There is a misconception that often a birth father is left out of the adoption process. A birth father has a Constitutional right to be notified that he might be the father of a child who is being put up for adoption.
One of the biggest parental rights is the right to consent or the right to object to the adoption of one’s child. Generally, both parents of a child must consent to an adoption only if both parents meet certain requirements that give them the parental right to block or consent to the adoption. If the father is not known, or the whereabouts of the father is unknown, many states require that some sort of notice be published in the legal advertising section of the newspaper, informing all persons claiming to be the biological father of the pending adoption.
- Are the biological fathers of their child or children.
- Do not have custody of their children.
- Do not pay child support.
- May be married to the mother of the child, married to another, divorced, or unmarried.
- May or may not have surrendered their parental rights.
- May or may not live in the same area as their child’s adoptive family.
Does the Biological Father Have to Consent to an Adoption?
Whether or not a father’s consent is needed for an adoption to go forward can depend on the state, the relationship between the father and the child, and the relationship between the two parents.
- In virtually all states, a child cannot be adopted without the consent of the birth father if the parents are married, or were married within a certain time period before the birth of the child.
- If the parents were not married, but lived together either at the time of the child’s birth, or within a certain time before the child’s birth, some states require consent of the father.
- If the biological parents were never married and have never lived together, most states do not require the father’s consent before placing a child up for adoption. The birth father is given notice of the intent to put the child up for adoption, and if he does not challenge the adoption, his parental rights are terminated. If he does challenge the adoption, a hearing will be held to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child.
What is a putative father registry?
If you are married to the mother of your child at the time of birth, you are considered the child’s legal father. If you are not married, you are considered a ‘putative father.’ Putative Fathers have to work harder to make the courts recognize them as the biological father of their child or children, and in some states they have to register with the Putative Father Registry to assert any parental rights. Birth fathers may petition to get custody of their biological children if their parental rights were not surrendered before the adoption took place, and feel the child should be in their custody. These cases are called ‘contested adoption.’
Many states have a voluntary Putative Father Registry. A father can register whether he knows or simply believes he is the father of a child born outside of marriage. Fathers who desire to parent are typically permitted and encouraged to register prior to the child’s birth so that others will be aware of the fathers’ intentions to establish paternity to the child.
In the U.S., about half of the states participate in established paternity registries. While filing is voluntary, this is sometimes the only way that fathers can protect their rights as unmarried parents. All states have a procedure for establishing paternity through the courts, even if they do not have a paternity registry. Some information regarding the procedures for establishing paternity in the various states can be found on the website for the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
As the birth father, everything starts with your stance on the adoption. If you do not object to the adoption, you can move forward with the next steps. These may include the following:
- You Can Choose to Not Be Involved in the Case: deciding to not be involved usually requires you to sign a Waiver of Notice or a Denial of Paternity.
- You Can Still Be Involved in the Plan: if you do not object to the adoption and want to be involved in the case, you and the birth mother can work together throughout your adoption plan. Usually, the plan will be set up with an adoption specialist, attorney, or social worker. You may sign the relinquishment document along with the child’s birth other once the adoption process and plan are completed.
The birth mother retains more leverage when it comes to making decisions for the child. In order for you to have a stronger influence over the adoption decision, you must take specific legal steps in a timely fashion in order to both establish and preserve your parental rights. Typically, you may only block the adoption if you meet at least one of the following strict legal requirements, depending on state law and regulations:
- If you are married to the birth mother, or were married to her within 300 days of the child’s birth.
- You have publicly acknowledged the child as your own and have received him or her into your home.
- You and the birth mother have both signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity to have you listed as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate. Typically, this is signed at the time of the child’s birth, however it is not a requirement and should not be done if you are both planning to place the child for adoption.
- If you have done everything you can to take care of the child and the birth mother both financially and emotionally within the time of knowing about the pregnancy.