Common Legal Issues Throughout the Adoption Process
The proverbial saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is true when it comes to the adoption process. While adoption revolves around what is best for the child, it’s also a process where both the adoptive parents and the biological parents work together in giving the child the best life possible.
Often, however, a smooth and easy adoption process is easier said than done. There are multiple legal issues that can crop up during various stages of adoption. Following are some of the most common legal issues you might expect.
The parental rights of biological parents in Tennessee
One of the legal issues with adoption involves the legal rights of the biological parents. When one or both of the birth parents chooses to place a child up for adoption, they must voluntarily terminate their parental rights. To voluntarily terminate their rights, the biological parents have to legally consent to the adoption.
Tennessee requires that parents appear “before a judge, or other official designated by law, and [sign] a voluntary surrender.” Until the document is signed, one or both of the biological parents have the right to change their minds about the adoption. Even after the adoption process begins, the biological mother or father may want to retain custody of the child. An experienced Franklin adoption attorney can inform you of your rights in the event this happens to you.
Lack of consent in the adoption process
Prospective parents should also be aware of the rights of the biological father. Some adoptions begin with the mother deciding to put the child up for adoption, regardless of whether she has informed the father of her decision or not. When the mother does not ask for the father’s input in the decision, or informs the father of the decision to place the child for adoption, the father has the option to pursue custody.
In some states, the mother cannot proceed with the adoption process until the father either terminates his rights or consents to the adoption. The mother will not have the option to proceed unless the father is not within the range of communication, cannot respond, or is no longer alive.
Putative fathers and their rights
A biological father who was not aware of the birth of a child may become aware of the child’s existence well into or after the adoption process. While there are many instances where the mother may not name or know the father, he may become aware of the child later on. In this instance, the biological father is known as a putative father. As a result, the father can become a putative father if he can prove that he has certain rights and that those rights were obtained legally.
To prove these rights, the father will have to show particular evidence such as a signature on a birth certificate, support, and communication. After this evidence has been presented, the father must file a court order to establish legal and potential custody rights necessary to take the child from the adoptive family.
What is an open adoption?
Open adoption is an adoption where communication between the biological parents, the adoptive parents, and the adopted child is encouraged throughout the process. While this type of communication works for many families, there are some legal issues that can occur from this type of adoption.
The child may connect with their birth siblings, and the connection to extended family members may lead to less time with the adoptive family. In the unfortunate case that the relationship between the biological parents and adoptive parents breaks down, adoptive families may find themselves in a position of legally enforcing their custody rights. If necessary, they do have the power to reduce the amount of time that the birth parents spend with the adopted child.
Issues concerning the “law of birth”
Another issue to consider is the time when the mother can consent to the adoption process. In most states, including Tennessee, a birth mother cannot give consent to the adoption process until after she has given birth to the child. In some states (Alabama, Hawaii, Washington, and Wisconsin), the birth mother is allowed to start and finalize the process before the baby is born.
In cases such as abandonment and desertion, a birth mother terminates all of her legal rights to either give consent to the adoption or deny permission of the adoption, because she no longer has the right. If the father is known or involved, the law of birth may affect him as well.
The Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates assists residents in Franklin, Brentwood, and Columbia who want to expand and protect their families through adoption, conservatorship, or guardianship. For experienced legal services, call our family law attorneys today at 615-977-9370, or complete a contact form to schedule a consultation.