Adoptive Parent

- As a prospective adoptive parent you need to fully understand the adoption process. You need to be aware of the potential risks and heartbreaks as well as the happier moments.
- As a prospective adoptive parent under NH law you can be asked to pay certain expenses of the birth mother.
- As a prospective adoptive parent or adoptive stepparent you will have certain responsibilities towards the child you are adopting.
- As a prospective adoptive parent you need to understand how difficult and emotionally charged a decision this is for the birth parent.
- We are here to assist you in understanding the legal process and your rights and responsibilities.

Birth Parent

- As a birth parent thinking about placing your child for adoption you need to understand that we know how difficult and emotionally charged a decision it can be. You need to understand that it is ok to have different thoughts on different days. You need to be comfortable with your choice to place your child for adoption.
- As a birth parent thinking about placing your child for adoption we can help you understand the process and obtain the legal, emotional, counseling and medical support you need. It is not a process that you have to go through alone.
- As a birth parent thinking about placing your child for adoption you need to know that you have choices you can make about the adoptive parents and the degree of openness of your adoption.
- As a birth parent thinking about placing your child for adoption you need to know that often the adoptive parents pay your legal, uncovered medical and counseling fees as well as living expenses. As your legal counsel we still work for you and support any choice you make. Our goal is not to make sure that you place your child for adoption but rather that you feel comfortable with your choice, that you are aware of all your options and that whatever decision you make it was made freely and voluntarily and without pressure.

What is adoption:

Adoption is a formal legal proceeding where the birth parents have either consented to an adoption of their child or relinquished their parental rights and new parents (adoptive) are substituted. NH law requires that an unrelated child live with the adoptive couple six months before the adoption will be final. During the first six months the adoptive couple will have what is called an Interlocutory Decree. It is also during that six month period that the agency doing the home study conducts what are called post placement visits to see how the new parents and the child are doing. Once the post placement visits are completed the agency will file a report with the court recommending finalization of the adoption. The birth certificate with the biological parents names on it is sealed and a new birth certificate is issued with the adoptive couple as the parents.

A stepparent adoption is a formal legal proceeding where one of the biological parents has either consented to the adoption or has had their parental rights terminated and the step parent and the remaining biological parent adopt the child. A new birth certificate is generally issued substituting the name of the stepparent for the name of the biological parent on the certificate. A stepparent adoption is final the day of the adoption.


In all non-related child adoptions the law requires the adoptive couple to have a home study conducted by a licensed child-placing agency. The cost of the study varies from agency to agency. The purpose of the home study is to determine whether the adoptive home is a suitable home for the child and whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child.

The birth father won't agree to the adoption:

In NH in certain situations a birth mother is not required to name/identify the birth father. In some cases the birth father has the right to be notified about the adoption. In those situations where the birth father needs to be notified he can put a stop to the adoption if he does not agree with it.

Paternity Registry:

If you are a birth father and you believe that a child you have fathered is going to be placed for adoption and you do not agree with the adoption and you want to support the child you can register your name with the Office of Child Support on a form provided by that office.

What is an open adoption / Are there open adoptions in NH?

An open adoption is where the adoptive couple and the birth parent(s) have some type of contact during the process and often after the adoption is final. The level and degree of openness depends greatly on everyone's level of comfort with the open adoption process. Often an open adoption can include meeting the adoptive couple, an ongoing exchange of cards and letters and pictures and sometimes ongoing contact and visits after the adoption is final. Each adoption is different and often as time goes by there is less frequent contact as everyone moves on with their lives.

Under NH law, an adoptive couple once the adoption process is completed is guaranteed an "undisturbed relationship with the child from and after the date of adoption." The law in New Hampshire goes on to state that open adoptions are neither encouraged or discouraged and that any agreements with respect to post relinquishment or post consent exchange of identifying or non-identifying information, communication or contact are not binding or enforceable at law or in equity. Thus open adoptions are not legally sanctioned in NH. However, the law does not preclude the adoptive couple and the birth parent(s) from making their own "side agreement". Any agreement made about exchanging cards, letters, pictures, etc. is not enforceable through the court should any party decide not to follow the agreement.

How are my expenses paid?

Under NH law the adoptive couple can be asked to pay certain expenses of the natural parent. They include reasonable counseling, medical and legal fees, reasonable expenses for transportation, meals, clothing and lodging incurred for placement of the child, reasonable expenses for adoption services provided by an agency, reasonable living expenses which are necessary to maintain an adequate standard of living which the natural mother is unable to maintain due to loss of income or other support resulting from the pregnancy. Payments can cover expenses incurred during the pregnancy but are not to continue for a period longer than six (6) weeks following delivery of the baby. Typically the expenses are paid directly to the counselor, doctor, lawyer, etc. providing the service.

Contracts between adoptive parents and natural parents to have the natural parents payback money advanced during the pregnancy if the natural parent refuses to consent to the adoption or withdraws their consent are considered under the law in New Hampshire to be void as against public policy.

Remember just because the adoptive couple is paying your legal expenses and counseling expenses it does not mean that the attorney or the counselor is working for anybody but you.

What is in an at risk placement?

