Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Revocation periods

   For a couple of days I have been researching about the thing that makes many potential adoptive parents nervous: the revocation period. This is basically the time frame in which the biomom has the opportunity to change her mind about the adoption plan and regain custody of the child, even if she has already signed the adoption paperwork and the baby is already living with the adoptive parents. The other period that is often-nerve wracking is the waiting period before the biomom can sign. While some states allow the biomom to sign as soon after the birth as she would like (or even before the birth, in a few cases), others impose a waiting period of 2-5 days. Since our agency does quite a few interstate adoptions, and we have said that we are open to stork-drop situations, our social worker said it would be a good idea to become familiar with the different states' policies to know if there are any states we aren't comfortable working with. So, I've decided to share my research here, hoping it can save someone else some time!

      It is important to know that the revocation period is based on where the biomom gave birth. If she is from Tennessee but gave birth in Florida, Florida laws apply. If the adoptive parents live in
Michigan but traveled to Missouri to pick up the baby because that is where the biomom lives and
gave birth, Missouri laws apply. Paternity laws (which can impact the revocation period if the biodad wants to contest the adoption) tend to go off of the state where the baby was conceived, or the state where the biodad lives. So, yeah, it can get tricky.
     Alright, so here is my beautiful chart showing the state, how long after birth the biomom has to wait to sign the paperwork, the length of the revocation period, and the average time until the adoption is finalized. There are a couple tiny details several major, situation altering stipulations that I included below. So, don't get too attached to anything you see about a particular state until you have read all of the modifiers below!

*I have to be honest, I was really confused trying to decipher the various California laws that I found in different places-- lots of "except in the case of..." or "unless the situation involves..."
** I did find 1 source saying that Hawaii now imposed a 32 day waiting period before a birth mother could sign the paperwork, but I couldn't find anything to verify this.
***I found conflicting information on this, but the wording of the legal statute seems to indicate that revocation is allowed until the court has granted the adoption.

         There are three things that can significantly modify the information listed here: paternity, if the biomom is a minor, and if the biomom or biodad is First Nation/Native American. Different states have different ways of dealing with unknown paternity, if a biomom is refusing to disclose the biodad's name even if she knows it, if the biodad is incarcerated or currently standing trial, if the pregnancy was a result of rape, or if the biodad wants to protest the adoption. Some states allow the biomom to revoke if the biodad begins to challenge the adoption, even if it is outside of the typical revocation period. Basically, things can get complicated based on the specific circumstance. Also, different states have different laws if the biomom is a minor. In some, it doesn't matter. In others, it affects where she can sign the papers (in some states she can't be on hospital property-- you will actually have to walk out of the hospital and across the street). And, sometimes, it is even more complicated, such as her needing to obtain a legal representative to witness her signing and verify she is competent to make that decision. Finally, any state statutes get trumped by tribal council in the case of a child born to a parent of Native American heritage. The details are just way too much to try to include here, but just know that this is one instance where the baby's heritage will actually change the legal proceedings of the adoption.

     The exception to the revocation periods I have seen (apart from more complicated biodad situations, as discussed above) is that nearly all states have a period of allowing revocation in the case of "fraud, duress, or coercion." Each state is different in terms of what evidence is needed to determine that this was the case, and also in terms of what this extended period is. Some states that do not have a revocation period at all allow 3 months for this, some allow an extra 30 days or 90 days on top of the original revocation period, some until finalization, some allow a significantly extended period of time (2 years in Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and South Dakota), and others don't have a legally binding specified cutoff for filing a revocation due to these extenuating circumstances, but appear to handle these on a case-by-case basis. I didn't include the fraud/duress/coercion modifiers for each state simply because I hope that they won't be significant. I don't say that in a way that is naive or dismissive of the fact that coercion towards adoption still happens, but because we are being very careful to stay away from any situation that even gives the hint that something unethical could be happening.

     Finally, many states have vague comments about their average finalization period, such as "at the determination of the court" (translation: it is a case-by-case basis) or "in accordance with the availability of the court" (translation: whenever we get to it). Others simply don't provide information about their average finalization period.

    So, there's that. Hopefully someone will find that helpful!


  1. Hi! Found your blog through the forums and thought I'd take a look. Nice start!

    It's important to note that the time between birth and TPR is a *minimum*. So, while a new mom might be allowed to sign the papers 12 hours after birth (in Kansas), she does not have to sign the papers then. There is no maximum. Some birth parents take their babies home to say good-bye, for example, and sign a few weeks after birth. Too often, new moms (and, I suppose, dads, though not in our cases) are pressured into thinking they *must* sign papers X hours or days after birth, when this is not the case. (Unless social services is involved, which is a whole other ball of wax.)

  2. Thanks! And, thank you for pointing that out about the time period for signing TPR.

  3. Hi! Thanks for the info, but I'd like to clarify the revocation period for Florida! For newborns to 6 months old, there is a zero day revocation period. The 3 day revocation period only applies to children over he age of 6 months at the time of placement.

  4. Hi! Thanks for the info, but I'd like to clarify the revocation period for Florida! For newborns to 6 months old, there is a zero day revocation period. The 3 day revocation period only applies to children over he age of 6 months at the time of placement.