Wisconsin

Adoption Laws

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Consent to Adoption

Who Must Consent to an Adoption Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.41; 48.42

A parent may consent to a voluntary termination of parental rights. The father of a nonmarital child may consent to the termination of any parental rights that he may have.

A petition may also be filed by an agency or other authorized person. The following persons must be given notice of any hearing for terminating parental rights:

  • The parent or parents of the child unless the child’s parent has waived the right to notice
  • If the child is a nonmarital child who is not adopted or whose parents do not subsequently marry each other and whose paternity has not been established:
    • A person who has filed an unrevoked declaration of paternal interest before the birth of the child or within 14 days after the birth of the child
    • A person or persons alleged to be the father of the child or who may be the father of the child based upon the statements of the mother or other information presented to the court, unless that person has waived the right to notice
    • A person who has lived in a familial relationship with the child and who may be the father of the child
  • If the child is a nonmarital child who is under age 1 at the time the petition is filed and who is not adopted or whose parents do not subsequently marry each other and whose paternity has not been established and if an affidavit is filed with the petition:
    • A person who has filed an unrevoked declaration of paternal interest before the birth of the child, within 14 days after the birth of the child, or within 21 days after a notice is mailed, whichever is later
    • A person who has lived in a familial relationship with the child and who may be the father of the child
  • The guardian, guardian ad litem, and legal custodian of the child
  • A person whose parental rights have been previously terminated involuntarily to another child

Consent of Child Being Adopted Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.42

Any child who is age 12 or older must be given notice to attend the hearing pertaining to his or her adoptive placement.

When Parental Consent Is Not Needed Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.415; 48.42

Notice of a hearing to terminate parental rights need not be sent to a person who may be the father of a nonmarital child who is not adopted or whose parents do not subsequently marry each other if his paternity has not been established and he has failed to establish his right to notice. In addition, consent is not required of any person whose parental rights have been terminated on any of the following grounds:

  • Parental rights have been terminated due to failure of the parents to assume responsibility.
  • The parent has abandoned the child.
  • There is continuing parental disability.
  • The parent has abused the child.
  • The parent has relinquished custody of the child when the child was 72 hours old or younger.
  • The parent has failed to assume responsibility for the child or to establish a substantial relationship with the child.
  • The parent has caused the child to be conceived as a result of incest or sexual assault.
  • The parent has been convicted of homicide or of solicitation to commit homicide of the child’s other parent.

When Consent Can Be Executed Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.837; 48.028

A hearing is held within 30 days of the filing of a petition for voluntary termination of parental rights but not before the birth of the child.

In the case of an Indian child, consent cannot be executed prior to or within 10 days after the birth.

How Consent Must Be Executed Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.41; 48.028

A parent may consent to a voluntary termination of parental rights upon petition to the court. The parent must appear personally at the hearing to give his or her consent to the termination of his or her parental rights. The court may also accept the written consent of the parent given before an embassy or consul official, a military judge, or a judge of any court of record in another county or State or a foreign jurisdiction.

The father of a nonmarital child may consent to the termination of any parental rights that he may have by signing a written, notarized statement that recites that he has been informed of and understands the effect of an order to terminate parental rights and that he voluntarily disclaims any rights that he may have to the child.

If the proceeding to terminate parental rights is held prior to an adoption proceeding in which the petitioner is the child’s stepparent or in which the child’s birth parent is a resident of a foreign jurisdiction, the child’s birth parent may consent to the termination of any parental rights that he or she may have by filing with the court an affidavit witnessed by two persons stating that he or she has been informed of and understands the effect of an order to terminate parental rights and that he or she voluntarily disclaims all rights to the child.

In the case of an Indian child, consent is executed in writing, recorded before a judge, and accompanied by a written certification by the judge that the terms and consequences were fully explained and understood in English or interpreted into a language that the parent understood.

Revocation of Consent Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.46(2); 48.028

A parent who has consented to the termination of his or her parental rights or who did not contest the petition initiating the proceeding in which his or her parental rights were terminated may move the court for relief from the judgment on any of the following grounds, as specified in § 806.07(1)(a),(b),(c),(d) or (f):

  • Mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect
  • Newly discovered evidence that entitles a party to a new trial
  • Fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party
  • A voided judgment
  • A prior judgment upon which the judgment is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated

Any such motion shall be filed within 30 days after the entry of the judgment or order terminating parental rights unless the parent files a timely notice of intent to pursue relief from the judgment under § 808.04(7m), in which case the motion shall be filed within the time permitted by § 809.107(5). A motion under this subsection does not affect the finality or suspend the operation of the judgment or order terminating parental rights. Motions under this subsection and appeals to the court of appeals shall be the exclusive remedies for such a parent to obtain a new hearing in a termination of parental rights proceeding.

