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Is Open Adoption Legally Enforceable in Iowa?

If you’re a prospective birth or adoptive parent considering open adoption, you might be worried about the other party of the adoption keeping their postadoption communication agreement. It’s an understandable concern; entering into an agreement for the next decade with someone you hardly know can be awkward and intimidating.

So, in protecting your best interests, you may ask, “Is open adoption legally enforceable in Iowa?”

Unfortunately, Iowa laws do not address the legal enforceability of postadoption contact agreements — which can lead to some legal murkiness as you prepare to enter an open adoption.

Before you agree to this kind of adoption, we recommend you contact the Nelson Law Firm, PLLC, to better understand your rights in open adoption. We can also help you draft a written postadoption contact agreement which, while not legally binding, will be helpful as you move forward with your adoption. To begin that legal process today, please contact our offices at 319-291-6161.

While open adoptions are not legally enforceable in Iowa, that shouldn’t discourage you from pursuing an open adoption. In our experience, the majority of prospective birth and adoptive parents who choose open adoption do so with the full intention of keeping their contact agreement. Because open adoption is just as important to adoptive parents as it is to birth parents, it’s unlikely that any party to an open adoption agreement with purposefully break their end of the bargain.

There are many benefits to open adoption for all involved, and 95 percent of adoptions completed today have some degree of openness. For the best interest of the child at the center of the adoption, you should try your best to maintain an honest relationship with the other party of your open adoption, even when it’s difficult.

Here are some steps you can take to make sure your open adoption relationship is successful:

1. Create a written postadoption contact agreement.

While these agreements cannot be legally enforced in Iowa, detailing contact expectations as early as possible (even before the child is born) will help both parties better understand their own contact preferences and what they can look forward to. Having those expectations written on paper may also hold parties more accountable than a verbal agreement would.

2. Choose an adoption professional who can mediate your contact.

While many adoptive families and birth parents communicate directly through email, letters and social media, we recommend that your contact is mediated by an adoption professional — at least until you become comfortable with your new adoption situation. This way, if you have concerns about the frequency of communication or a missed contact meeting, your mediator can step in with a professional, non-confrontational way to solve the issue. This is usually a better solution than you confronting the other party in a way that may harm your open adoption relationship.

3. Get to know the other party of the adoption.

Because your contact agreement will be based on trust and respect rather than legal consequences, getting to know the birth parents or adoptive parents before the adoption begins can be critical to ensure a successful open adoption. Meeting with the other party of the adoption allows you to ask any questions you have about their expectations for and commitment to an open adoption before an agreement is actually signed. In addition, building a relationship with the birth or adoptive parents will create a personal connection that can motivate each party to better keep up their communication.

4. Maintain communication no matter what.

While it can be tempting to retaliate by withholding communication if one party fails to make contact on time, it’s important to still hold up your end of the contact agreement. Rarely is communication late or missed on purpose; most likely, a birth or adoptive parent is overwhelmed at some situation in their life and the communication slipped their mind. If you keep up your end of the contact agreement, it will remind them of their responsibilities and likely motivate them to return to their past communication frequency as quickly as possible. Your communication may also mean a great deal to them if they’re in a trying period of their life.

An open adoption will likely come with some challenges but, if you remain honest and dedicated throughout the process, the inability to legally enforce the agreement will have no negative effect on the success of your adoption. As many birth parents and adoptive parents can attest to, the enforceability of an agreement rarely is needed; each party is dedicated to their communication in the best interest of the child involved.

If you have any questions about your rights in open adoption, whether you’re a prospective birth or adoptive parent, please contact the Nelson Law Firm, PLLC today at 319-291-6161.

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