Laws on Maternity Leave for Adoptions

By Mandi Titus
mother and child 8 image by Harvey Hudson from

While the maternity leave options for pregnant mothers are often readily available, understanding the maternity leave options for adoptive parents is more of a challenge. In most cases, adoptive mothers and fathers qualify for paid or unpaid time off from work to spend with an adopted child. Federal law, as well as employer benefits and state regulations, determine the amount of leave each parent is entitled to.

Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers most employees the opportunity to take 12 unpaid weeks away from work yearly to handle family and medical needs. Eligible employees are able to use the FMLA "for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care," states the U.S. Department of Labor. Employers must offer FMLA benefits if they are a public agency, a private or public school, or if they employ more than 50 people. Employees eligible for FMLA benefits must have worked for their employer for a year, completing at least 1,250 hours on the job within the past 12 months. The 12 weeks granted under FMLA do not have to be taken consecutively, and can be used as needed throughout the adoption process. Both adoptive mothers and adoptive fathers who meet the eligibility requirements are entitled to leave for adoption under FMLA.

Employer Provided Leave

Employers do not have to offer any leave options for adoptive parents outside of compliance with FMLA. Individual company policy may allow for extra time off, or other benefits, states the Baby Center website. Look into your company's policy to determine if you are able to use your paid vacation time as part of your maternity leave, recommends the Womb to Bloom pregnancy and parenting website. The site also explains that your employer may require you to take your paid vacation time as part of your FMLA time off. While mothers who give birth may use sick time to cover part of their maternity leave, parents who adopt are often unable to claim this time. Talk to your company about their specific requirements for adoption leave.

State Law

Some states offer greater benefits than those offered by FMLA. California was the first state to enact paid family leave in 2002, according to the Baby Center website. Adoptive parents are eligible for time off to bond with their child under California's law. Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding leave for adoption. Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website, listed in the references section, to find information on the family and medical leave law in your state.