The term "birth mother" is commonly understood to mean a woman who has placed her child for adopotion; however, in many instances, it refers to a woman who is thinking about placing her child for adoption.  If you are an adoption agency, birth mother or know someone that is contemplating adoption, the BULLEIGH LAW FIRM can help.  The following information concerns the legal process of adoption and how it affects the birth mother under Oklahoma law.
The birth mother typically starts the adoption planning process during her pregnancy by filing a "Notice of Plan for Adoption" with the assistance of an adoption agency or attorney.  The Notice of Plan for Adoption provides notice to the putative father that an adoption is being considered and provides notice of his legal rights.  Under Oklahoma law, the birth mother is not required or obligated to file a Notice of Plan for Adoption.  Also, she is not required to go through with the adoption if she experiences a change of heart before the child is born or before she appears before a judge to give her consent for the adoption.  See Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 7503-3.1.
The birth mother cannot validly and legally consent to the adoption of her child prior to the birth of her child.  See Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 7503-2.2.  In order to validly and legally consent, she must appear before a judge at a judicial hearing after her child is born.  During the hearing, the birth mother will testify and likely be asked questions by the judge.  After the birth mother's testimony, the judge will certify the birth mother's consent was freely, voluntarily, and intelligently given.  See Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 7503-2.4.  The birth mother of a Native American child may not give her consent until after the child is ten days old under the Indian Child Welfare Act.  See 25 U.S.C. § 1913.
If the birth mother is 16 years of age or older, she may sign a legal consent for adoption without the necessity of obtaining permission from her parents or legal guardian.  If the birth mother is younger than 16 years of age, the birth mother's consent must be accompanied by the written consent of the birth mother's parents or guardian.  See Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 7503-2.1
If the birth mother fails to disclose the identity of the putative father or reveal his location, she must be advised that a lack of the father's medical and genetic history could be detrimental to her child.  Additionally, she should be advised that making any false statement under oath regarding the identity or whereabouts of the putative father made with the intent to obstruct the truth, could be grounds for perjury.  See Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 7505-4.3.
The birth mother may legally consent to the adoption of her child with or without the consent of the birth father; however, the adoption will not be finalized until the birth father consents to the adoption in writing which consent must be accepted by the court.  The adoption may also proceed if the court rules that the birth father's parental rights should be terminated or that his consent is not required.  See Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 7503-2.1 and  7505-4.2.
At any time before the birth of her child, the birth mother may change her mind about the placement of her child for adoption.  However, once she has signed her Permanent Relinquishment and Consent to Adoption before the judge, her consent is irrevocable.  Her consent will not be revoked unless she can prove to the satisfaction of a judge that her revocation of consent would be in the best interest of the child.  She must also prove by clear and convincing evidence that her consent was obtained by fraud or duress, or by a preponderance of the evidence that the birth father's rights have not been terminated, or without good cause, a petition for adoption was not filed within nine (9) months after she signed her consent.  See Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 7503-2.7.  For the birth mother of a Native American child, the birth mother may revoke her consent, even after appearing before a judge, at any time and for any reason until an order terminating parental rights has been entered or an order of a final decree of adoption has been entered.  See 25 U.S.C. § 1913.
If the birth mother consents to the adoption, but the putative father will not consent or cannot be located, a motion must be filed with the court to either terminate the putative father's parental rights or the court must enter a ruling that the consent of the other parent is not required.  For more information, on this specific situation please see our section on Termination of Parental Rights.
Generally, the birth mother participates in the selection of the adoptive parents; however, this issue is not specifically addressed in the Oklahoma statutes.  The birth parents of Native American children may also participate in the selection of the adoptive parents, but the federal placement procedures in the Indian Child Welfare Act must be followed.  See 25 U.S.C. § 1901, et. seq.
After the birth of the child, the birth mother may see, hold, feed, and care for the infant as much as she desires, as long as she has not yet surrendered her rights to the infant.  The birth mother may also decline to see the infant; however, the opportunity may not be denied her.
Prior to the issuance of a final decree of adoption, an affidavit must be filed which discloses all of the costs, funds, or monies paid by the adoptive family or expected to be paid by the adoptive family in connection with the adoption.  The adoptive family is authorized to pay an initial amount not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500) without prior judicial approval.  The costs may include the following:
  • Reasonable attorney fees and court costs,
  • Reasonable medical expenses for the birth mother and child to be adopted,
  • Reasonable adoption counseling expenses for birth parents before and after the birth of the minor, not to exceed six (6) months from placement of the child,
  • Reasonable fees of a licensed child-placement agency,
  • Reasonable living expenses for housing, food, clothing, utilities, and other necessities of the birth mother that are incurred during the adoption process or during her pregnancy, not to exceed two (2) months after the birth of the minor or after the consent of the birth mother,
  • Reasonable costs for travel of the birth mother or child which are incurred for medical or adoption placement needs,
  • Reasonable expenses for a home study, and
  • Reasonable expenses legally required by any governmental entity related to the adoption of the child.
Under Oklahoma law, it is a felony offense to accept, solicit, offer, pay or transfer any compensation, in money, property or other thing of value, at any time, by any person in connection with the adoption of a minor child, except as ordered by a court and except as as provided for under Oklahoma's adoption laws.  See Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 866.  This crime is known as trafficking in children. 
During the adoption process, the birth mother and adoptive parents may develop a plan for ongoing communication after the adoption is finalized.  This plan is voluntary and may be severed by the adoptive parents at any time after the adoption is finalized.  This is because after the final decree of adoption has been entered, all of the birth mother's parental legal rights are completely relinquished.  She has no rights to know the whereabouts of the adopted child, to see the adopted child, or to have anything to say about the care, custody, or control of the adopted child.  In most situtations, the adoptive parents willingly follow through with the voluntary communication plans, but the birth mother has no legal recourse if the adoptive parents change their minds about the communication plan. 
Only in limited circumstances can a court order visitation for the birth mother.  If the child resided with the birth mother before being adopted, the adoptive parents and that birth mother may enter into an agreement regarding communication with, visitation of or contact between the child, adoptive parents and birth mother after the adoption proceedings have concluded.  The terms of this agreement must be agreed to by the adoptive parents and the birth mother.  The agreement must be set forth in a written court order to be enforceable; however, any disputes must be first submitted to mediation before the initiation of court action.  If mediation fails, a court may only modify the agreement if the adoptive parents agree or if there are "extraordinary circumstances."  See Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 7505-1.5.
During the legal process, a birth mother may sign a form keeping birth records confidential, and as such, maintain her confidentiality.  For the welfare of the child, birth mothers are strongly encouraged to provide non-identifying medical and social history information about the child to the adoptive parents.  See Okla. Stat. tit. 10, § 7504-1.1Oklahoma law strongly prefers that a birth mother follow the legal adoption process for consenting to adoption; however, Oklahoma has enacted a "Safe Haven" law.  Under this law, a birth mother may remain anonymous and will not  be prosecuted for abandonment if she leaves her child with a "medical provider" or "child rescuer" before the child is seven (7) days old with indications that she has no intention of returning or resuming care for the child.   See Okla. Stat. tit. 10A, § 1-2-109.
If you have any questions or believe that the BULLEIGH LAW FIRM can be of service to you or someone you know, please do not hestitate to contact us at your convenience.
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