The answer to this question depends largely on what state you’re in. Some states have very liberal laws on paying birth mothers (I’ve heard that Utah and Nevada are pretty lax), while other states like Alabama and Georgia are fairly restrictive. Overall, I think it is good public policy to strictly regulate payment to birth mothers. Think of a world where a woman would get pregnant for the sole purpose of offering up her child to the highest bidder. Similar to the regulation of selling body parts, there are some things we just don’t want the free market governing.
The statutes governing this area of law in Alabama are 26-10A-23 and 26-10A-34 of the Alabama Code, 1975. The gist of these sections is that it is okay to pay certain expenses as long as there is prior court approval. These expenses include the “maternity-connected medical or hospital and necessary living expenses of the mother preceding and during pregnancy-related incapacity as an act of charity, as long as the payment is not contingent upon placement of the minor for adoption, consent to the adoption, or cooperation in the completion of the adoption.”
What this means is that it is not okay to pay a birth mother $10,000 in exchange for her child.
The process for applying this law in Alabama may look different for different counties. In addition, other states will have varying degrees of flexibility. Feel free to contact The Adoption Law Firm for guidance on specific cases.
From a wisdom perspective, I’m not sure it’s ever a good idea to simply hand over cash to someone in need. There is a book out, When Helping Hurts, that is all the rave with social justice people; I hope to read this in the near future and gain some wisdom on questions like this.
 “§ 26-10A-23. Fees and charges
(a) No person, organization, group, agency, or any legal entity may accept any fee whatsoever for bringing the adopting parent or parents together with the adoptee or the natural parents. A violation of this section shall be punished under Section 26-10A-33.
(b) Prior to payment, the petitioners must file with the court a full accounting of all charges for expenses, fees, or services they or persons acting on their behalf will be paying relating to the adoption. Payment may be made only with court approval except that fees may be placed in an escrow account prior to court approval. The court may not refuse to approve a fee for documented services on the sole basis that a child has not been placed. The court shall approve all reasonable fees and expenses unless determined by the court to be unreasonable based upon specific written findings of fact.
(c) The petitioner must file a sworn statement that is a full accounting of all disbursements paid in the adoption.
(d) Under penalty of perjury, the adoptive parents and the parent or parents surrendering the minor for adoption shall, prior to the entry of the final adoption order, sign affidavits stating that no moneys or other things of value have been paid or received for giving the minor up for adoption. In addition to any penalties for perjury, the payment or receipt of money as referred to herein shall be punished as set forth in Section 26-10A-33.”
“§ 26-10A-34. Payments to parent for placing minor for adoption; maternity expenses; receipt of financial benefits by father
(a) It shall be a Class A misdemeanor for any person or agency to offer to pay money or anything of value to a parent for the placement for adoption, for the consent to an adoption, or for cooperation in the completion of an adoption of his or her minor. It shall be a Class C felony for any person or agency to pay money or anything of value to a parent for the placement of a child for adoption, for the consent to an adoption, or for cooperation in the completion of an adoption of his or her minor. This section does not make it unlawful to pay the maternity-connected medical or hospital and necessary living expenses of the mother preceding and during pregnancy-related incapacity as an act of charity, as long as the payment is not contingent upon placement of the minor for adoption, consent to the adoption, or cooperation in the completion of the adoption.
(b) It shall be a Class C felony for any person or agency to receive any money or other thing of value for placing, assisting, or arranging a minor placement. This section is not intended to prohibit legitimate charges for medical, legal, prenatal, or other professional services.
(c) Surrogate motherhood is not intended to be covered by this section.” (emphasis added)
 26-10A-34(a) Ala. Code 1975.