In the past, adoption usually meant that the birth parent placed the child for adoption and never saw him or her again. The adoptive parents typically did not have any specific information about who the birth parents were or how to get in contact with them. This is why you have many stories of adults seeking their birth parents, something that was very hard in a pre-internet world.

Today, though, things have shifted. A recent trend is to allow the birth parents to stay involved, even if they do not technically have rights — that is to say, they cannot make legal choices about medical care, schooling, and other important matters. They still get to see the child, they may spend time together and the adoptive parents may send then cards, pictures and other updates.

For adoptive and birth parents in this situation, it’s wise to carefully consider the legal aspects of these arrangements. A handshake agreement that the birth mother can visit the child on his or her birthday, for example, may not be enough. What if the adoptive parents change their minds five years down the road and cut off contact? They often have the legal right to do so and a birth parent may have no way to re-establish contact.

As such, some people use written legal agreements to establish their rights and the access they have to the child. These are referred to as Post Adoption Contact Agreements in Georgia (PACAS for short) and are legally enforceable.  These agreements can be complex and should be carefully considered by both legal teams. But getting that type of paperwork in place can give things a bit more structure so that everyone knows where they stand.

Regardless of where you are in this process, be sure you know what rights and options you have.