Adoption Q&A #13
|Date||:||August 22, 2008|
|Re||:||Family Law Update|
EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT VIOLATIONS
Section 48.913, Wis. Stats., specifically details items that can be paid to or on behalf of a birth mother as part of a termination of parental rights and adoption proceeding. Payment violations can subject the payors, the adoptive parents, and the payee birth mother to sanctions which include one year in jail, a fine up to $10,000, and court disapproval of the adoptive placement plan.
In general, Wisconsin is a clean adoption state. We see little evidence of expense payment violations. However, counsel must advise birth mothers and adoptive parents at the outset of the limits of the expense reimbursement rules and consequences for violation of the rules.
Areas of concern include the following:
- If a birth mother is receiving permitted housing assistance during her pregnancy, payments should be made to the landlord upon satisfactory verification of the rental arrangement. Direct payments to a birth mother upon her representation of the rental amount should be avoided.
- Living expense reimbursement can include food expenses necessary for the health and well-being of the mother and the fetus. Such reimbursement does not include cigarettes, alcohol, DVD rentals and the like. Verification by register tape and reimbursement of only those items necessary for the health and well-being of the mother and the fetus should be done in each case.
- Only local transportation expenses can be reimbursed. Thus, mileage may be reimbursed, presumably at the IRS rate (58.5¢ per mile) upon documentation that the birth mother has traveled so many miles to visit her obstetrician, her adoption lawyer, her adoption caseworker, the guardian ad litem, hospital or court. It would not be appropriate to simply give the birth mother cash to pay for gas.
- Adoption parents may pay up to $300 for maternity clothing for the birth mother upon verification of receipts.
- Adoptive parents also may pay up to $100 toward a gift to the birth mother as appreciation, that is a cumulative total of $100.
- Adoptive parents may pay for birth parent counseling costs, as well as grief counseling should the birth mother require further counseling following the termination of parental rights hearing.
Wisconsin has conservative reimbursement rules in comparison with many states. There have been few publicized prosecutions for violations of the rules. Precautions taken at the outset by caseworkers and counsel will help keep prosecutions to a minimum.