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What is meant by the statement that "open adoption agreements are not legally enforceable?"

If an open adoption agreement is a contract signed by the birth mother and the adoptive parents, I do not see why it would not be legally enforceable. I would think that the birth mother could file suit to enforce the contract.

For example, if the adoptive parents do not comply with their promises, why couldn't the birth mother file suit and ask a judge to enforce the contract and make the adoptive parents comply? People can sue for almost anything. Why not this?

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Asked by Anonymous at 8:45 PM on Jun. 28, 2010 in Adoption

Answers (16)
  • I think the adoptive parents have the right to change their minds if they feel that agreement is no longer in the best interests of the child. The BM can sue,but it doesn't mean she'll win.

    Answer by butterflyblue19 at 8:47 PM on Jun. 28, 2010

  • in a lot of open adoptions it states fully that the adoptive parents can revoke the rights they give bm's. such as not sending pics or allowing communication.

    Answer by angevil53 at 8:49 PM on Jun. 28, 2010

  • It just means that there is no paper saying that the APs have to allow access to the child by the BPs. It is a verbal agreement and the BPs can't sue over it because once the adoption papers are signed the BPs have no rights. There is not a written contract saying anything, the only written contract is the adoption papers that say the BP no longer have any rights to the child.

    Answer by matthewscandi at 8:50 PM on Jun. 28, 2010

  • It's not enforcable because legally, she gave up her rights as the parent. Even with that contract, she is just a family "friend". She has NO rights to that child. Most open adoptions are done as a curtosy to the birth mom so that she can get closure. I nmost of them the contact stops after a couple years, not on purpose, they just drift apart. A family friend works at an adoption agency and this is what she told me awhile ago about open adoptions.

    Answer by LorisChar at 8:51 PM on Jun. 28, 2010

  • Matthewscandi is right. In our case, there was no written OA agreement. In both of our adoptions, it was a verbal agreement. Our first child's bmom was more specific than our younger child's bmom when stating what she hoped for (and I would recommend that EWCA be very specific about their wishes).

    I have heard of some people who have a written agreement, but I've never seen one.

    Both the APs and the Bparents can fail to keep their word in the OA agreement. Some APs (apparently many) stop sending pics and update letters or stop allowing visits. Some BPs stop being involved in the child's life or cross boundaries that create problems in the relationship (of course, APs can cross boundaries, too). As with any relationship, the quality of the relationship depends on the integrity of everyone involved and how willing they are to keep their committment. The good of the child needs to come first.

    Answer by Iamgr8teful at 9:49 PM on Jun. 28, 2010

  • Just speaking legally and what is enforceable....there are many types of adoption....foster care, international, kinship and domestic adoption. As far as the law is concerned, adoption is adoption and so for instance, foster care adoption, it might not be in the best interest of the child to have an open adoption, so the law treats the adoptive parents just as though they gave birth to the child....with all the same rights.

    So, just as your neighbor can't legally enforce anything to see your child...the legal parents are granted all the rights of parenthood...including the right to say who gets to see their child.

    I hope I am making some sense.

    Now, ethically, when it is domestic infant adoption where the birth parents are being mentally and physically healthy, it is morally right to allow your child to have a relationship with them. Not enforceable by law, but morally the right thing to do.

    Answer by hollyanne31 at 10:49 PM on Jun. 28, 2010

  • Because your first assumption is incorrect. There is no contract signed. The only contract is the relinquishment papers where the mother relinquishes all her legal rights as a parents. Open adoption agreements are merely a verbal agreement that can be broken by either the adoptive parents or the birth mother. The birth mother is a legal stranger to her child and has no legal rights, none.

    Answer by onethentwins at 12:18 PM on Jun. 29, 2010


    I was looking for info on legally enforceable open adoptions (there are none, but some states have been trying to enact laws that might give the birth mother an ability to enforce an agreement, of course, you still have to weigh how the "legal battle" will weigh on all involved and whether it would further strain an already strained relationship) but I found this informative link on "cooperative adoption". Going to re-post it for all.



    Answer by doodlebopfan at 2:38 PM on Jun. 29, 2010

  • "Some States also have changed their laws to acknowledge "cooperative adoption," or postadoption agreements between birth and adoptive parents. These often include some degree of openness. While no State prohibits entering into these types of agreements, they are not legally enforceable in most States. Often they are informal "good faith" agreements between birth and adoptive parents that may or may not be in writing. Even in States where postadoption contracts are enforceable, no law allows for an adoption to be overturned if either birth or adoptive parents fail to follow through on their agreement."

    This was taken from the above link. Also, if the AP's close the adoption, don't assume that your child can look for you at 18. In many states, the age is higher. Some courts thwart an adoptee's efforts to locate their birth parents as well as agencies themselves. I hope that you aren't basing your decision on a promise of OA.

    Answer by doodlebopfan at 2:42 PM on Jun. 29, 2010

  • "What issues are still unresolved?

    Is it ethical to use promises of ongoing future contact with their children as an incentive for birth parents to relinquish parental rights?"

    This was one of the many unresolved issues that were mentioned in the above link. Again, just trying to dispel wrong information. If you are considering adoption for your child, please research it thoroughly. I hope you find the answers you need.


    Answer by doodlebopfan at 2:54 PM on Jun. 29, 2010

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