What’s the process for adoption in Missouri?
Most uncontested newborn Missouri adoptions have three general steps and two hearings. The first step, resolution of parental rights, occurs over a continuum of time because there are different categories of birth parents and different ways of resolving their respective rights. The second and third steps, transfer of custody and finalization, occur at specific points in time when a Missouri court enters orders after the hearings on transfer of custody and finalization.
What’s the timeline for adoption in Missouri?
A birth father can sign his consent to adoption at any time before or after birth. A birth mother can sign her consent no sooner than 48 hours after her child’s birth. In most uncontested newborn adoptions, the transfer of custody hearing occurs 1-2 weeks after birth. Finalization can occur no sooner than six months and one day from the transfer of custody order.
If the adoption involves a Missouri child and adoptive parents who reside outside of Missouri, they must comply with ICPC. The Missouri ICPC requires that the child remain in Missouri (usually with one or both of his/her adoptive parents) until a court has given custody to them or to their supervising agency for placement with them. In this case, adoptive parents can expect to spend two weeks or more after birth in Missouri.
Does Missouri law compel a birth mother to name the birth father(s)?
No. A birth mother has the right under Missouri law to exercise her right to privacy and decline to name any potential fathers.
Does Missouri law require that all potential birth father(s) be served with notice of an adoption?
Missouri law requires notice to potential fathers who have taken actions to preserve their consent rights. For example, service goes to the man who is married to the birth mother, the man who has filed a paternity action or otherwise established legal paternity to a child, or has provided support to the mother during pregnancy or to the child after birth.
What is ICPC?
The Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) provides a defined and transparent process for both states to follow (the sending and the receiving state) to ensure the adoptive placement of a child complies with the laws of both states. A child whose adoption falls within the requirements of ICPC may not travel from the sending state to the receiving state until the requirements of ICPC have been met. This may mean that the adoptive parents must stay with the child in the sending state for several days, or sometimes weeks, before returning home with their new baby.
How long does a birth parent have to revoke her/his Missouri consent?
A Missouri consent to adoption is irrevocable, meaning that it cannot be taken back, when it is signed unless, prior to finalization, the birth parent can prove that s/he did not freely and voluntarily execute the consent. The birth parent has the legal burden of proving s/he did not freely and voluntarily give the consent.
Are adoptions across state lines more complicated?
Yes. Any adoption where birth and adoptive parents reside in different states requires Interstate Compact for Placement of Children (ICPC) approval from both states. Our office routinely makes ICPC applications.
Does Missouri have post adoption contact agreements (PACAs)?
Yes. Adoptive and birth parents may voluntarily enter into a written PACA, and it can be filed with the court. A PACA is not enforceable unless the adoption judge approves it.
Can't the gestational surrogate just relinquish her rights to the baby?
The term “relinquish” implies the use of adoption law, and surrogacy law is different from adoption law. Intended parents and gestational carriers should seek counsel who have specific experience in surrogacy law to create agreements that reflect the intentions of the parties and to establish parentage under the law for children born of collaborative reproduction. Failure to establish parentage properly has lead to child custody/support disasters in other states.
Do we really need two different
attorneys for this?
Establishing legal parentage of a child is not the time to cut corners. Separate and independent attorneys should be involved to represent both gestational surrogate and intended parents. The amount of money saved by hiring only one attorney is nominal, but the risk of not doing so is immeasurable.
What is Assisted Reproductive
ART refers to an array of medical procedures to achieve a pregnancy utilizing the services of reproductive health physicians. Commonly used ART procedures include alternative insemination (placing sperm in the female reproductive tract), sperm collection, egg harvesting, in vitro fertilization (combining sperm and egg outside the body), and embryo transfer (placing a fertilized egg/embryo inside the uterus). Google Assisted Reproductive Techniques to find the definitions of these terms.
Can we just change the names on the babys birth certificate?
Establishing legal parentage after collaborative reproduction is far more complicated than simply changing the names on a birth certificate. Legal parentage via surrogacy involves an extensive legal process involving an agreement between the parties, informed consents at the medical clinics conducting embryo transfer, and a parentage action to which all parties must stipulate.
We found a sample contract on the Internet. Can we use it?
An agreement between a gestational carrier and intended parents is a recitation not only of the understandings between them, but of the current state of the law in the residence states of the parties, and their intentions to rely on the specific parts of relevant state laws. To our knowledge, none of the contracts available on the Internet are specific to Missouri nor were written by experienced Missouri attorneys. Importantly, the facts in every case vary enough that a contract used by one set of intended parents and a gestational carrier/gamete donor is unlikely to reflect the wishes of another set of intended parents and a gestational carrier/gamete donor. LMB has salvaged a number of instate and interstate legal conundrums where parties to collaborative reproduction have hired inexperienced attorneys.
What is Gestational Surrogacy?
Surrogacy is a collaborative pregnancy that involves a gestational carrier (sometimes called a “surrogate”) who carries a child or children to whom she is typically not related and whom she does not intended to parent upon birth, and whom one or more intended parents intended to parent.
What is Collaborative Reproduction?
Collaborative reproduction is an option for achieving pregnancy involving persons other than the intended parent/s. Collaborative reproduction can involve gamete (ova or sperm) donation, gestational surrogacy or both.
Who can seek adoption of foster children?
Any person can seek adoption. Typically, foster parents or blood relatives or those in a kinship relationship with the birth parents seek foster adoption.
Who can consent to adoption of a foster child?
Birth Mother and Birth Father can consent and that includes the named father whose paternity is not legally established.
Do foster parents have priority in adopting their foster children?
Yes, if they have had the foster child/ren for over nine months and bonding is evident between foster parents and child/ren.
May birth parents legally consent to an adoption by a specific person/s?
Yes, however, the judge has to find that such adoption is in the best interests of the child, and the adoptive petitioners must satisfy all the elements of Missouri adoption law including a favorable home study.
Are subsidies available for adoption of foster children?
Yes, in certain circumstances.
How do guardianships differ from adoptions?
As opposed to an adoption, a guardianship doesn’t sever the legal relationship that exists between a child and his or her biological parents. Instead, it co-exists with that legal relationship.
Must birth parents consent to a guardianship?
The consent of birth parents allows for a smoother guardianship process. However, if consent from birth parents cannot be obtained because they are unwilling or are unable to be located, it is still possible to file a petition with the court for guardianship.
Is guardianship permanent?
Missouri Statute 475.083 lists the ways a guardianship can be terminated. In summary, a guardianship is permanent until the child turns 18, the guardian submits a resignation to the court, or the court orders the termination based on the best interest of the child.