After the entry of a final order granting adoption of an Indian child, a parent who has consented to termination may withdraw that consent and move the court for relief from the judgment on the grounds that the consent was obtained through fraud or duress. Any such motion shall be filed within 2 years after the entry of an order granting adoption.

Criminal Background Checks for Prospective Foster and Adoptive Parents

Requirements for Foster Parents Ann. Stat. § 48.685

The following is required for licensure as a foster parent or treatment foster parent:

  • A criminal history search from the records maintained by the Department of Justice
  • Information from the registry for reporting client abuse maintained by the Department of Public Health
  • Information maintained by the Department of Safety and Professional Services regarding the status of the person’s credentials
  • Information maintained by the department regarding any substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect against the person

The department may not license, continue, or renew the license of a foster home or treatment foster home if the department knows or should have known any of the following:

  • The person has been convicted of a serious crime.
  • There has been a finding that the person has abused or neglected any client or misappropriated the property of any client.
  • A determination has been made that the person has abused or neglected a child.

A serious crime includes:

  • Homicide, reckless homicide, or felony murder
  • Battery
  • Sexual assault, sexual exploitation, or incest with a child
  • Physical abuse or neglect
  • Soliciting a child for prostitution
  • Possession of child pornography
  • Child abduction

Requirements for Adoptive Parents Ann. Stat. § 48.88; Admin. Code DCF 51.07

An investigation is required of a prospective adoptive parent to determine whether the prospective adoptive parent’s home is suitable for the child. If the petitioner was required to obtain an initial license to operate a foster home or treatment foster home before placement of the child for adoption, the agency making the investigation shall obtain a criminal history search from the records maintained by the Department of Justice and request a fingerprint-based check of the national crime information databases with respect to the petitioner.

If the petitioner was required to obtain a license to operate a foster home or treatment foster home before placement of the child for adoption, the agency making the investigation shall obtain information maintained by the department regarding any substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect against the petitioner and any other adult residing in the petitioner’s home. If the petitioner or other adult residing in the petitioner’s home is not, or at any time within the 5 years preceding the date of the search has not been, a resident of this State, the agency shall check any child abuse or neglect registry maintained by any State or other U.S. jurisdiction in which the petitioner or other adult is a resident or was a resident within those 5 years for information that is equivalent to the information maintained by the department regarding substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect.

In regulation:The adoption home study for a special needs child may include a check of police records and Department of Justice criminal records. The requirements of Wis. Ann. Stat. § 48.685 [see above] apply to an adoptive parent applicant who is in a home studied by a county department or a child-placing agency.

Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights Ann. Stat. § 48.415

Grounds for termination of parental rights shall be one of the following:

  • The parent has abandoned the child.
  • The parent has relinquished custody of the child when the child was 72 hours old or younger.
  • The child has been in an out-of-home placement for 6 months or longer, and the parent has failed to meet the conditions established for the safe return of the child to the home and there is a substantial likelihood that the parent will not meet those conditions within 9 months.
  • The child has been placed outside the home on three or more occasions, and the conditions that led to the child’s placement were caused by the parent.
  • The parent is presently, and for a cumulative period of at least 2 years within the past 5 years was, an inpatient at one or more hospitals on account of mental illness, developmental disability, or other similar incapacities; the condition is likely to continue indefinitely; and the child is not being provided with adequate care by a relative who has legal custody of the child.
  • The parent has been denied periods of physical placement or visitation by court order for at least 1 year.
  • The parent has exhibited a pattern of physically or sexually abusive behavior that is a substantial threat to the health of the child.
  • The parent has failed to assume significant responsibility for the daily supervision, education, protection, and care of the child.
  • The parent is also related, either by blood or adoption, to the child’s other parent in a degree of kinship closer than second cousin.
  • The parent has been convicted of homicide or solicitation to commit homicide, and the victim was the child’s other parent.
  • The parent was convicted of a sexual assault that resulted in the conception of the child.
  • The parent was convicted of a felony against a child.
  • The parent was convicted of trafficking of a child involving any child.
  • The parent has had a prior involuntary termination of parental rights to another child.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights Ann. Stat. § 48.415(1)(c)

Abandonment is not established as grounds for termination if the parent proves all of the following by a preponderance of the evidence:

  • The parent had good cause for having failed to visit with the child.
  • The parent had good cause for having failed to communicate with the child.
  • If the parent proves good cause, including good cause based on evidence that the child’s age or condition would have rendered any communication with the child meaningless, that one of the following occurred:
    • The parent communicated about the child with the person or persons who had physical custody of the child or with the agency responsible for the care of the child.
    • The parent had good cause for having failed to communicate about the child with the person or persons who had physical custody of the child or the agency responsible for the care of the child.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Home Study Requirements for Prospective Parents in Domestic Adoption

Who Must Be Studied Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.837

The study shall include the petitioners and any other adults residing in the petitioners’ home.

