Do you have to pay child support if you give up your child for adoption? The short answer is no, you don´t. Like many legal questions, however, the answer isn’t quite that simple once you look at it closely. Under certain circumstances you might still owe child support payments. Under other circumstances, a bureaucratic mistake could cause you to receive demands for child support payments that you do not owe.
What Is Adoption?
Adoption is the permanent transfer of all parental rights and responsibilities from one person or couple to another person or couple. In effect, the adoptive parents become the adopted child’s new parents, regardless of their biological relationship or lack thereof. The number of annual adoptions in the United States exceeds 135,000.
Does Adoption Affect Child Support Obligations?
Yes. Since adoption always involves the permanent transfer of all parental rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parent or parents, an adoption relieves the birth parent of all financial responsibilities toward the child.
Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights
In some adoptions, the child’s birth parents voluntarily terminate their parental rights. To do so, you must submit (i) a petition to terminate your parental rights and (ii) a release of custody signed by the parent giving up their rights.
Once the court approves these documents, you will lose your parental rights forever. If you choose and the adoptive parent agrees, you can make arrangements with the adoptive parent, to maintain social relations with your child even after the adoption.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
In relatively unusual cases, a court may intervene to involuntarily terminate a birth parent’s parental rights. Grounds for involuntary termination include:
- Physical or sexual abuse of the child,
- Failure to pay child support,
- Long-term imprisonment of a parent, and
- Other grounds that affect the best interests of the child.
If one of the grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights applies, a court will issue an order terminating all parental rights. The next step is typically foster care adoption. The Iowa Department of Human Services is responsible for initiating involuntary termination of parental rights when foster parents are involved.
Regardless of whether the termination of parental rights is voluntary or involuntary, the end result is the same—the birth parent loses parental rights and no longer needs to pay child support expenses that arise after the date of termination.
Back Child Support
Despite the fact that adoption relieves you from any further child support obligations, this relief does not work retroactively. If you were paying child support payments before you relinquished parental rights, you will be expected to pay them in full up to the date of your relinquishment of parental rights. In other words, if you owe back child support, an adoption will not relieve you of the obligation to pay this amount. Contact a family legal matters lawyer to help you with any payment disputes.
The Period After Termination of Your Parental Rights But Before the Adoption Is Finalized
A certain period of time will elapse between the time you sign relinquishment papers and the time an adoption is finalized. In fact, an Iowa court will not finalize an adoption until the child has lived with the adoptive parents for at least 180 days. Nevertheless, you are relieved from all child support obligations that arise after you sign the relinquishment papers. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must pay child support payments until an adoption is actually finalized.
If you are being billed for child support after an adoption, the State of Iowa might be at fault. After all, bureaucratic mistakes occur from time to time. It is possible that the Iowa Department of Human Services did not receive notification that someone has adopted your child or that you relinquished your parental rights. If so, it might not be aware of its obligation to terminate your child support obligations.
In this case you will need to contact the agency.
Come armed with a lot of patience and persistence, because you are probably going to need it. You are probably going to need copies of the documents terminating your parental rights (a petition or a court order), and you might even need proof that the adoption has been finalized. Insist that the officials provide you with written evidence that your child support obligation has terminated.
If this approach doesn’t work, you are probably going to need to hire a child support attorney to help you. Your lawyer might, for example, demand an audit of your account concerning child support payments and arrears.
Reversal of an Adoption
If a court reverses the adoption, it might reimpose your child support obligations. The reversal of an adoption is a rare event in Iowa, however. It might occur, for example, if the birth father is unknown at the time of the adoption but later emerges and seeks reversal of the adoption.
The reversal of an adoption through the efforts of both birth parents is also possible.
Under either of the two foregoing scenarios, the court will reverse an adoption only if it believes that a reversal will benefit the best interests of the child, all factors considered. It is highly unlikely that an Iowa family court will make such a ruling. Consequently, reinstatement of child support obligations following the reversal of an adoption is a rare occurrence.
It’s Time to Start Fighting Back
The family law legal practitioner at 303 Legal, P.C. have helped many clients deal with adoption. We also enjoy extensive experience fighting successfully to prevent family courts from imposing unfair child support obligations on our clients. If you plan to give up your child for adoption, or if you received a surprise bill for child support, it is time for you to contact an attorney.
Now is the time to act. Fill out our online contact form, call us at 319-423-3031, or visit our office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, so that we can schedule you a case consultation.