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Adoption Questions: What about the Birth Father?

Understanding the rights of the birth father is important to a smooth adoption

Understanding the rights of the birth father is important to a smooth adoption

The laws governing birth father rights vary from state to state.  This article is a general overview of birth father’s rights in an adoption proceeding.

What rights does a birth father have in an adoption proceeding?

A birth father’s rights will depend on whether he is considered a legal father or an alleged (or putative father) under state law.  In every adoption, all birth father rights must be terminated.  This can almost always beA baby can’t be adopted unless both parents have terminated or relinquished their rights. In the cases of unmarried couples, however, the circumstances are slightly more complicated, because in some cases the woman may not know who the father is, she may choose not to say who the father is, or a man may not know he is a father until the adoption process is underway. When this is the case, the birth father’s rights become more limited since the courts may decide that he does not meet the definition of a father and therefore has no rights in the decision of the birth mother to put her child up for adoption.

What is the legal definition of a father?

Interestingly, the definition of “father” or “parent” varies from state to state. In several states, a man is considered a father if one of the following criteria is met:(1)the man and the child’s mother are married when the child was born or the child was born no more than 300 days after the end of the marriage,(2) the birth father’s name is on the birth certificate, or (3) the man has acknowledged that he is the father in writing. If the birth father has not met one of these criteria, it is important to realize that he may still have parental rights if he has established himself as a putative father.

What is a putative father?

A putative father is a definition used by many states to define a man who is not yet established as the actual father of a child, but who alleges or claims that he is, although he and the birth mother were never married. There are 13 states that acknowledge the term putative father in their statutes and 25 states have actually established Putative Father Registries for men that allows them to register as putative fathers. This registry gives certain rights to unmarried birth fathers and ensures that they will receive notices of adoption proceedings, petitions to terminate parental rights and petitions for adoptions.

Read more about the rights of unmarried fathers

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Megan Cohen, Birth Attorney

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