A contact agreement, also known as an open adoption agreement, is a document that details the extent and type(s) of contact the biological parents will have with a child after the adoption is complete. It is important to have a contact agreement in order to ensure that the birth parents and the adoptive parents have a firm grasp on the future of the relationship.
Why Do You Need a Contact Agreement?
Families may think that they simply need to talk about their wants and needs. They realize that an open adoption means the birth parents can have future contact, though the specifics of that contact can mean different things to different people. For example, a birth mother may wish to have monthly visits and spend holidays with the child. The adoptive parents may prefer less in-person contact.
Are Contact Agreements Legally Binding?
The legality of a contact agreement varies from state-to-state. In most cases, courts will enforce contact agreements that have been signed by both parties regardless of that state’s laws. This is particularly true when it is the adoptive parents, rather than the birth parents, who wish to have the agreement upheld.
How Do You Make a Contact Agreement?
Adoption agencies and adoption attorneys have experience with contact agreements. They will help you to draft the agreement you need. The contact will include the type of contact the birth mother will be granted as well as the frequency. This should be as specific as possible. For example, a birth mother may state that she would like to see the child four times each year. If the adoptive parents agree to this, the contact agreement should state how long each visit will be and where it will take place.
What Happens if the Adoptive Parents Move?
It is not uncommon for a family to move out of town or even out of state. The contact agreement should keep this possibility in mind. Some adoptive parents are very adamant that the birth mother should spend time with the child. They may state in the contract that they will travel to the biological parent’s home or pay for travel arrangements in the case of relocation. Other adoptive parents may be less apt to promise to pay for expenses when the future is uncertain. In this case, it may be best to state that adoptive parents will receive more frequent emails, letters or phone calls if the family must relocate.
Who is Included in the Contact Agreement?
The contact agreement is unique to your situation. No two contact agreements will look exactly the same. Some might include only the birth mother. Others may make arrangements for both birth parents. Still others might allow for visits with biological grandparents or other extended family members. It may even be wise to consider how to manage meetings between the adopted child and any future children the birth mother and/or father may have.