Are You Pregnant?

Are you unsure whether you can raise your unborn child? Do you want to know what options are available to you?

ACAL/ACFFL attorneys listed on this site can provide compassionate and competent legal advice to help you decide whether an adoption plan is best for you and for your child. These attorneys can also help you make an adoption plan with a family member, or with an adoptive family you have already located through another source.

There is no cost to you, and no high pressure tactics are used. The information you share is completely confidential and will not be shared with anyone without your authorization.

If you would like a confidential consultation at no cost and with no obligation, please go to our Member Directory page and contact one of the attorneys on the list who handles adoptions. Meanwhile, feel free to browse through the FAQ section below to get answers to many of your questions.

Who selects the family to adopt my baby?

That is completely up to you! If you want to select the family, an Academy attorney can provide you with a variety of adoptive family profiles for your review. Prior to making a decision, you will be given the option to meet the family in person, talk to them on the phone, or communicate via email.

The idea of meeting the adoptive family might be a little intimidating or embarrassing for you to think about. However, once they actually meet the family, most expecting mothers feel extremely relieved and comforted to know who will be raising their child. After you have signed the final papers, you will take great comfort in knowing that your baby is getting excellent care from the people you hand-selected as parents.

However, some expecting mothers don't want to know the adoptive family's name or whereabouts. That is also your choice. In that case, your attorney will arrange for a licensed adoption agency to accept your relinquishment and select a pre-approved family to parent your child.  

Whether you choose to select the adoptive family or not, you have the right to establish some guidelines as to the type of family for your child. For instance, you may want your child to be raised in a two-parent family, or in a home close to (or far away) from you. Whatever guidelines you provide will be honored in the selection of the family for your baby.

Will I be allowed to communicate with my child after the adoption?

If you want to have contact with your child after the adoption, your Academy attorney will help you select a family who is open to this, and then negotiate a post-adoption contact agreement with that family. California and some other states provide for legally-enforceable agreements if they are signed by all parties and filed with the court in the adoption file.

The majority of infant adoptions provide for some level of openness, from exchanging pictures and letters through an intermediary, to direct communication between you and the adoptive family. Of course, if you do not want any contact after the adoption, you are free to choose this option, as well. Only you can decide what is right for your life, and the life of your child.

Your Academy attorney can help you determine the amount and type of contact you want before you are matched with a potential adoptive family, to help make the best possible match. However, your feelings about this may change with time. Your Academy attorney is always ready to discuss your requests with the adoptive family and help you establish a solid written agreement about future contact.

Can I remain anonymous and protect my identity from disclosure?

In an independent adoption, your name and signature will be on some of the paperwork given to the adoptive family. If you prefer to remain anonymous, ask your Academy attorney to work with an adoption agency to accept your relinquishment. The agency will then select the adoptive parents on your behalf, and your identifying information will not be disclosed to them. 

However, no matter what type of adoption you complete, it is always possible that the child could apply to the court at a future date and request that the adoption records be unsealed. It is also possible for laws to change so that adoption records could be opened without a court order. This means that the child could potentially learn your identity and whereabouts.

Your attorney or adoption agency will encourage you to keep your address and contact information on file with the attorney's office or the agency. That way, if your child attempts to find you, the attorney or agency can contact you confidentially to ask you if you are interested in making contact with the child. Your response can then be confidentially conveyed to the child, whether you agree to contact or wish to refuse it.

What are the rights and responsibilities of the child's birth father?

Your attorney is required by law to attempt contact with each man who might be the child’s biological father to give him notice of the adoption plan. The best scenario is for the attorney to communicate directly with each potential father during an in-person meeting to discuss the situation. If the birth father is not willing to meet in person, your attorney can talk to him on the phone. Either way, the man will have the opportunity to state his feelings about the adoption plan and to ask questions about the process.

If the birth father does not object to the adoption, or doesn’t want to be involved in the case, he can sign a Waiver of Notice or a Denial of Paternity.  If he wants to be involved in the adoption plan, he can either sign the Waiver of Notice or the same consent documents that you will sign.  If he refuses to respond and takes no further action, his parental rights can be terminated by the court without notice after the child is born.