Agency or Person Conducting the Study Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.88

The court shall order one of the following to conduct the investigation:

  • If an agency has guardianship of the child, the guardianship agency unless the agency has already filed its recommendation and has filed with the recommendation a report of an investigation
  • If no agency has guardianship of the child and a relative other than a stepparent has filed the petition for adoption, the department, a county department, or a licensed child welfare agency
  • If the child is a citizen of a foreign jurisdiction and is under the guardianship of an individual, the agency that conducted the home study required under Federal law prior to the child’s entry into the United States

Qualifications for Adoptive Parents Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.82; 48.84

When practicable and if requested by the birth parent, the adoptive parents shall be of the same religious faith as the birth parents of the child being adopted.

No person may be denied the benefits of this subchapter because of a religious belief in the use of spiritual means through prayer for healing. If otherwise qualified, no person shall be denied the benefits of this section because the person is deaf, blind, or has other physical handicaps. No otherwise qualified person may be denied the benefits of this subchapter because of his or her race, color, ancestry, or national origin.

Before a child may be placed for adoption by a proposed adoptive parent who has not previously adopted a child, the proposed adoptive parent shall complete the preadoption preparation required under this section. The preparation shall be provided by a licensed child welfare agency, a licensed private adoption agency, the State adoption information exchange, the State adoption center, a State-funded foster care and adoption resource center, a State-funded postadoption resource center, a technical college district school, or an institution or college campus within the University of Wisconsin system. If the proposed adoptive parent does not reside in this State, he or she may meet this requirement by obtaining equivalent preparation in his or her State of residence.

The Department of Children and Families shall promulgate rules establishing the number of hours of preadoption preparation that is required and the topics covered under that preparation. The preparation shall include training on issues that may confront adoptive parents, in general, and that may confront adoptive parents of special needs children or foreign children.

Elements of a Home Study Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.88

When a petition to adopt a child is filed, the court shall order an investigation to determine whether the child is a proper subject for adoption and whether the petitioner’s home is suitable for the child.

If the petitioner was required to obtain a license to operate a foster home before placement of the child for adoption:

  • The agency making the investigation shall obtain a criminal history search from the records maintained by the Department of Justice and request a fingerprint-based check of the national crime information databases.
  • The agency making the investigation shall obtain information maintained by the department regarding any substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect against the petitioner and any other adult residing in the petitioner’s home regarding substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect.
  • If the petitioner or other adult residing in the petitioner’s home is not now or has not been a resident of this State within the 5 years preceding the date of the search, the agency shall check any child abuse or neglect registry maintained by any State or other U.S. jurisdiction in which the petitioner or other adult is or was a resident within those 5 years.

Grounds for Withholding Approval Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.837

In the case of a child on whose behalf adoption assistance payments will be provided, if the petitioner has been convicted of any of the offenses specified in § 48.685(5)(c), including murder, homicide, battery, sexual assault or exploitation, child abuse or neglect, incest, child prostitution, child pornography, or incest, the agency may not report that the petitioners home is suitable for the child.

When Studies Must Be Completed Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.837

When the proposed adoptive parent or parents of a child reside in this State and are not relatives of the child, a parent having custody of a child and the proposed adoptive parent or parents of the child may petition the court for placement of the child for adoption if the home is licensed as a foster home under § 48.62. At the request of a custodial parent and the proposed adoptive parents, the department, a county department, or a child welfare agency may place the child in the home of the proposed adoptive parent or parents prior to the filing of a petition.

After an adoption petition is filed, the court shall order an investigation. The agency making the investigation shall file its report with the court at least 10 days before the hearing on the petition.

Postplacement Study Requirements

This issue is not addressed in the statutes and regulations reviewed.

Exceptions for Stepparent or Relative Adoptions Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.835; 48.88

A parent having custody of a child may place the child for adoption in the home of a relative of the child without a court order.

If a stepparent has filed a petition for adoption and no agency has guardianship of the child, the court shall order the department, a county department, or a licensed child welfare agency to conduct a screening, consisting of no more than one interview with the petitioner and a check of the petitioners background through public records, including records maintained by the department or any county department.

Requirements for Interjurisdictional Placements Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.837; 48.988

When the proposed adoptive parent or parents of a child reside outside the State and are not relatives of the child, a custodial parent and the proposed adoptive parent or parents of the child may petition the court for placement of the child for adoption in the proposed adoptive home if the home meets the criteria established by the laws of the other State for a preadoptive placement of a child in the home of a nonrelative. An appropriate agency in the other State must complete an investigation of the home and file a report and recommendation concerning the home with the department, county department, or licensed child welfare agency.

Any out-of-home placement of a child outside the State is subject to the provisions of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

Foster to Adopt Placements Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.833; 48.88; Admin. Code DCF § 56.14

The department or a licensed child welfare agency may place a child for adoption in a licensed foster home without a court order if the proposed adoptive parents have completed the preadoption preparation required under § 48.84(1).

