Major changes to Ohio’s adoption law became effective on March 23, 2015. Changes include new time limits and a notification option for birth fathers, an increase in the state tax credit, a reduction in the window for contesting adoptions, new guidelines for birth mother living expenses and permission to advertise.

Q: My wife and I plan to adopt a baby we expect will be born next month. The birth mother has agreed to the adoption, but we have never seen the birth father. Do we need his consent to adopt under the new law?
A: If the birth father registers with the Ohio Putative Father Registry within 15 days of the child’s birth, then you may need his consent. Under the old law, the birth father had 30 days to register, so the new law shortens this window. If the birth father has not registered within 15 days after the baby is born, then you do not need his consent.

The law also creates an optional new pre-birth notice that can be sent to a “putative” father (the person assumed to be the child’s father) regarding a possible adoption. This gives him a “heads-up” on the proposed adoption so he has time to consider his options.

Q: A friend adopted a baby two years ago, but the birth parents contested the adoption nearly a year after it was finalized and our friend lost the baby she’d thought of as her own. Does the new law address this issue?
A: Yes. The new law shortens the time allowed for an adoption to be contested. Previously, an adoption could be contested up to one year after it was finalized. The new law provides a much shorter six-month window for contesting an adoption after it has been finalized.

Q: What does Ohio law allow a birth mother to receive for living expenses from the adoptive family?
A: The new law specifies what qualifies as birth mother living expenses that the adoptive family may pay. Qualified living expenses are defined as: rent or mortgage; utilities or payments for products or services the birth mother requires for sustenance or safety, including food, household goods, personal care items; and the cost of transportation to work or school. The law permits payment of living expenses up to $3,000 and for as long as 60 days after the child’s birth. The previous law allowed payments to be made directly to the birth mother. Now, the law requires that a “reasonable and good-faith effort” be made to directly pay the service provider, and only an adoption attorney or agency can make payments to the birth mother for living expenses.

Q: My husband and I would like to adopt. Can we advertise to let people know we’re looking for a child?
A: As long as you are “Qualified Adoptive Parents” (QAPs) who have been pre-approved for adoption, the law now allows you to advertise that you are looking for a baby to adopt. You can advertise through electronic, written, visual or oral methods such as newspapers or magazines, billboards or signs, direct mailing, radio, television, telephone, personal representation, or other means. However, the law prohibits offering money or anything of value in exchange for a child placed for adoption. Also, a birth parent may not ask for money or anything of value in exchange for the placement of a child with a qualified adoptive parent. The previous law did not allow adoptive families or their attorneys to advertise a family’s wish to adopt a child.

Q: Can we get any savings on our tax bill if we adopt?
A: Yes. Under the new law, the Ohio adoption tax credit has been increased to $10,000, regardless of income, from a previous credit of $1,500 for each Ohio adoption. You also have up to five years to use the credit. This $10,000 state income tax credit is in addition to a $13,400 federal income tax credit. This should not be construed as tax advice, however. Consult a tax adviser for answers to specific tax-related questions.