Even if you do not know the name or whereabouts of the alleged father, the adoptive family's attorney is required to search diligently for him and report the efforts of that search to the court. If the man cannot be located, the court will terminate his parental rights without notice to him.

Even if an alleged father objects to the adoption, he is rarely in a position to block the adoption from happening. This is true even if he wants to raise the child himself, or wants a family member to raise the child. An alleged biological father must take specific legal steps in a very timely fashion to establish and preserve his parental rights. In most cases, he cannot block the adoption unless he meets one of the strict legal requirements listed below:

1. You are married to him, or were married to him within 300 days of the child’s birth.

2. He has received the child into his home and has publicly acknowledged that the child as his own.

3. You and the birth father have both signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity to have him listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate. Hospital personnel often insist that you sign this form at the time of the child’s birth, but you are not required to do so and should NOT do so if you are planning to place the child for adoption.

4. Within a short time after he knew or should have known about the pregnancy, he has done everything possible to take care of you and the child, both emotionally and financially.

 

Except for the four circumstances listed above, the alleged biological father’s consent to the adoption is not required. Still, notice to him is always required, assuming we can locate him. And once he knows about the adoption, he does have the right to file a legal action to ask the court to stop the adoption. As a practical matter, however, most alleged fathers never take this step, even those who seem very adamant about preventing the adoption.

Even in the rare case where an alleged father files the legal paperwork on time, the great majority of these claims are denied because the man has not fulfilled his pre-birth responsibilities to the mother or to the child.  The court then allows the adoption to go forward without his consent and over his objection.

There are some exceptions and limitations to these rules, so it's vital for you to give your attorney all known information about all potential birth fathers. Even if you are embarrassed about some of the the facts, or believe some information will be damaging to your case, telling the whole truth about the situation with the child's birth father helps your attorney to provide you with the very best counsel and assistance regarding your adoption plan.

Legal authorities: Family Code Section 7660 et.seq.

How does my Native American heritage affect my adoption plan?

Because each federally registered Native American tribe has legal rights relating to its children, you must inform  your attorney and the social worker of any possible Native American heritage in your family or the biological father’s family.  The attorney will then notify all possible tribes in which your child might be eligible for enrollment.  Each tribe will respond as to whether the child is eligible for enrollment.

If the child is not eligible for enrollment in any tribe, the adoption can go forward as planned. If the child is eligible for enrollment in one or more tribes, the adoption plan may require the consent of a tribe. 

Even if the tribe agrees to the adoption, the placement process and the timelines for changing your mind about the adoption are very different. You should discuss this carefully with your attorney to ensure that you have accurate information about your situation.

I need help with living expenses or medical expenses during pregnancy; how does that work?

Be prepared to discuss your needs with your attorney, so you can receive appropriate advice as to which expenses may be legally paid by the agency or by the adoptive parents.

The California statute governing payment of expenses during pregnancy is Penal Code Section 273, which says:

273. (a) It is a misdemeanor for any person or agency to offer to pay money or anything of value, or to pay money or anything of value to a parent for the placement for adoption, for the consent to an adoption, or for cooperation in the completion of an adoption of his child. This section does not make it unlawful to pay the maternity-connected medical or hospital and necessary living expenses of the mother preceding and during confinement as an act of charity, as long as the payment is not contingent upon placement of the child for adoption, consent to the adoption, or cooperation in the completion of the adoption.

(b) It is a misdemeanor for any parent to obtain the financial benefits set forth in subdivision (a) with the intent to receive such financial benefits without completing the adoption or without consenting to the adoption.

What does all that mean? It means that the adoptive family is legally and ethically allowed to assist you with expenses that are:

  • directly related to your pregnancy
  • necessary for your welfare and the welfare of your baby; and
  • incurred during the pregnancy and post-delivery recovery period (usually 4-6 weeks, absent unusual medical circumstances).


You must sign a receipt for all items received or paid on you behalf, since the adoptive parents must report all of these payments to the court at the time of adoption finalization.

