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What Rights Do Birth Parents Have?

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Posted By Cohen Family Law | March 3 2022 | Uncategorized

As the biological parent of a child in Washington – also known as the birth parent – you have certain legal rights during the adoption process. You have the right to make important decisions regarding the care and parentage of your child within the boundaries of what is in your child’s best interest. Understand your rights as a birth parent in more detail with assistance from a family law attorney in Clark County.

The Right to Select (and Meet) Adoptive Parents

In Washington, birth parents have the right to select the family that will adopt their child in an independent adoption. This right allows birth parents to choose an adoptive family based on their own morals, values, religious beliefs, heritage, and other factors. The selection of adoptive parents is a right reserved for birth mothers and fathers who have established their paternity. 

Birth parents have the right to receive as much information as possible about adoptive parents, including through the use of background checks. In Washington, all adoptive parents must go through a process known as Homestudy, as well – an investigation of their home, family life, and resources to determine whether they are fit to adopt. Birth parents also have the right to meet potential adoptive parents to aid in their decision. 

The Right to Consent to Adoption as a Birth Father

Birth fathers in Washington have many of the same rights as birth mothers. If the father was married to the mother at the time that the child was born – or the baby was born within 300 days of obtaining a divorcepaternity is presumed. A father with paternity rights must give his consent to an adoption before it can move forward. There is an exception, however, if the adoptive family can prove that the father is an unfit parent. If the father has not established paternity, the adoption can proceed without his consent.

The Right to an Open Adoption

Washington is one of only a few states that allow families to enter into open adoption agreements. These are legally binding agreements that give birth parents the right to future communication or contact with the adoptive child or family. However, the courts must agree that open adoption is in the best interest of the child. Having an open adoption is not a requirement; it is simply an option that is available to birth parents in Washington.

The Right to Change Their Decision

In general, consenting to the adoption of a child is irrevocable. This is because adoption is meant to be permanent and legally binding to ensure a stable environment for the child. In Washington, however, a birth parent retains the right to change his or her decision and revoke consent after signing adoption papers until the time the court approves the signed Consent to Adoption Form. Court approval cannot occur until at least 48 hours after the papers have been signed, or 48 hours after the child is born if these papers were signed before birth. Once the papers are signed by the courts, birth parents forfeit the right to change their minds about adoption.

Legal Rights in Child Welfare Court Cases

If a birth parent finds out that his or her child is involved in a court case for being neglected or abused by adoptive parents, the birth parent regains some legal rights over the child’s welfare. In this scenario, birth parents have the right to receive advance notice about all court hearings, participate and be heard in court, hire a child support lawyer, and ask for custody of the child. A judge will make a final decision about the fate of the child based on his or her best interests.

It is important to get legal help if you need assistance protecting or exercising your rights as a birth parent in Washington. A family law attorney can guide you through complicated legal processes while protecting your rights. Contact Cohen Family Law, LLC online or call (360) 953-5000 for a free consultation about adoption.

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