2019 - 2020 LEGISLATURE
October 23, 2019 - Introduced by Representatives Dittrich, Plumer, Ballweg,
Felzkowski, James, Kerkman, Kulp, Magnafici, Milroy, Murphy, Mursau,
Ramthun, Tusler, Thiesfeldt, Tranel, Born, VanderMeer and Tittl,
cosponsored by Senators Olsen, Jacque, Darling and Cowles. Referred to
Committee on Family Law.
1An Act to amend
48.426 (3) (c) and 48.92 (2); and to create
48.425 (1) (h), 48.43 2
(2) (c) and 48.905 of the statutes;
relating to: postadoption contact
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
This bill allows a proposed adoptive parent and a birth parent or other relative
with whom a child has a substantial relationship to enter into an agreement for
postadoption contact and allows a court to approve such an agreement.
Under current law, there is no mechanism to formalize or enforce an agreement
entered into between a birth parent or other relative and a proposed adoptive parent
for postadoption contact, commonly known as an “open adoption.” Under current
law, a termination of parental rights order and an adoption permanently severs the
child's legal relationship with the birth parent and other relatives and creates the
legal relationship of parent and child between the child and the adoptive parent.
However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has stated that in a proceeding for the
termination of parental rights, when considering the impact on the child of severing
the legal relationship between a parent or other relatives, a court may, in its
discretion, afford due weight to an adoptive parent's stated intent to permit
continued visitation between the child and the parent or other relatives, while
bearing in mind that such a promise is legally unenforceable after the termination
of parental rights and adoption. State v. Margaret H., 2000 WI 42, ¶¶ 29-30.
Under the bill, a proposed adoptive parent and a birth parent or other relative
with whom the child has a substantial relationship may enter into an agreement for
postadoption contact privileges. Under the bill, a court is required to consider the
terms of any such agreement when considering the impact on the child of severing
the child's relationship with the parent or other relative. Under the bill, a
postadoption contact agreement may control the types and frequency of contact that
the parties agree to. A court in an action to terminate parental rights may approve
a postadoption contact agreement if the agreement meets certain requirements, as
specified under the bill. The bill also specifies how an agreement may be modified,
terminated, or enforced.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
48.425 (1) (h) of the statutes is created to read:
(h) A statement as to whether a postadoption contact agreement has 3
been entered into under s. 48.905. If such an agreement has been entered into, the 4
agency or tribal child welfare department shall attach a copy of the agreement to the 5
48.426 (3) (c) of the statutes is amended to read:
(c) Whether the child has substantial relationships with the parent 8
or other family members, and whether it would be harmful to the child to sever these 9those
relationships. In determining whether it would be harmful to the child to sever
10those relationships, the court shall consider the terms of any postadoption contact
11agreement that has been entered into under s. 48.905.
48.43 (2) (c) of the statutes is created to read:
(c) A court may approve a postadoption contact agreement entered 14
into under s. 48.905.
48.905 of the statutes is created to read:
1648.905 Postadoption contact agreement. (1) Parties.
A proposed adoptive 17
parent may enter into a postadoption contact agreement with a parent of the child
who is the subject of the adoption or with another relative with whom the child has 2
a substantial relationship.
A postadoption contact agreement shall contain all of the following 4
(a) An acknowledgment by the parent or relative that failure to comply with 6
the terms of the agreement is not grounds to revoke the termination of the parent's 7
rights or the adoption. An acknowledgment under this paragraph is not required if 8
s. 48.028 and the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 USC 1901
, apply to 9
(b) A statement by each party to the agreement that the agreement was entered 11
into voluntarily, that the terms of the agreement are understood, that no promises 12
or threats were made to coerce a party to enter into the agreement, and that no 13
representations have been relied upon other than those contained in the agreement.
(c) An acknowledgment that if a dispute arises about fulfillment of the terms 15
of the agreement, the parties shall participate, or attempt to participate, in good 16
faith, in mediation or an alternative dispute resolution process, with the mediator 17
or arbitrator to be selected by the adoptive parent.
(d) A description of the postadoption contact and frequency of contact agreed 19
to by the proposed adoptive parent. Contact may include any of the following:
1. Sharing of information about the child between the adoptive parent and 21
parent or relative.
