My sources tell me that Ohio may be facing a case in its supreme court regarding mandatory appointment of counsel for birthparents in adoption cases. This follows closely behind a new Nebraska law passed in July 2016 whereby relinquishing parents must be offered three hours of counseling prior to the relinquishment. In private adoptions, the birthparents are also offered their own attorney, separate from the attorney representing the adoptive parents. The expense for both must be paid by the adoptive parents. This would not apply in a contested adoption; in those situations birthparents would pay for their own attorney. While birthparents are offered these services, they may decline.
Other states have laws regarding legal representation for birthparents.
For example, Minnesota requires that adoptive parents pay for an appointed attorney for the birthparents upon request.
In Michigan, when a birthparent makes a temporary placement of the adoptee with the adoptive parents — for a newborn this would usually take place shortly after birth — the birthparent must be assisted by his/her own attorney or a child placing agency. If the birthparent executes an out-of-court consent or release — a document that a birthparent signs no sooner than 72 hours after the birth of the adoptee whereby she/he consents to the placement of the child for adoption or releases the child to a child placing agency for the purpose of adoption — the birthparent must be represented by an attorney at the signing and a representative of a child placing agency must witness the signing. The expense for these services is paid by the adoptive parents.
The purpose behind legal representation is threefold: (1) It protects the birthparents by informing them of their rights and advising them of their options so that they are able to make a sound decision without being subject to pressure or fraud, (2) It protects adoptive parents by ensuring proper adherence to the laws governing the adoption, and (3) It protects the adoptee by ensuring efficient and proper final disposition of the adoption so that permanence can be established as quickly as possible in the best interest of the child.
Regardless whether its required or not, having legal representation for all parties, birthparents as well as adoptive parents, is the best way, and in the long run can be the most cost-efficient way, to provide a smooth, efficient, and permanent adoption experience for all involved. We here at the Law Office of Dion E. Roddy, PLLC, are experienced in representing both adoptive and birth parents in adoption matters, including interstate adoptions involving compliance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). We also handle contested adoption matters and assisted reproduction cases involving pre-birth orders. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by email on our website or by telephone at 248-800-1875.