In Virginia, a parent of a child has legal authority to formally grant custody of that child to another person without the need for a court order. It is remarkable, however, how few people know this. Neither hospitals nor insurance companies will acknowledge the validity of a simple parental Transfer of Custody document. When the hospital allows the adoptive parents to make medical decisions and to take the baby home with them, it does this because the birth mother has transferred authority to them. This does not mean that the hospital acknowledges that the adoptive parents have legal custody.
Nevertheless, it is a good practice to ask the birth mother to sign a Transfer of Custody and Medical Authorization as soon as reasonably possible after delivery. This form accomplishes two things. First, it transfers legal custody. Situations can arise in which a birth mother may become irrational or want to accomplish something that is not in the best interests of the child. For example, she may have a continuing relationship with the birth father, or even have a new boyfriend, and have convinced herself that life will be rosey if she can take the baby back and go live with this man in some temporary and unsafe situation. In such a case, the adoptive parents might very well decide not to return the child and to proceed toward a contested adoption hearing. If they have a Voluntary Transfer of Custody document, and have prompltly filed the necessary Petition in court, it is unlikely that police will force them to turn over the child. If they do not have such a document, however, they have nothing to stand upon. They probably would have to turn over the child, regardless of the circumstances the child would be going into.
Second, the document the birth mother should sign after delivery grants the adoptive parents legal authority to make all medical decisions concerniing the child from that moment until the time when the court grants formal custody to them.