Do Unmarried Fathers Have a Right to Object to Adoptions?
Situations can arise where one parent wants to put a child up for adoption without the other's consent. In one particular scenario, an unwed mother may consider doing so for a wide variety of reasons. The father of the child may object to this, but is unsure whether he has any rights in the process. This is a complex situation that likely requires the help of a custody lawyer. However, there are some general guidelines for fathers in this situation. Learn what type of parental rights may be maintained by a biological father in the face of adoption.
The General Law
The basic rule is that both parents must consent to an adoption. This is because the adoption will effectively extinguish parental rights over the child. Birth parents are usually responsible for making this decision. Yet, others who have parental rights over the child may also be required to give consent. This may occur where the biological parents are not in the picture, and a caregiver has played the parental role.
In addition, some jurisdictions impose a waiting period before consent can be given. This ensures that the decision is thoroughly made. Adoption is a permanent change to the child's life, and the decision should not be done in a hasty manner.
One more thing to remember is that consent is revocable. However, the exceptions that make revocation possible are often narrowly drawn. In most cases, once the adoption decree is formalized, parents will no longer be able to revoke consent.
Paternity Is Key
When determining what rights a father has to prevent an adoption, we must focus on the subject of paternity. This process is what gives a father legal rights over a child. Paternity can be established a few different ways. Most state laws require a DNA test to establish the biological link, and some sort of responsibility for the care of the child. Nonetheless, paternity is not a given. Unwed fathers should make an early effort to establish paternity to ensure that their rights are protected. Failing to take timely action in this regard may also signal to the court that you are not committed to the child. In the end, you may not be able to establish the parental rights needed to prevent an adoption.
It is not uncommon that a man may not even be aware that he is a father. Some relationships end before the pregnancy is discussed. In this situation, how can a father stop a subsequent adoption? In the state of Utah, a father must show that he complied with Utah Code section 78B-6-110(3). Under this section, a man who has a sexual relationship with a woman is presumed to be notified of a potential pregnancy. Thus, the man is held responsible for taking action to establish paternity.
It is ideal for men in such relationships to strictly follow the steps in section 78B-6-110(3). This holds true even if one is not sure that a pregnancy actually occurred. The steps to establish paternity include:
- Filing a paternity action.
- Filing a Notice of Commencement of Paternity Proceeding.
- Submit an affidavit demonstrating the ability to support the child.
- Providing an offer to pay for the expenses of childbirth.
These steps will be necessary even if the father is living outside of the state. A father who lives out of state and does not know about the pregnancy can establish paternity in his home state.
As you can see, this area of law is fairly complicated. To cover the bases, a potential father should immediately determine if a former romantic partner has given childbirth. It is also important to follow the legal process to establish paternity. Without such effort, a biological father may not have the authority to object to adoption efforts. In any case, it is a good idea to consult with a custody attorney to receive specific legal advice.
If you need assistance with a child custody matter in Utah, contact us at TR Spencer Law Office.