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How does Ohio law treat pre-adoption agreements?

Understanding Pre-Adoption Agreements in Ohio Law

In the state of Ohio, adoption is a legal process that creates a permanent, legal relationship between a child and their adoptive parents. Pre-adoption agreements, commonly referred to as post-adoption contact agreements (PACAs) in other jurisdictions, are arrangements that outline the contact or communication between a child's birth family and adoptive family after the adoption has been finalized. The treatment of these agreements in Ohio law involves a delicate balance between the interests of the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and the best interests of the child.

Legality and Enforcement of Pre-Adoption Agreements

In contrast to some states where pre-adoption agreements are legally enforceable, Ohio law does not currently provide statutory recognition or enforcement for pre-adoption agreements. This means that while birth parents and adoptive parents may come to an informal understanding regarding post-adoption contact, such agreements are not legally binding in Ohio.

The lack of enforceability in Ohio is rooted in the principle that once an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents have full parental rights and responsibilities. These rights include making all decisions regarding their child's welfare, including whether to maintain contact with the birth family. As such, any agreement made prior to the adoption does not carry legal weight after the adoption is complete.

Best Interests of the Child

When it comes to adoption proceedings, Ohio courts prioritize the best interests of the child over all other considerations. While pre-adoption agreements are not enforceable, if both parties voluntarily comply with the terms discussed prior to the adoption, it can potentially benefit the child by maintaining connections with their biological heritage. However, it's important to note that these agreements are subject to change at the discretion of the adoptive parents.

Historical Context and Modern Perspectives

Historically, closed adoptions were more common, where no information or contact was exchanged between birth and adoptive families after the adoption process. However, societal attitudes have shifted towards more open adoptions that acknowledge the potential benefits of maintaining certain connections between adoptees and their birth families.

In light of this trend towards openness, some states have made moves to codify pre-adoption agreements into law with varying degrees of enforceability. While Ohio has not yet taken this step, it reflects an ongoing conversation about how best to serve the interests of children and families involved in adoption.


In summary, while Ohio recognizes the importance of post-adoption contact for some families, it does not provide a legal framework for enforcing pre-adoption agreements. Parties entering into an adoption in Ohio should be aware that any communication arrangements made prior to finalization are dependent on the ongoing consent of the adoptive parents and are not protected by law. It's essential for all parties involved to have clear understanding and realistic expectations about post-adoption contact when considering an adoption plan.