These payments are unconditional gifts that do not need to be repaid if you change your mind about the adoption plan. However, if you received those payments with no intent to place the child for adoption, you could be prosecuted for fraud.

As a practical matter, this means that you can receive assistance with housing, food, basic utilities, transportation, maternity clothing, and medical expenses. It is not ethical to receive a gift of, or payment for, anything of permanent value that will exceed the length of your pregnancy and recovery, such as a car or furniture. Anyone who offers you these kinds of incentives is working outside the legal boundaries for adoption in California.  And if this person is willing to be dishonest and unethical in this area, they may well be dishonest and unethical with you, as well.

For that reason, be very careful about working with anyone who doesn’t abide by these legal and ethical standards.

 

What if I want legal or personal counseling?

Contact one of the attorneys listed on this site! Academy members are experienced adoption attorneys who will represent your interests. You are entitled to a lawyer of your own, and to counseling, at the expense of the adopting parents, subject to some limitations and conditions.

If counseling will help you during this time, you may choose a counselor yourself, or your attorney can make recommendations based on where you are located. In fact, your attorney will provide or arrange for - at no cost to you - all non-medical services related to your adoption.  

Please see the FAQ about financial assistance for more information about what types of assistance may legally be provided to you as part of your adoption plan. 

How long do I have to change my mind?

That depends on what type of adoption plan you make.

For independent adoptions, you have thirty calendar days after signing the consent to change your mind. However, if you signed a Waiver of the Right to Revoke Consent in front of a judge, your consent is immediately irrevocable, and you cannot change your mind. If you signed the Waiver in front of an Adoption Service Provider or a representative of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), you can change your mind until the Waiver becomes final at the close of the next business day.

For agency adoptions, you have the right to change your mind and revoke the relinquishment until the earlier of:

1. Ten business days have passed since the adoption agency filed your relinquishment documents with CDSS; or

2. CDSS has issued a written Acknowledgement of the relinquishment documents.

There are some exceptions in agency adoptions, such as when the placing parent puts a “hold” on the relinquishment for a specific time period, or if the designated adoptive parents are unable or unwilling to finalize the adoption. Cases subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act also have different timelines for revocation of consent.

Each case is unique, so these general guidelines are just that – general. When it comes to your own adoption plan, your attorney will discuss each option available to you. You will make the decision about whether agency adoption or independent adoption is right for you and your baby.

No matter which type of adoption you select, you have the legal right at any time prior to adoption finalization to ask about the status of the case. So if you are wondering whether your consent is final, or whether the adoption is final, please contact your attorney to answer your questions.

What kind of paperwork do I sign to make an adoption plan?

Again, this depends on what type of adoption plan you choose to make. What’s important to note is that nothing you sign prior to the child’s birth can legally obligate you to place your child for adoption with anyone!

The law requires that you receive sample adoption placement forms before you ever sign the formal adoption papers. This gives you time to review the forms and ask any questions you might have.  

You will be asked to complete some required state forms that provide the adoptive family with your medical and social history. These will probably include the Declaration of Mother (AD880), Information about Birth Mother (AD67) and Information About Birth Father (AD67A). If you have any Native American heritage, you will also complete the Parental Notification of Indian Status (ICWA 10(A) Form), which will be used to give notice to all possible tribes that may have an interest in the child.

You will sign some hospital forms at the time of the baby's discharge, to allow the child to go home with the adoptive parents. These are not the adoption consent forms, but are temporary placement forms to allow the adoptive parents to accept custody, obtain medical care, etc. 

After you have been discharged from the hospital, you may sign the formal adoption paperwork. In an independent adoption, that will be the Independent Adoption Placement Agreement (AD924), the Adoptions Information Act Statement (AD908), and the Statement of Understanding for Independent Adoptions (AD887 or a variation thereof).  For an agency adoption, you will sign a Relinquishment (AD501 or a variation thereof), the Adoptions Information Act Statement (AD908) and the Statement of Understanding Agency Adoptions (AD885 or some variation thereof).

All of the mandatory state forms mentioned above can be viewed on the California Department of Social Services’ website, at: http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/cdssweb/PG164.htm#ad