Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families - Pennsylvania
What may be included in postadoption contact agreements?
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2731
The purpose of this subchapter is to provide an option for adoptive parents and birth relatives to enter into a voluntary agreement for ongoing communication or contact that:
- Is in the best interests of the child
- Recognizes the parties' interests and desires for ongoing communication or contact
- Is appropriate given the role of the parties in the child's life
- Is subject to approval by the courts
Who may be a party to a postadoption contact agreement?
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2733; 2734
A prospective adoptive parent of a child may enter into an agreement with a birth relative of the child to permit continuing contact or communication between the child and the birth relative or between the adoptive parent and the birth relative. If there are siblings who are free for adoption through the termination of parental rights following a dependency proceeding, and the prospective adoptive parent is not adopting all of the siblings, each such sibling who is younger than age 18 shall be represented by a guardian ad litem in the development of an agreement.
An agency or anyone representing the parties in an adoption shall provide notification to a prospective adoptive parent, a birth parent, and a child who can be reasonably expected to understand that a prospective adoptive parent and birth relative of a child have the option to enter into a voluntary agreement for continuing contact or communication.
If the child is age 12 years or older, an agreement may not be entered into without the child's consent.
What is the role of the court in postadoption contact agreements?
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 2735
An agreement shall be filed with the court that finalizes the adoption of the child. The court shall approve the agreement if the court determines that:
- The agreement has been entered into knowingly and voluntarily by all parties. An affidavit made under oath affirmatively stating that the agreement was entered into knowingly and voluntarily and is not the product of coercion, fraud, or duress must accompany the agreement. The affidavit may be executed jointly or separately.
- The agreement is in the best interests of the child. In making that determination, the court may consider the following:
- The circumstances of and length of time that the child has been under actual care, custody, and control of a person other than a birth parent
- The interaction and relationships of the child with birth relatives and other persons who routinely interact with the birth relatives who may significantly affect the child's best interests
- The adjustment to the child's home, school, and community
- The willingness and ability of the birth relative to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and prospective adoptive parent
- The willingness and ability of the prospective adoptive parent to respect and appreciate the bond between the child and the birth relative
- Any evidence of abuse or neglect of the child
Are agreements legally enforceable?
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2734(b); 2738; 2736
An agreement shall not be legally enforceable unless approved by the court.
Any party to an agreement, a sibling, or a child who is the subject of an agreement may seek enforcement of an agreement by filing an action in the court that finalized the adoption. That party may request only specific performance in seeking to enforce an agreement and may not request monetary damages or modification of an agreement.
For an agreement to be enforceable, it must be in writing and approved by the court on or before the date for any adoption decree. If the child is age 12 or older when the agreement is executed, the child must consent to the agreement at the time of its execution.
Before the court may enter an order enforcing an agreement, it must find all of the following:
- The party seeking enforcement of the agreement is in substantial compliance with the agreement.
- By clear and convincing evidence, enforcement serves the needs, welfare, and best interests of the child.
An agreement shall cease to be enforceable on the date the child turns age 18, unless the agreement stipulates otherwise or is modified by the court. The court issuing final approval of an agreement shall have continuing jurisdiction over enforcement of the agreement until the child turns age 18, unless the agreement stipulates otherwise or is modified by the court.
This section constitutes the exclusive remedy for enforcement of an agreement. No statutory or common law remedy is available for enforcement or damages in connection with an agreement. Failure to comply with the terms of an agreement that has been approved by the court pursuant to this subchapter shall not be grounds for setting aside an adoption decree.
How may an agreement be terminated or modified?
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, §§ 2737; 2739
Only the adoptive parent or a child who is age 12 or older may seek to modify an agreement by filing an action in the court that finalized the adoption. Before the court may enter an order modifying the agreement, it must find by clear and convincing evidence that modification serves the needs, welfare, and best interests of the child.
A party to an agreement or a child who is at least age 12 may seek to discontinue an agreement by filing an action in the court that finalized the adoption. Before the court may enter an order discontinuing an agreement, it must find by clear and convincing evidence that discontinuance serves the needs, welfare, and best interests of the child.