Birth Parent Rights in a Virginia Adoption
Placing a child for adoption is a difficult decision, but it may be the greatest gift you can give to your child. Virginia has laws in place to protect all parties involved in an adoption case, including the birth parents. This post provides a general overview of the rights and responsibilities of the birth parents during the adoption process in Virginia.
Voluntarily Terminating Your Parental Rights
When a mother places a child for adoption, she is volunteering to permanently terminate her parental rights. Once she does this, she will no longer have any authority to make decisions for the child, nor any right to see him or remain in contact.
In most cases, the expecting mother has the sole responsibility of selecting an adoptive family for her child, often through the help of an adoption agency. Once the birth mother has chosen a family, the parties may sign an adoption agreement specifying the details of an open/closed adoption arrangement and what expenses are to be paid by the adoptive family.
Open adoptions are more common than ever before. When negotiating an adoption agreement, the expecting mother can decide if she wants to remain in contact with the child through his adoptive parents. She can also decide how much contact she wishes to have with the adoptive family before the birth and during the hospital stay. Some mothers welcome the involvement, while others wish for privacy. Although an adoption agreement helps parties set expectations for the adoption process, keep in mind that some issues may be difficult to enforce in court.
Revocation of Consent
After an adoption agreement has been executed, an expecting mother can still change her mind at any time before the baby is born. However, the birth mother may be asked to reimburse any expenses already paid if she backs out of the adoption.
After a child is born, the state of Virginia requires a 72-day waiting period before the birth mother can consent to the adoption. After she signs the consent forms, she still has seven more days to legally revoke her consent. This 7-day revocation period can be waived by the mother if consent is given after the baby is ten days old.
Birth Father Rights in Virginia Adoptions
An unmarried father has almost no parental rights until he takes action to legally establish paternity. However, Virginia allows unmarried fathers to proactively protect their legal rights to a child that may be placed for adoption by signing up with the Virginia Birth Father Registry. Joining the registry does not in itself establish paternity, but it does prevent his child from being adopted without his knowledge or consent. To participate in the Virginia Birth Father Registry program, he must sign up before the child is ten days old.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
Sometimes, a parent’s rights are involuntarily terminated and her children will be placed for adoption without her consent. This may happen in cases where the parent(s) have demonstrated they are unfit to raise their children due to:
- severe neglect or abuse
- drug or alcohol abuse
- mental illness
- long-term incarceration.
Considering Adoption? Call a Virginia Adoption Attorney
If you are considering adoption, it is important to seek legal assistance to ensure your rights are protected throughout the adoption process. Contact the experienced adoption attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC in Leesburg, VA for legal help today.