Under NH law the earliest any birth parent can sign either a consent to adopt or a relinquishment is 72 hours after giving birth. The reality is it often takes much longer than 72 hours to assemble all the paperwork. The most important thing however is that no birth parent signs anything until they are sure they are ready to sign and comfortable with their decision. Most babies are discharged from the hospital sooner than 72 hours after they are born. An at risk placement is where the birth parent(s) permit the adoptive couple to take the baby home from the hospital and care for it. Both the birth parent(s) and the adoptive couple sign agreements outlining the at risk placement and acknowledge that until such time as the birth parent(s) go before the court and either consent or relinquish, the baby is legally the child of the birth parent(s).

Some birth parents and adoptive couples are not comfortable with at risk placements so a pre-adoptive "foster" home is used to care for the baby until the birth parent(s) have signed their consent or relinquishment.

What is a consent or relinquishment?

A consent or relinquishment is a paper document that a birth parent signs allowing the adoption to take place. By signing the paper you agree that you are giving up certain rights and responsibilities and you also acknowledge that you are signing the documents freely and voluntarily and that nobody is forcing you to sign.

In most counties consents or relinquishments are taken by going to the Probate or Family Court and meeting with the Judge. In most counties consents or relinquishments are taken by the Judge in his or her chambers. Whether done in chambers or in the courtroom the process is a closed one and the general public is not allowed to come in and observe.

When the Judge takes your consent or relinquishment they will ask you a series of questions. Some Judges ask many questions some ask very few. The important thing to remember is that the Judge is not there to judge you but to make sure you understand what you are signing and that you are doing so freely and voluntarily. Judges understand how difficult this decision has been and they have the utmost respect for you and your decision but they have to be comfortable that you are comfortable with your decision.

I want my new spouse to adopt my child how can I do this?

This is commonly referred to as a step parent adoption. You either need the consent of the child's other parent or you have to have terminated their parental rights before an adoption can occur. No home study is required in a step parent adoption and generally there is no Interlocutory Decree and the adoption is final the same day. You can choose to substitute your new spouse's name on the birth certificate and to change all or some of your child's name as well.

What is termination of parental rights?

Termination of parental rights is a formal legal process in the Probate or Family Court where either the State of NH or a private party seeks to terminate (end) a parents parental rights over their child. There are several grounds (reasons) for terminating parental rights, the most common are abandonment, failure to support and failure to correct. Failure to correct is most commonly used by the State of NH Division for Children Youth and Families (DCYF) after an abuse and neglect proceeding in the District Courts.

In all terminations the Court is required to appoint a Guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the best interests of the child. The GAL conducts an investigation and interviews the parents and the child and others and reports back to the Court on what would be in the child's best interests. In private terminations the petitioner is responsible for the fees of the GAL unless they have filed a petition with the Court seeking to have the Court Fund pay the fees in the first instance. If the Court grants this petition the parents can be asked to reimburse the Court Fund.

If the Probate Court terminates the parental rights of the parent(s) then once any appeal period has run the child is deemed to be "free" for adoption and the adoption petition can be filed.

What is the ICPC?

ICPC is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. The ICPC requires that before a child is brought into New Hampshire or allowed to leave New Hampshire for the purpose of adoption an application must be made to the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. The commissioner must review the application and give permission for the child to either be sent from New Hampshire or received into New Hampshire.

What happens to the birth certificate when we adopt?

Once your adoption is final the Register of the Probate Court sends a notice to the town clerk where the baby was born to send the adopting parents a certified copy of the amended (new) birth certificate. The former birth certificate with the names of the natural parents is sealed. The amended birth certificate makes no reference to the adoption and is as identical as possible to the first birth certificate.

We have tried to have a child for many years but can't and are now considering adoption, what do we do first?

Gather your information about the process and then tell everyone you know that you want to adopt. You should also consider putting together a profile. A profile is many things and sometimes it is as simple as a from the heart letter to the birth parent(s), other profiles contain pictures, family backgrounds, educational and work histories, etc. There is no magic formula for any profile and often when speaking with birth parents about the couple they choose they say something just clicked when they read that particular profile.

Some adoptive parents go through agencies where they pay a flat fee for the adoption. Many agencies have long lists of adoptive parent(s) waiting for babies. With an agency adoption the adoptive parents often are not aware of the baby until after the birth parents have signed the relinquishments. Some agencies are however participating in open adoptions where the natural parents review profiles of adoptive parents and sometimes there is a meeting between the couples.

A private adoption is one where an agency is not used and the adoptive parent(s) and the birth parent(s) come together by a number of means. Sometimes attorneys have birth parents looking for adoptive couples and sometimes attorneys have profiles on hand of adoptive parent(s) looking to adopt. Some people meet through the Internet and others are brought together because they happened to mention the idea to a friend who knew somebody who wanted to place a child for adoption.

While there is no legal requirement that adoptive parents have legal counsel, in private adoptions, both the adoptive and birth parent(s) should have competent legal counsel to assist them in the adoption process. In some counties in the State the Court will not take a birth parent consent or relinquishment unless they have legal counsel to represent them.
Contact us today and schedule an appointment to learn more about adoption law and the steps you need to take.