When an adoptive and birth family agree to have an open adoption, they enter into a post-adoption contact agreement. Most of the time, these are informal agreements based on trust. However, sometimes these contact agreements are written down in the form of a formal contract.
In most states, post-adoption contact agreements are not true contracts. That is, they are not legally enforceable. Even if both parties sign an agreement with the agency to an open adoption, the contract can be broken at any time without legal consequences. When a contract agreement through an agency is broken, typically the agency will reach out to the other party and request contact. If they refuse, sometimes the agency will not work with them should they try to adopt again. This is all they can do.
Nevertheless, some states do allow legally binding open-adoption contracts. This means that if the contract is broken, a judge can order the contact to be made. This typically only applies when adoptive parents withhold the photos or visitation promised in the contract. Birth parents are not usually ordered to have contact.
If the adoptive family refuses to make contact even after a judge has ordered it, there are potential charges and fines. Even so, most of the time adoptive parents are not punished for breaking the contract.
In special circumstances when the adoptive family feels that openness is harmful to the child, they can appeal to the courts to have the contract annulled. This way they are not held responsible when they refuse the contract they had initially agreed to.
To find out if adoption contracts are legal in your state, your best bet is to search your local laws or contact an attorney. Regardless of the law, the moral thing to do is to continue the contact that was originally agreed to as long as both parties are healthy and safe.
Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.