Changes to Ohio Adoption Laws

Ohio House Bill 7 passed and changes adoption laws in Ohio, that affect private adoptions.

Q. We are a prospective adoptive family. What are some of the changes in Ohio law that could affect us in the process of an adoption?

A. The birthmothers are now allowed up to $3,000 towards living expenses. This is different in that prior to this law; the birthmother was not allowed any living expenses. What has not changed is that the adoptions should not cost her anything. For example, all medical, hospitalization, counseling, attorney and agency costs are paid for by the adoptive family as before.

Q. At what point do we pay her and for what period of time?

A. The law is unclear, however, it does state the birthmother is entitled to living expenses “during her pregnancy up to 60 days after.”

Q. How is this different from previous law?

A. In the previous law, the birthmothers in Ohio were not allowed any living expenses. However, medical, hospital, legal, counseling, attorney and agency costs were all allowed to be covered.

Q. Does she have to show receipts?

A. The law is unclear about this. However, it does state that the $3,000 is for “living expenses.” It would be prudent to have receipts to verify to the Judge that the funds did, in fact, cover living expense, and not as an inducement for her consent.

Q. How does this differ from other states?

A. Most other states do have a “living expenses” allowance for the birthmothers through their pregnancy. Some states have no limit such as California, Texas and New Jersey. Some adoptive parents have spent up to $20,000 or more simply for living expenses. Some states such as Indiana also have a limit of $3,000 living expenses, and in Wisconsin, the limit is $5,000.

Q. Do we pay her $3,000 directly?

A. No. The new law does state that the $3,000 living expenses shall be paid through an attorney or agency.

Q. What if she doesn’t choose a plan of adoption for her child. Do we get the money back?

A. No. She may change her mind about adoption and she is not required by law to reimburse the expenses back to you.

Q. Is there anything else about this new law that may affect our private adoption?

A. This new law covers many issues involved with foster care, adoption evaluation, and jurisdictional issues. I am addressing in this article a few items that affect the private adoption process. In addition to the $3,000 living expenses, items of interest, items of interest with private adoptions may be:

  • The manner and rules adopted for a homestudy shall align with the manner and rules adopted for foster care approval;
  • After a child has been legally placed for adoption with a family, an assessor (social worker) must visit the home within first 7 days and one time monthly until finalization.
  • The new law places more responsibility on the birthparents to
  • “regularly” communicate with the child; and
  • “significantly” support the child for at least one year prior to filing of petition without a justifiable excuse and if they do not; we do not need their consent for the adoption.

Q. When does this new law go into effect?

A. April, 2009.

Attorney Mary Catherine Barrett is an adoption advocate and teaches adoption law as an Adjunct Law Professor at Case Western Reserve University.