If the petitioner was required to obtain an initial license to operate a foster home before placement of the child for adoption, the agency making the investigation shall obtain a criminal history search and a child abuse and neglect records check. If the petitioner has been convicted of any of the offenses specified in § 48.685 (5) (bm) 1 to 4, the agency may not report that the petitioner’s home is suitable for the child.

In regulation: A foster parent who is licensed solely for the purpose of adoption of a domestic infant or a foreign child will not be required to complete the foster parent training if the foster parent completes the preadoption preparation training required under Admin. Code DCF § 51.10.

Infant Safe Haven Laws

Infant’s Age Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.195

A child who is 72 hours old or younger may be relinquished.

Who May Relinquish the Infant Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.195

The child may be relinquished by his or her parent.

Who May Receive the Infant Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.195

The child may be left at a sheriff’s office, police station, fire station, hospital, or other place where a law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member is located.

Responsibilities of the Safe Haven Provider Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.195

The safe haven provider shall:

  • Take custody of a child the provider reasonably believes to be 72 hours old or younger who is left by a parent who does not express an intent to return for the child
  • Take any action necessary to protect the health and safety of the child
  • Within 24 hours after taking the child into custody, deliver the child to an intake worker under § 48.20
  • Make available to the parent the maternal and child health toll-free telephone number maintained by the department

The decision whether to accept the information made available is entirely voluntary on the part of the parent. No person may induce, coerce, or attempt to induce or coerce any parent into accepting that information.

If a parent who wishes to relinquish custody of his or her child is unable to travel to a safe haven provider, the parent may dial the telephone number.

Immunity for the Provider Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.195

Any law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member who takes a child into custody is immune from any civil liability to the child’s parents or any criminal liability for any good-faith act or omission occurring solely in connection with the act of receiving custody of the child from the child’s parents but is not immune from any civil or criminal liability for any act or omission occurring in subsequently providing care for the child.

In any civil or criminal proceeding, the good faith of a person specified above is presumed. This presumption may be overcome only by clear and convincing evidence.

Protection for Relinquishing Parent Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.195

The parent and any person who assists the parent have the right to remain anonymous. No person may induce, coerce, or attempt to induce or coerce a parent who wishes to remain anonymous into revealing his or her identity unless the person has reasonable cause to suspect that the child has been the victim of abuse or neglect or that the person assisting the parent is coercing the parent into relinquishing custody of the child.

A parent who relinquishes a child and any person who assists the parent may leave the presence of the safe haven provider at any time, and no person may follow or pursue the parent or person assisting the parent unless the person has reasonable cause to suspect that the child has been the victim of abuse or neglect or that the person assisting the parent has coerced the parent into relinquishing custody of the child.

No officer, employee, or agent of this State may attempt to locate or ascertain the identity of a parent who relinquishes a child unless the officer, employee, or agent has reasonable cause to suspect that the child has been the victim of abuse or neglect or that the person assisting the parent has coerced the parent into relinquishing the child.

Any person who obtains any information relating to the relinquishment of a child shall keep that information confidential and may not disclose that information, except as specified in statute.

Any parent who relinquishes his or her child and any person who assists the parent are immune from any civil or criminal liability for any good-faith act or omission in connection with that relinquishment. The immunity granted under this paragraph includes immunity for exercising the right to remain anonymous, the right to leave at any time, and the right not to accept any information and immunity from prosecution for abandonment of a child or for neglecting a child.

Effect on Parental Rights Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.195; 48.415

The department shall promulgate rules to implement this section. The rules shall include rules prescribing a means by which a parent who relinquishes custody of his or her child may, until the granting of an order terminating parental rights, choose to be identified as the child’s parent.

The court may grant involuntary termination of parental rights on the grounds that custody has been relinquished.

Regulation of Private Domestic Adoption Expenses

Birth Parent Expenses Allowed Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.913(1)

The adoptive parents, or a person acting on their behalf, may pay the actual cost of any of the following:

  • Preadoptive and postadoptive counseling for a birth parent or an alleged or presumed father of the child
  • Maternity clothes for the child’s birth mother, in an amount not to exceed $300
  • Local transportation expenses of the birth parent that are related to the pregnancy or adoption
  • Medical and hospital care received by the child’s birth mother in connection with the pregnancy or birth of the child
  • Medical and hospital care received by the child
  • Legal and other services received by a birth parent, an alleged or presumed father, or the child in connection with the adoption
  • Living expenses of the child’s birth mother, in an amount not to exceed $5,000, if payment of the expenses is necessary to protect the health and welfare of the birth mother or the fetus
  • If the adoption is completed, the cost of any care provided for the child under § 48.837(4)(d)
  • Birthing classes
  • A gift to the child’s birth mother from the adoptive parents, not to exceed $100 in value

Birth Parent Expenses Not Allowed Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.913(1), (4)

Medical and hospital care does not include lost wages or living expenses.