2. Sharing of the parent's or relative's medical history.
3. Written, oral, or electronic communication between the child and parent or 24
4. Visitation by the parent or relative with the child under specified conditions 2
or conditions that may be set by the proposed adoptive parent at the time of 3
. In a proceeding to terminate parental rights or a proceeding to 5
grant an adoption, a court may approve a postadoption contact agreement if it finds 6
all of the following:
(a) The agreement contains all of the provisions specified in sub. (2), and the 8
court is satisfied that the proposed adoptive parent and the parent or relative 9
understand those provisions.
(b) The agreement is signed by the proposed adoptive parent and parent or 11
(c) An agency having guardianship, legal custody, or supervision of the child, 13
the child's guardian ad litem, and, in the case of an Indian child, the Indian child's 14
tribe, have submitted favorable recommendations for approval of the postadoption 15
(d) The court determines that the parent or relative will not undermine the 17
proposed adoptive parent's relationship with the child.
(e) The court determines that the parent or relative will not act in a manner 19
that is contrary to the proposed adoptive parent's parenting decisions that are 20
related to the child's physical, emotional, educational, or spiritual welfare.
(f) The court determines by clear and convincing evidence that approval of the 22
agreement is in the best interests of the child. In considering the best interests of the 23
child under this section, the court shall consider all of the following:
1. Whether the child has a substantial relationship with the parent or relative, 25
and whether it would be harmful to the child not to preserve that relationship.
2. The needs of the child and how those needs would be affected by postadoption 2
contact with the parent or relative as provided under the agreement.
3. The wishes of the child, which may be communicated by the child, or through 4
the child's guardian ad litem or other appropriate professional.
4. Any other factor that the court determines is relevant to the best interests 6
of the child.
7(4) Stipulated modification
. At any time after approval of an agreement by 8
a court, an adoptive parent may agree to modify the postadoption contact agreement 9
with the former parent or relative. The modified agreement shall be in writing, 10
signed by the parties, and shall be submitted to the court. The court may approve the 11
modified agreement, without a hearing, if it finds by clear and convincing evidence 12
that modification of the agreement is in the best interests of the child.
13(5) Petition to modify or terminate
. At any time after approval of an 14
agreement by a court, an adoptive parent may petition the court for modification or 15
termination of the postadoption contact agreement. The court shall schedule a 16
hearing on the petition, with notice to the adoptive parent, former parent or relative, 17
an agency that had guardianship, legal custody, or supervision of the child before the 18
adoption, and, in the case of an Indian child, the Indian child's tribe. The court may 19
modify or terminate the agreement, after a hearing, if it finds by clear and convincing 20
evidence that modification or termination of the agreement is in the best interests 21
of the child and that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the 22
agreement was approved by the court.
. A party may petition the court for enforcement of the terms 24
of the agreement after attempting mediation or an alternative dispute resolution 25
process in good faith to obtain specific performance of the terms of the agreement.
The court shall schedule a hearing on the petition, with notice to the adoptive parent, 2
former parent or relative, an agency that had guardianship, legal custody, or 3
supervision of the child before the adoption, and, in the case of an Indian child, the 4
Indian child's tribe. The court may order specific performance of the terms of the 5
agreement, after a hearing, if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that 6
enforcement is in the best interests of the child. In first attempting mediation or an 7
alternative dispute resolution process, the mediator or arbitrator shall be selected 8
by the adoptive parent, with the mediator or arbitrator's fees to be paid equally by 9
the adoptive parent and former parent or relative unless agreed otherwise in the 10
mediation or ordered otherwise by the arbitrator or the court.
48.92 (2) of the statutes is amended to read:
After the order of adoption is entered the relationship of parent and 13
child between the adopted person and the adopted person's birth parents and the 14
relationship between the adopted person and all persons whose relationship to the 15
adopted person is derived through those birth parents shall be completely altered 16
and all the rights, duties, and other legal consequences of those relationships shall 17
cease to exist, unless the birth parent is the spouse of the adoptive parent, in which 18
case those relationships shall be completely altered and those rights, duties, and 19
other legal consequences shall cease to exist only with respect to the birth parent who 20
is not the spouse of the adoptive parent and all persons whose relationship to the 21
adopted person is derived through that birth parent. Notwithstanding the extinction 22
of all parental rights under this subsection, a court may approve a postadoption
23contact agreement under s. 48.905 or
order reasonable visitation under s. 48.925.