Laws differ on the rights that the father has in the adoption process.
The decision to place a child for adoption, whether you are carrying the child now or have already given birth, is an extremely difficult one. Ideally, the father of the child will be a source of support and guidance throughout this process, but there are many situations in which it can feel like involving the father in the adoption process will only make it more difficult.
When the father is not currently in your life, and perhaps not even aware of the pregnancy or birth, it may even feel easier to simply not tell him (assuming you know where to find him) about the child and/or your decision to place that child up for adoption. But if you don’t let him know, you could end up putting your adoption plan in jeopardy.
The Basic Law on a Father’s Rights in an Adoption
State law governs the rights that a father has in adoption, and those laws vary considerably from state to state. If the adoptive parents live in another state, it may be possible to finalize the adoption under the laws of either that state or yours.
Most state laws make a distinction between a
- “presumed” father
- and an “alleged” father,
Presumed fathers have more legal rights than alleged fathers when it comes to adoption.
A Presumed Father
In most states, a father is considered presumed if you were married to him when your baby was conceived or if his name is listed on the baby’s birth certificate.
Most of the time (but not always!), a presumed father has the same parental rights to the child as the biological mother, so you may need his consent if you want to make an adoption plan for your child.
Abandonment of the child by a presumed father may be grounds for terminating his rights to object to the adoption. Failure to support the child or to have meaningful contact with them may be considered abandonment.
An Alleged Father
An "alleged father" is generally a biological father who does not fit into any of those three categories above. Most states require efforts be made to make him aware of the planned adoption. Once he's aware, it will be up to him to decide if he wants to:
- support the adoption plan,
- do nothing,
- or try to stop the adoption from happening.
If an alleged father:
- does nothing after being notified,
- or if he does not need to be notified (such as a state law exception for when the father has been convicted of certain crimes)
- or if your attorney cannot locate him after reasonable efforts,
the adoption can usually go forward.
Since presumed fathers have more rights than alleged fathers and may impede an adoption, you should consider not putting the father’s name on the birth certificate to prevent him from automatically being a presumed father.
Be Honest With Your Adoption Attorney About the Father
If the idea of contacting the father sends shivers up your spine, understand that your adoption attorney can take care of all of these matters on your behalf, including determining what the best option is for reaching out to the father (and whether to do so at all) and even contacting the father for you.
Your responsibility is to be honest with your adoption attorney so he or she can help you make the best decision and protect you from future legal issues with the adoption.
You should provide honest, complete information to the adoption attorney regarding who the father is (which can be more than one potential person if there were multiple sexual partners around the time of conception), where he might be found, and any issues regarding him that will be important, such as whether he knows about the pregnancy and whether you are afraid to tell him.
All of this information will help the adoption professionals working for you to move forward in ways that protect both you and the child.
If you fail to be honest with your attorney, this can put the adoption at risk, even after it goes through, so do everything you can to be transparent with the people working for you so that they can create a plan that best serves both your needs and your child’s.