The adoptive parents or a person acting on their behalf may not make any payments to or on behalf of a birth parent, an alleged or presumed father, or the child, except as permitted above.

Allowable Payments for Arranging Adoption Citation: Ann. Stat. § 948.24

It is unlawful for any person to solicit, negotiate, or arrange the placement of a child for adoption for anything of value, except under § 48.833. It is unlawful for any person, for the purpose of receiving a child for adoption, to give anything exceeding the actual cost of the legal and other services rendered in connection with the adoption and the items listed in § 48.913(1)(a) to (m) and the payments authorized under § 48.913(2).

Allowable Payments for Relinquishing Child Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 948.24; 48.837(6)(b)

It is unlawful for any person to place or agree to place his or her child for adoption for anything exceeding the actual cost of the items listed in § 48.913(1)(a) to (m) and the payments authorized under § 48.913(2).

The court shall determine whether any payments or the conditions specified in any agreement to make payments are coercive to the birth parent of the child or to an alleged or presumed father of the child or are impermissible under § 48.913(4). Making any payment to or on behalf of the birth parent, an alleged or presumed father, or the child conditional in any part upon transfer or surrender of the child, termination of parental rights, or finalization of the adoption creates a rebuttable presumption of coercion. Upon a finding that impermissible payments have been made, the court shall dismiss the adoption petition and refer the matter to the district attorney.

Allowable Fees Charged by Department/Agency Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.913(1); 48.837(7) 48.838(2); 48.84

The adoptive parents may pay:

  • The actual cost of services provided by a licensed child welfare agency in connection with the adoption
  • The cost of any investigation ordered under § 48.837(4)(c), according to a fee schedule established by the department based on ability to pay
  • If the adoption is completed, the cost of any care provided for the child

The Department of Children and Families may charge a fee of $75 to review foreign adoption documents and provide the certification and approval required by State and Federal law.

A proposed adoptive parent who petitions to adopt a child in an independent adoption shall pay the costs of the required preadoption preparation. The department shall pay the costs of the preadoption preparation for a proposed adoptive parent with whom a child is placed by the department or a licensed agency.

Accounting of Expenses Required by Court Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.913(6), (7)

A report shall be provided to the court at the time of the hearing on the petition for adoptive placement or upon the order of the court. The report shall include a list of all transfers of anything of value made or agreed to be made by the adoptive parents or by a person acting on their behalf to a birth parent, an alleged or presumed father, or the child; on behalf of the birth parents or child; or to any other person in connection with the pregnancy, birth, placement, or adoption of the child. The report shall be itemized and shall show the goods or services for which payment was made or agreed to be made. The report shall include the dates of each payment and the names and addresses of each attorney, doctor, hospital, agency, or other person or organization receiving any payment from the adoptive parents or a person acting on their behalf.

The Rights of Unmarried Fathers

Legal Definition of Father Ann. Stat. §§ 48.02; 891.405

The term ‘parent’ means either a biological parent, a husband who has consented to the artificial insemination of his wife, or a parent by adoption. If the child is a nonmarital child who is not adopted or whose parents do not subsequently intermarry, ‘parent’ includes a person acknowledged under § 767.805 or a substantially similar law of another State or adjudicated to be the biological father. The term ‘parent’ does not include any person whose parental rights have been terminated.

A man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if he and the mother have acknowledged paternity under § 69.15(3)(b) and no other man is presumed to be the father under § 891.41(1).

Paternity Registry Ann. Stat. § 48.025

Any person claiming to be the father of a nonmarital child who is not adopted, whose parents do not subsequently intermarry, and whose paternity has not been established may file with the department a declaration of his interest in matters affecting the child.

A declaration may be filed at any time before a termination of the father’s parental rights. This paragraph does not apply to a declaration that is filed on or after July 1, 2006.

A declaration may be filed at any time before the birth of the child or within 14 days after the birth of the child, except that a man who receives a notice under § 48.42(1g)(b) may file a declaration within 21 days after the date on which the notice was mailed. This paragraph does not apply to a declaration filed before July 1, 2006.

Alternate Means to Establish Paternity Ann. Stat. §§ 767.80; 767.805

An action to determine the paternity of a child may be brought by the following persons

  • The child
  • The child’s natural mother
  • A male presumed or alleged to be the father of the child
  • The legal or physical custodian of the child
  • The State
  • The child’s guardian ad litem

A statement acknowledging paternity that is on file with the State Registrar under § 69.15(3)(b)3 after the last day on which a person may rescind the statement in a timely manner is a conclusive determination that shall have the same effect as a judgment of paternity.

