State laws differ on the rights of birth father's in an adoption.
The decision to place a child for adoption before or after birth, is an extremely difficult one. Ideally, the child's birth father of the child be a source of support throughout the adoption process; however, there are many situations where it seems like involving the birth father will only make things more difficult.
If the birth father isn't involved, or not even aware of the pregnancy or birth, it may feel easier to just keep quiet about your pregnancy and your decision to give the baby up for adoption. But if you know how to find the child's father and still don't tell him, you could end up putting your adoption plan in jeopardy.
The Basic Law on a Father’s Rights in an Adoption
Laws about a birth father's rights in an adoption vary 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 your state or theirs.
Many 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 if you're married to the birth father or his name is on the child's birth certificate, you may need his consent to make an adoption plan for your child.
An Alleged Father
An "alleged father" is generally a biological father who does not qualify as a presumed father. Most states require you to attempt to let him know about your adoption plan unless he poses a safety risk. Once he's aware that you're planning to give your child up for adoption, he can decide whether to:
- support your choice
- do nothing
- try to stop the adoption
If an alleged father:
- signs a consent to the adoption
- does nothing
- can't be found after reasonable efforts have been made to do so,
the adoption can usually go forward.
Note: Since presumed fathers have more rights than alleged fathers and may be able to stop an adoption, you should speak with your attorney about which category the birth father falls into and whether his consent is necessary to move forward.
Be Honest With Your Adoption Attorney About the Father
If the idea of contacting the father stresses you out, understand that your adoption attorney will help determine what's necessary and will handle the communication on your half.
Your job is to be completely honest with your adoption attorney so she can help you make the best decision and protect you from any legal issues down the road.
Don't withhold information. Be honest and forthcoming about the birth father's identity, whether there's more than one possible birth father, how and where to contact the birth father him (if necessary), and any other issues that might be important, such as whether he already knows about the pregnancy, if there's been domestic violence in your relationship, whether he has other children, any criminal history, or that you're afraid to tell him about your pregnancy or adoption plan.
Failing to be honest with your adoption attorney, can put the adoption at risk, even after the baby is born and living with the adoptive parents you've chosen. Be transparent with the people working for you so they can help you make a plan that best serves both you and your child's needs.