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Adoption Without The Father’s Consent

Birth father consent may not be requiredCan I put a baby up for adoption without the father’s consent?  In many situations you can put a baby up for adoption without the father’s consent.  Depending on your situation, however, his consent might be required.  This would include if you are married to the baby’s father or he has been actively involved in the pregnancy and is planning to parent.

Here are situations where the father’s consent may not be required.

Birth father whose identity is unknown

You can likely put a baby up for adoption  without the father’s consent if you don’t know the father’s name.  There are a variety of situations when you might not know the identity of the baby’s father.   Here are some examples:

  • You casually hooked up at a party or bar
  • You are a rape victim, date raped or drugged and raped
    • A convicted rapist’s consent is not required in an adoption
  • The father gave you his first name but not his last name
  • More than one person is possibly the father

Generally speaking, you don’t need the father’s consent to the adoption in the above situations.  However, these fathers still have some rights.  It’s my job to terminate these rights, if any (and my services are free to birth mothers).  This is required for the adoption to move forward.  Here’s how it works:

  • We try to figure out the father’s legal name
  • If we can figure out who he is, I give him notice of the proposed adoption
  • If we can’t figure out who he is, we terminate his rights based on identity unknown

Sometimes we are able to identify a birth father in these situations.  However, they don’t typically want to be involved in an adoption.  This is what I call the “ambivalent” birth father.  We can still terminate his rights….

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The ambivalent birth father

You can put a baby up for adoption without the father’s consent if he doesn’t want to be involved in the adoption.  These situations usually involve an ex or short-term boyfriend, a friend or roommate, or just a hook up.  An ambivalent father would also be one who  says he will help with the pregnancy and then doesn’t come through for you.  These fathers still have rights.  Here’s how we terminate these, if any:

  • I provide the father with notice of the proposed adoption OR
  • He can sign and notarize a document that says the adoption can move forward without him
  • You don’t have to be in contact with this father.   I will do everything, and my services are free to you.

Just because you know who the baby’s father is and you know his name, doesn’t mean he must consent to the adoption.  In these scenarios, I’m required to tell the birth father that the baby will be put up for adoption.  If he does nothing after receiving this notice from me, then the adoption can move forward without his consent.  However, he might decide to hire a lawyer to establish his parental rights. This is what I call the unsupportive birth father…

The unsupportive birth father

Serve father with notice of the adoptionAn unsupportive birth father is different from an ambivalent father in one very important way–an unsupportive birth father is one who actually hires an attorney to establish his parental rights.  When a man’s rights are established, he doesn’t get custody of the baby.   Proving he has parental rights just means that his consent to the adoption is required.   Some men think that a paternity test is all they need to prove they have parental rights.  This is not the case in most states, including California.  Proving parental rights is much more involved, and it’s not always an easy case to win.

If you’re worried that your situation involves an unsupportive father, it’s still possible you can move forward with the adoption.  Here’s how:

  • Educate the birth father on adoption.  Some birth fathers become supportive after they learn more about adoption.
  • Involve the birth father in the adoption  process.  Some men become supportive if they can be involved in their child’s future.
  • Learn more about the strength of the birth father’s legal case.  He may say he’s going to fight you, but he might not have a strong case.

I’m always here to talk with you about your specific situation.  I am also happy to speak with your baby’s father about adoption, open adoption, and how he can be involved in the process.

The putative father registry

Many states have a putative father registry.  Men who are sexually active can register with their state’s putative father registry.  When a woman makes an adoption plan in that state, her attorney must first check the putative father registry.  If the father of her baby is registered there, the father must be given notice of the proposed adoption.  Once he gets notice, the father may go to court to establish parental rights.  If he succeeds, his consent to the adoption is required.

Each state has very specific rules regarding the putative father registry.  California does NOT have a putative father registry.

The estranged husband who isn’t the baby’s father

Get husband's consent to adoptionMany women are surprised to learn that their estranged husband has legal rights in an adoption.  This is true even if the baby isn’t his biological child.  This is because married men are presumed to be the father of their wife’s child.  It is still possible to move forward the adoption without the estranged husband’s consent, however.  Here’s how it works:

  • An estranged husband can sign a document, not a consent, that says the adoption can move forward without his involvement
  • The actual father undergoes a paternity test and we use that to rebut the presumption that the estranged husband is the father
  • We can file an abandonment action in court six months after the baby is born, arguing that the estranged husband has abandoned the baby

All three of these options require that the estranged husband is aware of the pregnancy and the proposed adoption.  If he’s helpful and proactive, he will sign the necessary paperwork (a one-page, short document).  Many estranged husbands are willing to sign adoption paperwork because they may be liable for child-support if the mother decides to parent.  When an estranged husband is ambivalent or doesn’t want to be helpful, an abandonment action is usually the best option.

It’s most important that you disclose an estranged husband.  A man with legal rights to his child can undo an adoption later.  Terminating his rights legally and as soon as possible is always the best option.

Refusing to name the birth father

It’s possible to put a baby up for adoption without the father’s consent, even if you refuse to name the birth father.  In these situations, the court will decide whether to terminate the rights of a birth father who is unknown because the mother refuses to name him.  While it’s generally always best to give the birth father’s name so his rights can be terminated, here are situations where I’ve seen courts willing to do this:

  • Birth mother was raped by her drug dealer and became pregnant
  • A permanent restraining order is in place for a violent birth father
  • Fourteen year old birth mother became pregnant by her 18 year old, alcoholic boyfriend

In these situations, the birth mother was justifiably afraid of the birth  father.  Or, the birth mother was afraid the birth father would ruin her life and exploit her if he knew about the pregnancy and adoption.  In all of these cases, the court will look at all of the evidence and consider carefully the best interest of the baby.

I have many years of experience working with various birth father situations.  Contact me today so we can discuss your particular situation  in more detail.  Remember that my services are free to birth mothers.

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Are you pregnant and thinking about adoption for your baby? I can help. You can send me your questions about adoption or ask me to send you more information. Your communication with me is always confidential, and you’re never under any obligation to do an adoption. I’m here to help, not to pressure you or tell you what to do.

Sincerely,

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Megan Cohen, Birth Attorney

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