When it comes to adoption, much of the focus centers around the adoptive parents, the adoptee and the birth mother. But, there’s one part of the picture that isn’t always highlighted. This can be for various reasons, yet that shouldn’t lessen their importance. After all, without them, the child in question wouldn’t exist.
I’m, of course, referring to the birth father.
Definition of Terms
Put simply, a birth father is a man who conceives a child with a woman. He is also known as a biological father. If his identity is unknown, he is referred to as a “putative” or “alleged” father. This label is typically as a result of the birth mother either denying his identity or choosing not to involve him. The birth father may also put himself into this category if he chooses not to legally prove his fatherhood for the child.
Birth father Rights
Stereotypically, birth fathers are thought of as individuals who dump their unmarried pregnant girlfriends because they are irresponsible or just don’t care. That the unborn child is “a problem” they aren’t mature enough to handle. Ultimately, this then leads to the girlfriend/birth mother to place her child for adoption because she isn’t able to care for them. Hence, birth fathers’ supposed lacking presence has spoken volumes and created potentially false accusations for years.
While this may be true for many young birth mothers, a birth father’s absence doesn’t always mean they shirked responsibility. Many may have wished they had been involved had they known. Key words there: had they known.
Even though the boundaries of their involvement has blurred and been deemed not as critical as the birth mother’s, birth fathers still reserve the right to either consent or object to the adoption of their child. To do this, they must go through the proper legal channels. First, their identity must be legally proven by a blood test. If they want a say in the decision-making process, though, they need to do this immediately. A procrastinated response can present a lacking commitment to the child. So, the sooner the response, the better the outcome. Once their identity has been confirmed, birth fathers can either choose to establish commitment to the child or agree to the adoption.
Unknown or Unaware Fathers
What about the cases when the identity of the birth father is unknown, and the birth mother has no way of contacting him? Definitely not an uncommon circumstance. While the facts of each situation varies greatly, there are twenty-four states in the US that offer birth fathers the option to sign up on a “Putative Father Registry.” Not only does this provide a legal outlet that protects birth fathers when petitioning for their parental rights, but it also helps adoption agencies weed out which father truly wants to support their child, who doesn’t and who were purely unaware. Following their registration, birth fathers have 30 days to establish paternity through a court order or to declare their commitment or termination of rights to the child.
Although it isn’t required, adoption agencies will sometimes offer the option of publishing notices in the birth father’s last known location for those who do not register and state a certain time frame to respond. Adoption agencies are not under any legal obligation to do this, though, or make any effort to notify birth fathers who do not register. That said, birth fathers cannot object to the adoption if they find out after the fact. Courts hold to this as well, especially when the birth father is found at fault for his lapse in knowledge.
Because situations and state laws differ, the circumstances surrounding unknown birth fathers are oftentimes taken on a case-by-case basis. For further questions and concerns regarding the rights of individual biological fathers, or for legal representation, be sure to contact a family law attorney or adoption coordinator.
Objecting to Adoption
Birth fathers who object to the adoption, can seek counseling to discuss and determine their true wants and intentions. Some may opt for an immediate abortion instead of adoption. Largely, this is an emotional response or a lack of insight of the adoption process. That, and it’s seen as the easy way out. In cases like this, the birth mother has ultimate say.
However, if after counseling, birth fathers still refuse to relinquish their parental rights because they want a role in their child’s life, a judge hearing may be necessary to determine whether or not they’re a fit parent. Having this discussion with a lawyer would also be beneficial. Lawyers are great resources when trying to decide appropriate avenues to take.
Another option for birth fathers is that they can file their objection with the court system. An additional venue may include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In their paperwork, birth fathers must provide their petition for custody within a predetermined amount of time. For instance, in some states, this may be 30 days or less.
The existence of birth fathers is often overlooked in the adoption process. In today’s culture and society, there is an unspoken rule against men expressing emotion and involving themselves where there’s guilt or shame. Thus, unresolved mystery has resulted in lessened rights and laws fortified around speculation.
Yet, they are just as essential to the puzzle as the birth mother, adoptee, and adoptive parents. Without them, the child and adoption wouldn’t be a reality. