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Birth Father Rights

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.

A birth father is the biological father of a child who has been or will be adopted; understanding your rights and how they apply to the adoption process is just as important for you, as it is for the birth mother of the child.

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.

Birth fathers:

  • 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.
Many birth fathers find themselves excluded from the decision making process of adoption for many reasons. Often a birth father won’t be involved in choosing or meeting the adoptive parents, working with an adoption professional, or the birth of the baby because the birth father wasn’t able to be found, or because no attempt was made to locate and notify him.
Adoption Choices of Missouri will always make an attempt to locate the father of the child and make them aware of the adoption and their rights as fathers before proceeding with an adoption.

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.

What Next?

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.
If you do object to the adoption, there are few scenarios in which you may be able to block the adoption from happening.
Some birth fathers object to adoption because they want to raise the child themselves, want a family member to do it, or have other plans in mind. However, you cannot do this so easily.

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:

  1. If you are married to the birth mother, or were married to her within 300 days of the child’s birth.
  2. You have publicly acknowledged the child as your own and have received him or her into your home.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
If you, as the birth father, do not meet one of the four circumstances listed, then your consent to the adoption is not required to move forward. However, it may be required for the birth mother to notify you of her decision, depending on the state’s laws. Upon learning of the adoption, you will then have the right to file a legal action to stop the proceedings if you so choose.
As the birth father, you do have as much of a say as the birth mother about the child’s future, which is why you have certain rights when it comes to voicing your opinion and desires for your child. These rights vary by state making it imperative that you look further into your states statutes.
It is important to note, though, that upon taking legal action, you must follow all the requirements in a timely manner. Further, even if you file legal paperwork on time, the majority of such cases and claims are denied by courts because the fathers have not fulfilled all responsibilities, and the adoption may proceed without your consent and over your objection.
If the birth mother is currently working with Adoption Choices of Missouri and you feel you need to speak to an adoption attorney or adoption professional about your rights as a birth father, please contact us.

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