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Open Adoption: By Attorney Albert Lirhus
There is no standard "Open Adoption". It is a question of how much openness there is on a particular adoption plan. The variety among open adoptions is almost infinate. Here are a few examples:
This list is limited only by the imagination of the people involved. The amount of openness in an independent adoption depends on what the birthparents and the adoptive parents want to do and can agree to. Initially, many adoptive parents are apprehensive about openness. It is an important subject and both adoptive parents and birth parents should be willing to discuss the subject and give genuine consiederation to each other's point of view. It is helpful to discuss the subject with an adoption social worker or adoption attorney to get a broader perspective of the subject and to get additional ideas as to how to work constructively towards a mutually beneficial agreement. It is important that no one be forced into an open adoption agreement which he or she is not completely comfortable.
Generally speaking, open adoption agreements should be formalized in writing. In Washington, if an open adoption agreement is put in writing and approved by the court, it then becomes an order of the court and therefore enforcable. There are several statutory requirements for these agreements and therefore you should contact your adoption attorney before reducing the agreement to writing.
While open adoption agreements are enforceable, they may never be used to overturn an adoption or serve as a basis for revoking consent. If the adoptive parents fail to meet the requirements of the open adoption agreement, the remedy abailable to the birth parents is "specific performance". That means that that the birth parents can proceed to court to specifically order the adoptive parents to comply with the terms of the open adoption agreement. In limited situations, open adoption agreements can be subsiquently modified by order of the court.
People quickly observe that open adoption agreements are benificial to the birthparents in that they now have assurances that promises made to them will be kept. However, there is a very practical benefit to adoptive parents also. If the open adoption agreement is carefully and clearly drawn, it will eliminate all future disagreements or disputes regarding exactly what was promised in the way of openness. In addition, the possibility of an openness agreement can give a birthmother the level of comfort that she needs to proceed with an adoption plan.
As prospective adoptive parents, it is worth your while to learn more about open adoption agreements.
Albert Lirhus is an adoption attorney with the firm of Dubbuar, Lirhus & Engel in Seattle, WA.