Required Information Ann. Stat. § 48.025

The declaration shall be in writing, shall be signed and verified upon oath or affirmation by the person filing the declaration, and shall contain:

  • The person’s name and address
  • The name and last known address of the mother
  • The month and year of the birth or expected birth of the child
  • A statement that the person filing the declaration has reason to believe that he may be the father of the child

If the person filing the declaration is under age 18, the declaration shall also be signed by a parent or guardian of the person.

Revocation of Claim to Paternity Ann. Stat. §§ 48.025; 767.805; 69.15

A person who has filed a declaration with the department may revoke the declaration at any time by filing with the department a statement, signed and verified upon oath or affirmation, that the person, to the best of his knowledge and belief, is not the father of the child or that another person has been adjudicated as the father of the child. If the person filing the revocation is under 18 years of age, the revocation shall also be signed by a parent or guardian of the person.

A statement acknowledging paternity that is filed with the State Registrar may be rescinded by either person who signed the statement as a parent of the registrant if all of the following apply:

  • The statement was signed and filed on or after April 1, 1998.
  • The person rescinding the statement files with the State Registrar a document prescribed by the State Registrar for rescinding a statement acknowledging paternity.
  • The person rescinding the statement files the document before the day on which a court makes an order in an action affecting the family involving the man who signed the statement and the child who is the subject of the statement, or before 60 days elapse after the statement was filed, whichever occurs first.
  • If the person rescinding the statement was under age 18 when the statement was filed, the person files the document before the day on which a court makes an order in an action affecting the family involving the man who signed the statement as the father of the registrant and the child who is the subject of the statement or before 60 days elapse after the person attains age 18, whichever occurs first.

Access to Information Ann. Stat. § 48.025

The department shall keep confidential and may not open to public inspection or disclose the contents of any declaration except as provided below, or by order of the court, for good cause shown.

A copy of a declaration filed with the department shall be sent to the mother at her last known address. Nonreceipt of such copy shall not affect the validity of the declaration. The mother may send a written response to the declaration to the department, and the written response shall be filed with the declaration. Failure to send a written response shall not constitute an admission of the statements contained in the declaration.

A court of this or another State may request the department to search its files to determine whether a person who may be the father of the child who is the subject of the proceeding has filed a declaration.

Use of Advertising and Facilitators in Adoptive Placements

Use of Advertisement Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.825

No person may do any of the following:

  • Advertise for the purpose of finding a child to adopt
  • Advertise that the person will find an adoptive home for a child or arrange for or assist in the adoption or adoptive placement of a child
  • Advertise that the person will place a child for adoption

This section does not apply to any of the following:

  • The department, a county department, or a licensed child welfare agency
  • An individual or agency providing adoption information through the State adoption information exchange or State adoption center
  • A foster care and adoption resource center or postadoption resource center
  • An individual who has received a favorable recommendation regarding his or her fitness to be an adoptive parent in this State from the department, a county department, a licensed child welfare agency, or in another jurisdiction from an entity authorized by that jurisdiction to conduct studies of potential adoptive homes
  • An individual seeking to place his or her child for adoption

No person may publish by a public medium an advertisement that violates this section. If the owner, agent, or employee of the public medium receives a copy of the license of the person or agency requesting the advertisement that indicates that the person or agency is licensed to provide adoption services in this State, the advertisement does not violate this section.

Nothing in this section prohibits an attorney licensed to practice in this State from advertising his or her availability to practice or provide services relating to the adoption of children.

Use of Intermediaries/Facilitators Citation: Ann. Stat. § 948.24

Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a felony:

  • Places or agrees to place his or her child for adoption for anything exceeding actual authorized costs and payments
  • Solicits, negotiates, or arranges for anything of value the placement of a child for adoption unless by an authorized entity
  • Gives anything exceeding the actual cost of the legal and other services rendered in connection with the adoption and the authorized items and payments in order to receive a child for adoption

This section does not apply to foreign adoptions.

Who May Adopt, Be Adopted, or Place a Child for Adoption?

Who May Adopt Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.82; 882.01

The following State residents are eligible to adopt:

  • A husband and wife jointly
  • A stepparent
  • An unmarried adult

An adult may be adopted by any other adult who is a resident.

Who May Be Adopted Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.81

Any child present in the State may be adopted if any of the following criteria are met:

  • Both of the child’s parents are deceased.
  • The parental rights of both of the child’s parents have been terminated.
  • The parental rights of one of the child’s parents have been terminated, and the child’s other parent is deceased.
  • The person filing the petition for adoption is the spouse of the child’s parent with whom the child and the child’s parent reside and either of the following applies:
    • The child’s other parent is deceased.
    • The parental rights of the child’s other parent with respect to the child have been terminated.

Who May Place a Child for Adoption Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.833; 48.835; 48.837

The department, a county department, or a licensed child welfare agency may place a child for adoption in a licensed foster home without a court order or if the department or agency is the guardian of the child or makes the placement at the request of another agency that is the guardian of the child and if the proposed adoptive parents have completed the required preadoption preparation or the department or agency determines that the proposed adoptive parents are not required to complete that preparation.

