We walk a fine line between paying for adoption costs and ensuring that money or goods aren’t “traded” for a baby; in a private adoption many agencies will pass birth parent expenses off to the hopeful adoptive parents. But what, exactly, do those expenses include? With more than 40 states in America regulating this category, it’s not always the same for every adoption, but listed below are some of the standards. (For more information specific to your state, check out the government’s Child Welfare page.

– Birth parent expenses are to be “reasonable and customary.” So living expenses on par with the local average may be allowed, but a penthouse on Park Avenue is probably not going to be charged to an adoption.

– Maternity costs and related medical health costs.

– Counseling fees and attorney fees for the birth parents. (Before you get all concerned, you WANT your child’s first parents to have access to both—it serves no one if his birth mother felt coerced or suffered from untreated mental illness. Same with bio-dad, if applicable.) Different states differ on how long counselling can be charged to the hopeful adoptive parents, so make sure you know ahead of time whether you will be paying for six months (Oklahoma) or two months (Iowa).

– Costs incurred during court visits, like lodging, travel monies, and food.

– All states that regulate adoption expenses have set dates on how long post-placement the adoptive parents may be charged, and most set it around 60 days after the child has been relinquished.

– All fees and expenses are to come through a licensed agency—this works to prevent paid-placement or middlemen in an adoption.

– Most states require an affidavit or receipts itemizing any birth parent expenses (as well as all agency fees) presented to the court at or before finalization.

Written by Jennifer Galan