What is a Contested Adoption?
Contested adoptions most commonly occur during infant adoption. In cases where contested adoption occurs, one biological parent—normally but not always the birth mother—wants to place the infant up for adoption, while the second parent—in this case, the birth father—wants to raise the child instead of putting it up for adoption. The premise of contested adoption is when one parent goes to give the baby up for adoption without the consent of the other parent.
Contested Adoption Process
As every family situation is different, there are many different variations of adoption. As such, these proceedings may be completed with or without the assistance of an attorney, agency, or another third party. However, no matter what version of adoption a family chooses to pursue, they must adhere to applicable state laws.
In a standard adoption, a birth mother develops what called an adoption plan. This plan centers around selecting adoption parents for the infant. If this process was completed before the birth, the baby—once healthy and out of the hospital—is placed with the adoptive family. This begins during the time the court processes the birth mothers’ termination of rights and transfers custody to adoptive parents. While most state laws are similar for this process, the time it takes the court to hear and finish a case can vary in every state. It is during this portion of the adoption process that the second parent can contest the adoption and ask that they become the main guardian of the child. If this occurs, the proceedings are halted, and a contested adoption hearing begins.
What Happens if a Contested Adoption Occurs?
If the second parent refuses to terminate their rights, all parties must attend a consent hearing in court where a judge must assess whether the second parent has followed appropriate measures as outlined by associated state laws. An additional consideration is whether the second parent demonstrated appropriate demeanor during the entirety of the birth mother’s pregnancy. The ruling in most states is final. As such, the court will usually assess which party would provide the child with a more permanent and stable life. In cases that involve this type of evidence, the decision is based on these findings.
During and after a case, the adoptive parents should work to gain an understanding of the second parent’s perspective. Doing this can help with the trial but also work to mitigate potential issues in the future. A common way to curb the possibility that there will be conflict is to work with the birth mother to establish information on the second parent’s intentions. Taking these steps can also useful so that you know what to look for if a dispute were to occur.
The birth mother is typically the one to create an adoption plan and seek out adoptive parents. As such, engaging the second parent in discussions about adoption and involving them in the adoption process is key to ensuring that you are able to complete the adoption. If you are unsure of paternity, asking for a simple DNA test could help move the process along.
If you believe you are the biological parent of a baby up for adoption without your consent, claiming paternity is not sufficient to stop the process. The first step in beginning a contested adoption is to prove your paternity through DNA testing. Additionally, you must have demonstrated that you offered reasonable support to the birth mother throughout her pregnancy. This support includes social but most importantly financial support. Finally, you have to follow your state-specific laws regarding contested adoption court proceedings.
Requesting the raise the child by yourself or as a co-parent with the birth mother prior to her relinquishing the rights of the child will be the easiest way to achieve your goal. However, if you believe your child is up for adoption, a contested adoption still has a chance of working. There are a few things to consider if you will have any chance of winning the case. This includes if you are capable of providing a stable, safe, and loving environment for the infant.
Contact Our DC Law Office for More Information
For more than 20 years, Antonoplos & Associates has practiced family law representing clients throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia
For more information regarding what is a contested adoption, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.