Regulation of Private Domestic Adoption Expenses - California

Date: May 2022

Birth Parent Expenses Allowed

Citation: Fam. Code § 8812; Penal Code § 273(b)

Any request by a birth parent or birth parents for payment by the prospective adoptive parents of attorney's fees, medical fees and expenses, counseling fees, or living expenses of the birth mother shall be in writing. The birth parent or parents shall provide the prospective adoptive parents with written receipts for any money provided to the birth parent or birth parents. The prospective adoptive parents shall provide the receipts to the court when the accounting report required pursuant to § 8610 is filed.

It is not unlawful to pay or receive 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.

Birth Parent Expenses Not Allowed

Citation: Penal Code § 273(d)

It is unlawful for the birth mother to accept payments that exceed reasonable maternity-related medical and hospital costs and necessary living expenses.

Allowable Payments for Arranging Adoption

Citation: Penal Code § 273(a)

It is unlawful for any person or agency to pay, offer to pay, or to receive money or anything of value for the placement for adoption or for the consent to an adoption of a child. This does not apply to any fee paid for adoption services provided by the State Department of Social Services, a licensed adoption agency, adoption services providers, or an attorney providing adoption legal services.

Allowable Payments for Relinquishing Child

Citation: Penal Code § 273(c)-(d)

It is unlawful for any parent to obtain financial benefits with the intent to receive those financial benefits when there is an intent to do either of the following:

  • Not complete the adoption
  • Not consent to the adoption

It is unlawful for any parent to obtain financial benefits from two or more prospective adopting families or persons if either parent knowingly fails to disclose to those families or persons that there are other prospective adopting families or persons interested in adopting the child, and the parent knows that there is an obligation to disclose that information.

Allowable Fees Charged by Department/Agency

Citation: Fam. Code § 8810; Code of Regs., Tit. 22, § 89137

Whenever a petition is filed for the adoption of a child, the petitioner shall pay a nonrefundable fee to the Department of Social Services or to the delegated county adoption agency for the cost of investigating the adoption petition. Payment shall be made to the department or delegated county adoption agency for an amount as follows:

  • For petitions filed on and after October 1, 2008: $4,500
  • For petitioners who have a valid preplacement evaluation at the time of filing a petition: $1,550 for a postplacement evaluation

The department or delegated county adoption agency may reduce the fee to no less than $500 when the prospective adoptive parents are of very low income, according to the income limits published by the Department of Housing and Community Development, and making the required payment would be detrimental to the welfare of an adopted child. The department shall develop additional guidelines to determine the financial criteria for waiver or reduction of the fee.

In regulation: A fee of $500 shall be charged by a public adoption agency. A county adoption agency or the department may waive, defer, or reduce the fee when its payment would cause economic hardship to the adopting parents, would be detrimental to the adopted child, or if necessary to obtain the placement of a hard-to-place child. If the fee is waived, reduced, or deferred, the case record shall reflect the basis upon which the decision is made.

No private adoption agency shall charge or collect any fee for its services unless and until it has submitted to and obtained the approval of the department with respect to both the maximum fee that may be charged and the agency's fee payment plan.

Accounting of Expenses Required by Court

Citation: Fam. Code § 8610

The petitioners in an adoption proceeding shall file with the court a full accounting report of all disbursements of anything of value made or agreed to be made by them or on their behalf in connection with the birth of the child, the placement of the child with the petitioners, any medical or hospital care received by the child's birth mother or the child in connection with the child's birth, any other expenses of either birth parent, or the adoption. The accounting report shall be made under penalty of perjury and shall be submitted to the court on or before the date set for the hearing on the adoption petition, unless the court grants an extension of time.

The accounting report shall be itemized in detail and shall show the services relating to the adoption or to the placement of the child for adoption that were received by the petitioners, either birth parent, the child, or any other person for whom payment was made by or on behalf of the petitioners. The report shall also include the dates of each payment, and the names and addresses of each attorney, physician and surgeon, hospital, licensed adoption agency, or other person or organization that received any funds in connection with the adoption or the placement of the child.

This section does not apply to an adoption by a stepparent when one birth parent or adoptive parent retains custody and control of the child.