Understanding Birth Father Rights in Adoption
Do you remember the MTV show called “16 and Pregnant”? What about our favorite couple, Catelynn and Tyler? Tyler was an amazing birth father who stood by his family throughout the entire process of adoption, and willingly consented to the adoption when his daughter was born. What an emotional rollercoaster they were on, and we rode it with them. However, there are many birth mothers who have not, or will not, share that similar experience of having a completely supportive birth father throughout the adoption decision and process.
I Want to Put My Baby Up for Adoption but the Father Does Not
What about the birth father? Will he be supportive of a birth mother’s choice for adoption? Can a woman choose adoption without father consent? What if the birth mother doesn’t know who the birth father is? What if the birth parents are married? What if the birth mother is a single mother? If you give your child up for adoption, does the dad have to agree?
This is a highly touchy subject. After all, no man wants to admit that he cannot provide for a family, and it can be easy to blame birth fathers in this society for the choice a birth mother makes for adoption.
Does the Birth Father Have to Agree to Adoption?
There are various laws in each state that provide for how to handle notifying a birth father of a birth mother’s adoption plan, as well as how to handle the birth father who consents to adoption or proceed with the adoption without consent. There are a variety of birth father situations that may present themselves when it comes to adoption. While society may encourage a birth mother to choose adoption regardless of the birth father’s thoughts, there are rights that the birth father holds as well when it comes to a birth mother choosing adoption.
Birth Father Rights in Adoption
“The laws of the state in which the birth mother terminates her rights and the laws of the birth father’s state of residence will help define the birth father’s rights” in the adoption process. Regardless of the level of involvement a birth father has with the child, the birth father may still have legal rights. Every state has different laws regarding the birth father rights in adoption. These laws sometimes also depend on how involved the birth father has or has not been in the child’s life.
To learn more about the rights of the biological father in adoption your situation as a birth mother, it is crucial that you speak with an adoption attorney, whether it is on your own or through an adoption agency.
Types of Birth Father Involvement
There are four general levels of birth father involvement in the adoption process:
1. Supportive Birth Father
Tyler is the best example that I can think of for the supportive birth father. He consented to the decision for adoption, and was supportive throughout the entire process. If this is your situation, trust me when I tell you that it is a true blessing, because it is not always the case.
In these scenarios, the birth father can be as involved as you like in your adoption plan, helping you choose your child’s adoptive parents, speaking with your adoption counselor, being present at the hospital, and more. He will have the opportunity to voluntarily consent to the adoption and continue an open adoption relationship with your child, if desired.
2. Unsupportive Birth Father
An unsupportive birth father can be one the most heartbreaking and stressful aspects of the adoption process. I know it was for me. Dealing with someone who does not have the child’s best interests in mind, but instead is choosing their own wants, is a difficult task to handle. It is especially difficult for a birth mother to deal with an unsupportive birth father over any other unsupportive relationships regarding the adoption process.
If your child’s birth father is unsupportive of your adoption decision, talk to an adoption professional right away. They can help you understand his rights and the impact he may have on the adoption based on your circumstances.
3. Unknown Birth Father
If you are unsure of where the birth father is, or, through no fault of your own, do not know who the birth father is, then adoption is still an option for you. An unknown father and adoption is still a possibility.
According to American Adoptions, “In the cases of unknown birth fathers, many states have a Putative Father Registry, for which the father must sign up to protect his parental rights. If he doesn’t register, an adoption attorney may not be required to give him notice of the adoption. Oftentimes, if the father fails to register with the Putative Father Registry, has not provided financial support during the pregnancy, or has not legally established his paternity to the child, or all efforts to find the birth father are exhausted, you may be able to pursue an adoption plan without the birth father’s consent.”
4. Uninvolved Birth Father
An uninvolved birth father is one who has had little to no involvement throughout the pregnancy of a birth mother and/or the life of a child. This birth father may or may not care whether the child is placed for adoption. However, this birth father may still have rights legally regarding the choice for adoption for a child by the birth mother. If this describes your situation, you should contact an adoption agency or attorney to discuss your options for proceeding with your adoption plan.
Seek Legal Counsel
Regardless of what your situation is with your child’s birth father, my number one suggestion is to discuss the circumstances with an adoption professional and adoption attorney. Legal advice cannot be given by those who are not qualified to know the law. Legal advice is crucial in knowing how to move forward with the process of adoption.
Remember, no matter what the situation is with the birth father, seek qualified legal counsel before and throughout moving forward with the process for adoption.