A parent having custody of a child may place the child for adoption in the home of a relative of the child without a court order.

When the proposed adoptive parents of a child reside in this State and are not relatives of the child, a parent having custody of a child and the proposed adoptive parents may petition the court for placement of the child for adoption in the home of the proposed adoptive parents if the home is licensed as a foster home.

When the proposed, nonrelative, adoptive parents of a child reside outside this State, a parent having custody of a child and the proposed adoptive parents of the child may petition the court for placement of the child for adoption in the home of the proposed adoptive parents--if the home meets the criteria established by the laws of the other State for a preadoptive placement of a child in the home of a nonrelative.

Post-Adoption Laws

Access to Adoption Records

Who May Access Information Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.432; 48.433

Nonidentifying information may be provided to:

  • The adopted person who is age 18 years or older
  • The adoptive parent
  • The guardian or legal custodian of an adopted person
  • The offspring of an adopted person if the requester is age 18 or older
  • An agency or social worker assigned to provide services to the adopted person or place the child for adoption

Identifying information may be accessed by the adopted person who is age 21 or older.

Access to Nonidentifying Information Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 48.432; 48.433

Whenever any person listed above wishes to obtain medical and genetic information about a birth parent who consented to his or her child’s adoption before February 1, 1982, and the information is not on file with the department or agency, the person may request that the department or agency conduct a search for the birth parents to obtain the information. The request shall be accompanied by a statement from a physician certifying either that the individual has or may have acquired a genetically transferable disease or that the individual’s medical condition requires access to the information.

If a birth parent is located but refuses to provide the information requested, the department or agency shall notify the requester without disclosing the birth parents identity or location, and the requester may petition the circuit court to order the birth parent to disclose the information. If the department or another agency that maintains records relating to the adoption receives a report from a physician stating that a birth parent or another offspring of the birth parent has acquired or may have a genetically transferable disease, the department or agency shall notify the adopted person of the existence of the disease, if he or she is age 18 or older, or notify the adopted person’s guardian or adoptive parent if he or she is younger than age 18.

If the department or agency may not disclose the identifying information requested per § 48.433, it shall provide the requester with any nonidentifying social history information about either of the birth parents that it has on file.

Mutual Access to Identifying Information Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.433

The birth parent may file an affidavit authorizing the release of any available information about the birth parent’s identity and location. An affidavit may be revoked at any time by notifying the department or agency in writing.

An adopted person who is age 21 or older may request any available information regarding the identity and location of his or her birth parents. The requested information may be disclosed if the department or agency has on file unrevoked affidavits from both birth parents, or if one of the birth parents was unknown and the known birth parent has filed an unrevoked affidavit.

If the department or agency does not have on file an affidavit from each known birth parent, it shall, within 3 months after the date of the original request, search for each birth parent who has not filed an affidavit. If the birth parent is contacted and files an affidavit, the department shall disclose the requested information. If the birth parent does not file the affidavit, the department may not disclose the information. If, after a search, a known birth parent cannot be located, the department may disclose the requested information if the other birth parent has filed an unrevoked affidavit.

If a birth parent is known to be dead and has not filed an unrevoked affidavit, the department shall so inform the requester. The department may not release the identity of that parent but shall release any available information regarding the identity and location of the other birth parent if the other birth parent has filed an unrevoked affidavit and 1 year has elapsed since the death of the deceased birth parent.

The requester may petition the court to order the release of any information that may not be disclosed under this section.

Access to Original Birth Certificate Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.433

The original birth certificate is available upon request to the adopted person who is age 21 or older if the birth parents have filed affidavits authorizing disclosure.

Where the Information Can Be Located

Adoption Records Search Program, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Intestate Inheritance Rights for Adopted Persons

Birth Parents in Relation to Adopted Person Citation: Ann. Stat. § 854.20

A legally adopted person ceases to be treated as a child of the person’s birth parents for the purposes of intestate succession, except:

  • If the parent-child relationship between the child and one birth parent is replaced by adoption, but the relationship to the other birth parent is not replaced, then for all purposes the child continues to be treated as the child of the birth parent whose relationship was not replaced.
  • If a birth parent of a marital child dies and the other birth parent remarries and the child is adopted by the stepparent, the child is treated as the child of the deceased birth parent for purposes of intestate succession. However, it does not apply if the parental rights of the deceased birth parent had been terminated.

Adoptive Parents in Relation to Adopted Person Citation: Ann. Stat. § 854.20

A legally adopted person is treated as a birth child of the person’s adoptive parents for purposes of intestate succession by, through, and from the adopted person. This only applies if one of the following apply:

  • The deceased person is the adoptive parent or adopted child.
  • The adopted person was a minor at the time of adoption.
  • The adoptive parent raised the adopted person in a parent-like relationship beginning on or before the child’s 15th birthday and lasting for a substantial period or until adulthood.

