In September 2016, Samantha Snipes waited on standby for a flight from Atlanta to Raleigh. She was scared and alone. She was due to give birth to a son in three weeks. Samantha had just broken up with the child’s father.
Fortunately, Samantha got the last standby ticket and took her seat on the plane. She began to share her story with the woman seated next to her. Moved, the woman gave Samantha her phone number with instructions to call if she needed anything while she was in the Raleigh area.
An unexpected delivery
Three days later and three weeks early, Vaughn made his entrance into the world. Still alone and without options, Samantha called the woman that she met on the plane. The woman decided to come visit Vaughn and Samantha.
During the visit, Samantha suggested that the woman become Vaughn’s mother. The woman said yes. Soon after, the woman became Vaughn’s legal mother through a North Carolina adoption.
Adoption on their terms
In Samantha’s case, she and Vaughn’s adoptive mother knew each other’s identities. They were able to contact each other. They choose to stay in touch. Samantha is able to visit, and she attends birthday parties and other special occasions. Vaughn’s adoptive mother has full legal rights to the child.
Adoptions in North Carolina are unique
No two adoption stories are completely the same. There are adoptions in extended families. Adoptions occur within the local community and with people in different states. Sometimes, step-parents adopt their step-children. Grandparents adopt their grandchildren. Adoptions can also occur internationally.
You may have heard the phrases open adoption and closed adoption. You might wonder what the differences are. You might wonder whether North Carolina allows for both open and closed adoptions. In North Carolina, an adoption can be open, semi-open or closed. It’s up to the biological parents to choose how much they want to communicate before, during and after an adoption.
If the biological parent wants the adoptive parents to know their identity, they’re free to provide that information to the adoptive parents. The respective parents can have a great deal of communication about whatever topics they choose before, during and after the adoption proceedings. It’s up to the adoptive parents to share information with the child as they see fit. Open adoptions are the most common type of adoptions.
The records stay closed
Even when an adoption is open, North Carolina law says that in general, adoption records are sealed. That means that the complete adoption file is not open for general inspection as a matter of course. A child that wants information about their birth parents may have trouble getting it without consent from the biological parents.
Even when the respective parents communicate directly, the official records stay closed. The biological parent can’t find the child’s contact information through the court paperwork. The adoptive parents can’t request the biological parent’s information, either. Even the child has no standing under the law to request contact information for their biological parents.
What does North Carolina law say about closed adoptions?
The law that governs adoption records in North Carolina is North Carolina law 48-9-102. The law says that records that are created in the adoption process are sealed. The only record that is public is the official decree of adoption.
North Carolina law says that records are even confidential during the adoption process. Records remain sealed after the adoption is finalized. The state keeps a centralized record of adoptions, but members of the public can’t access it.
If a party makes a formal request, the court can consider whether to allow either party to access information. Even if the court allows it, the court must redact identifying information like the biological parent’s name and address. To make this kind of request, the party files a motion with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county that handled the original adoption. Courts generally hesitate to give out information unless the biological parent consents or the biological parent is deceased.
Parents can also decide to have a semi-open adoption. For a semi-open adoption, records remain sealed. The biological parent doesn’t know the identity of the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents don’t know the biological parents. However, the parties work with a third-party intermediary in order to give the biological parent a line of communication with the child.
The biological parent can send letters and cards to the agency. They can even send gifts. The intermediary agency can deliver these items to the adoptive parents without revealing anyone’s identity.
Can a biological parent have visiting rights after an adoption?
Once an adoption is final, the adoptive parents have full legal rights to the child. Having full legal rights to the child means that they control how much the biological parents can contact the child. When a child becomes an adult, they may choose to have contact with their biological parents if they have their information. However, until that time, it’s up to the adoptive parents to decide if and to what extent either biological parent has a role in the child’s upbringing.
How do I know what’s right for me?
Most adoptions in North Carolina involve some amount of information exchange. It’s up to the parents involved to determine what type of adoption they want to have. There are pros and cons to each type of adoption. When a biological parent knows who they want to adopt their child, they already know the adoptive parent’s contact information. An open adoption can leave open a line of communication in case adoptive parents have questions about the child’s family health history. However, if parents prefer to have a closed adoption for a sense of closure and privacy, North Carolina law allows for it, and there are agencies ready and able to facilitate it. A North Carolina adoption attorney can help you choose the best option for you and your family.
Are there other ways to find a biological parent?
With the advent of modern technology, North Carolina law may not be enough to stop a determined child and biological parent from finding each other. Of course, while a child is a minor, their upbringing is left to their legal parents. However, once a child becomes an adult, they can take advantage of DNA profiling companies. These companies help individuals test their DNA and place it in a database in order to find blood relatives. If a person finds a blood relative in the database, they can put the pieces together without ever reviewing a court order.
How can a lawyer help?
A North Carolina adoption lawyer can help you understand the pros and cons of different types of adoptions. They can help you understand how the law applies to your case so that you can make an informed decision about your North Carolina adoption. When you understand the law, your attorney for adoption in North Carolina can help you pursue the best course of action for you and for those that you love.