Grandparents' Rights in Adoption


Sometimes in adoption cases very little regard is paid to the concerns or possible rights of the birth grandparents. Birth grandparents have gained a stronger position when it comes to their interests and rights in regard to a grandchild that is being "put up" for adoption.

However, the rights of biological grandparents in adoption cases remains limited in most cases.


Throughout most of the 20th century, adoptions in the United States were considered "closed." That meant that birth families and adoptive families did not know one another. Birth and adoptive families were given no identifying information about each other.

During this period, the rights of grandparents in adoption cases was nonexistent. The general rule was that they had no standing whatsoever in adoption proceedings. The one exception was if the birth mother was a minor. However, even in such a situation if the decision was made to put the grandchild up for adoption, the grandparents had no rights in the case beyond representing the interests of the birth mother.

Minor Birth Mother

Today, if the birth mother or father is a minor child, birth grandparents have some limited rights. These rights all involve matters associated with the adoption proceedings themselves. Merely because the birth mother or father is a minor in and of itself does not establish any right for the birth grandparents following the approval of the adoption.

The most basic right that birth grandparents have in this situation is that of notice. In an adoption case in these circumstances, the birth grandparents have the right to be advised of all proceedings in the adoption case.

Grandparents as Primary Caretakers of a Child

Another situation in which birth grandparents have some rights is when the grandparents are the primary caretaker of the child that is being considered for adoption. The grandparents may have the right to stop adoption proceedings from moving forward. Specifically grandparents in such a situation will be deemed to have "standing." Standing is the right to appear in any adoption proceedings and make their own case to the court.

Grandparents in such a situation may be able to argue that allowing an adoption is not in the best interest of the child because the child has an established home; a home provided by the grandparents.

Open Adoption

Some states have moved away from closed adoptions. They have enacted laws that allows for open adoptions. Open adoption laws are designed to allow both adoptive and birth parents to know the identity of each other. These statutes allow for the birth parents to receive updates on the child throughout his childhood, including photos.

In some states, open adoption laws go so far as to permit birth parents the opportunity to have some contact with the adopted child.

In open adoption states, birth grandparents do not have a unique set of rights. However, because birth parents do have rights after an adoption is concluded, grandparents by extension often are able to enjoy information about and some contact with the adopted child.

Adoption Order Recognizing Grandparent

In open adoption states the final order of adoption can specify grandparent rights. For example, within the adoption decree, an order establishing specific visitation rights can be included. This visitation can be established independent of any time set aside for the birth parents to see the child.