Adopted Persons Who Are Not Included in a Will Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 853.25; 854.21

If a will fails to provide for a child the testator adopted after execution of the will, the child is entitled to a share of the estate unless any of the following applies:

  • It appears from the will or from other evidence that the omission was intentional.
  • The testator provided for the omitted child by transfer outside the will with the intent that the transfer be in lieu of a testamentary provision.

If a will fails to provide for a child who was adopted after the execution of the will, and the testator had no child living when he or she executed the will, the omitted child receives a share in the estate equal in value to that which the child would have received under intestate succession. This paragraph does not apply if the will gave all or substantially all of the estate to the other parent of the omitted child and that other parent survives the testator and is entitled to inherit under the will.

If a will fails to provide for a child who was adopted after the execution of the will, the testator had one or more children living when he or she executed the will, and the will gave property to one or more of the then-living children, the omitted child is entitled to share in the testator’s estate as follows:

  • The portion that the omitted child is entitled to share is limited to bequests made to the testator’s then-living children under the will.
  • The omitted child is entitled to receive the share of estate that he or she would have received had the testator included all omitted after-born and after-adopted children with the children to whom bequests were made and had given an equal share of the estate to each child.

A gift of property to a class of persons described as ‘issue,’ ‘children,’ 'descendants,’ ‘heirs,’ ‘next of kin,’ or the like includes a person adopted by a person whose birth child would be a member of the class.

Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families

What may be included in postadoption contact agreements?

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Who may be a party to a postadoption contact agreement? Ann. Stat. § 48.925(1)

[This section applies to stepparent and relative adoptions only:]

Upon petition by a relative who has maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship with a child who has been adopted by a stepparent or relative, the court may grant reasonable visitation rights to that person if the petitioner has maintained such a relationship within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

What is the role of the court in postadoption contact agreements? Ann. Stat. § 48.925(1)-(3)

The adoptive parent or parents, or, if a birth parent is the spouse of an adoptive parent, the adoptive parent and birth parent, shall have notice of the hearing. The court will determine all of the following:

  • That visitation is in the best interests of the child
  • That the petitioner will not undermine the adoptive parent(s) relationship with the child
  • That the petitioner will not act in a manner contrary to parenting decisions related to the child's physical, emotional, educational, or spiritual welfare made by the adoptive parent(s)

The court may not grant visitation rights to a relative if the relative has been convicted of the intentional homicide of a parent of the child, and the conviction has not been reversed, set aside, or vacated. If a relative who is granted visitation rights with a child is convicted of the intentional homicide of a parent of the child, and the conviction has not been reversed, set aside, or vacated, the court shall issue an order prohibiting the relative from having visitation with the child on petition of the child or the parent, guardian, or legal custodian of the child, or on the courts own motion, and on notice to the relative. These provisions do not apply if the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that the visitation would be in the best interests of the child. The court shall consider the wishes of the child in making that determination.

Whenever possible, in making a determination of visitation with a relative, the court shall consider the wishes of the adopted child. This section applies to every child in this State who has been adopted by a stepparent or relative, regardless of the date of the adoption.

Are agreements legally enforceable? Ann. Stat. § 48.925(4)

Any person who interferes with visitation rights granted under this section may be proceeded against for contempt of court, except that a court may impose only the remedial sanctions against that person.

How may an agreement be terminated or modified?

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Laws Related to Intercountry Adoption

Effect and Recognition of a Foreign Adoption Decree

Ann. Stat. § 48.97

When the relationship of parent and child has been created by an order of adoption of a court of any other State or nation, the rights and obligations of the parties as to matters within the jurisdiction of this State shall be determined by § 48.92. If the adoptive parents were residents of this State at the time of the foreign adoption, the preceding sentence applies only if the department has approved the placement.

Readoption After an Intercountry Adoption

Ann. Stat. § 48.97

A child whose adoption would otherwise be valid under this section may be readopted in accordance with this chapter.

Application for a U.S. Birth Certificate

Ann. Stat. § 69.15(2)(b)

If the State Registrar receives an order that provides for an adoption of any person born outside of the United States by any person who is a resident of this State at the time of adoption, and if the adoptive parents present proof of the facts of birth to the State Registrar, the State Registrar shall prepare a certification of birth data for the subject of the adoption. The certification shall indicate:

  • The date and place of birth
  • The child’s adoptive name
  • The adoptive parents’ names
  • The sources of information of each of these facts

If neither of the birth parents of the subject of the adoption are U.S. citizens, the new certification may include proof of the naturalization of the subject of the adoption.

Source

Child Welfare Information Gateway. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. [[https://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/laws/domestic.cfm#sss

References