Five Things Fathers Should Know About Adoption
In many ways, considering adoption and adoptive placement are the same for
mothers and fathers. In others, the experience is very different. Obviously, the
physical experience differs, as only the mother carries the child and gives birth.
Another significant difference relates to rights. Fathers should not assume that they
have the rights of a parent.
1. Fathers Can Have a Say in Adoption.
Although a child has two biological parents, the rights of those parents may not be the same. For this reason, it is important for a biological father to understand his rights. Just because he is a biological father does not mean that he has legal rights; he does, however, have an opportunity to assert and establish rights. Once a father properly asserts his rights, he will generally be entitled to notice of any adoption proceedings and his consent to the adoption will probably be required.
2. A Father May Need to Take Action to Establish and Protect His Rights.
A mother’s rights are generally established by her giving birth to a child. The
hospital documents the birth and notifies the State vital records office, who issues a
birth certificate naming her as the mother. For a father, however, the birth alone
does not make him a legal father. He must act to assert his rights. This is commonly
done by one of the following:
- Marriage to the mother A father who is married to the mother at the time the child is conceived or born is recognized as the child’s father.
- Listing on the Birth Certificate If the mother and father both sign appropriate state forms naming the father, he will be listed on the birth certificate and recognized as the child’s father.
- Court Order A court order may establish the father’s rights. Court cases to establish paternity may be brought by a father, a mother or the State. A father may need to (1) file a court case, (2) respond to notices regarding adoption and paternity or (3) file with a state father’s registry in order to assert his rights.
A father who fails to act to establish his rights may not have any rights.
3. A Father Should Not Procrastinate Asserting His Rights.
If a father does not act in a timely fashion to establish and protect his rights, he may not have any rights. Procedures vary from state to state, but in every state a father may lose his rights if he does not act in a timely fashion to protect them. In many situations, a father needs to take action, such as providing financial and emotional support for the mother or registering with a state father’s registry, before the child is born. A father who delays asserting his rights may lose them.
4. Financial and Emotional Support for the Mother Are Important.
Commencing legal action to establish paternity, responding to legal notices regarding adoption and registering with a state father’s registry are all important steps to assert paternity. Additionally, however, and perhaps most importantly, a father seeking to assert his rights should provide financial and emotional support to the mother before the baby is born. Mothers generally incur expenses in connection with their pregnancy and require emotional support to assist them. A father who fails to provide such support may be deemed to have abandoned his rights. Even if a mother resists help, it is important that a father offer financial and emotional
5. A Father Should Consult an Attorney Regarding His Rights.
Determining a father’s rights can be complex and confusing. For this reason, fathers are best served by identifying a competent attorney who can provide advice regarding those rights and how to assert them.