Often times in contested adoptions the biological parents as well as all involved biological relatives should balance the litigation strategy in light of the Adoption Reform Amendment Act (“ARA”) § 101 which established enforceability of post-adoption contact agreements between biological parents, other birth relatives, adoptive parents, and adoptees (if they are 14 or older) for first time in the District of Columbia.
The contact agreement is tantamount to a custom made contract tailored to terms and conditions dictates by negotiating parties generally governing “contact” between the child and his or her biological family after the adoption is finalized with specific provisions addressing duration, place, frequency, holidays etc. The agreement can be somewhat similar to the custody agreements with specifics provision addressing all relevant issues involving the welfare of the child, biological parents, and the adoptive family.
The contract has to be court approved to be court enforceable. The only criteria for court approval is the best interest of the child standard.
Thus if the biological parents have not been actively involved with the care and support of their child and the legal elements of abandonment and lack of financial support can be established by clear and convincing evidence, then, granted the adoptive parents are open to negotiations – a post adoption agreement must and should be considered before trial. Having parties who are signatories to the agreement negotiate terms directly via a mediator with counsel present is often beneficial and fruitful.
Either the adoptive or biological parent can move to enforce a post-adoption contact agreement. Again, the Court will enforce the agreement if it finds that enforcement is in the child’s best interests.
The Court may also modify a post-adoption contract agreement if petitioned, and if again modification is in the child’s best interest. Post-adoption contact agreement or violation thereof would under no circumstances cause rescission of the adoption decree.
If you are either a biological parent facing a show cause proceedings or you are considering filing an adoption petition, contact our expert family law dc adoption lawyers today for free initial consultation at 202 434 8162 or via www.familylawdc.com.