to your post-adoption contact agreement:
- The child’s relationship with his or her biological parents: The focus of a post-adoption contact agreement should be the child’s best interests. Therefore, if the child hasn’t had contact with biological parents for years, then it might not be best for the child to have a lot, or any, contact with his or her biological parents. Doing so could cause confusion and trauma. However, in most cases some sort of connection to a biological parent is healthy and beneficial for a child. So carefully consider if there’s a bond between the child and his or her biological parent before addressing any terms of the agreement.
- Number of visits: This term is usually the focus of these negotiations. Birth parents typically want as many guaranteed visits as possible, while adoptive parents oftentimes want to limit those visits with the understanding that the post-adoption contact agreement sets the minimum. Regardless of which side you’re on, you should have a number of visits per month or year in mind and anticipate where the other side will be on the issue. This can prepare you for negotiation.
- Cards, letters, and pictures: One way that visits are negotiated is by including periodic updates to biological parents, oftentimes including a picture. Adoptive parents are sometimes more open to allowing cards and letters to be exchanged between the child and his or her biological parent, which helps maintain the connection without the additional stress of in-person visits.
- Conditions: There may be the opportunity to place restrictions on post-adoption contact. For example, an adoptive parent may require that a birth parent is sober during all visits or that they get prior approval to bring other individuals to visits. Consider whether any of these are beneficial in your circumstance and where you’re willing to give.
- Sunset provision: Some post-adoption contact agreements have a sunset provision, which is a condition that, if met, causes the agreement to go away. For example, many agreements specify that if a biological parent, without justifiable excuse, misses a number of visits, then the entire agreement ends. Again, the focus of this kind of provision is the child’s stability and wellbeing.
- Enforceability: Keep in mind that these agreements are only enforceable once made part of the court’s order. Then, any party to the agreement has the right to seek enforcement of the contract. So when you go into negotiations, know that whatever you agree to should be adhered to.
Find help with your adoption-related legal issues
Adoption can be a joyous event, but it can also be emotionally painful for birth parents and fraught with legal complexities. You can take the stress out of your adoption, though, by working with a law firm that understands this area of the law and how to successfully navigate it. If you think that you could benefit from that kind of assistance, then now might be the time for you to discuss your situation with an attorney of your choosing.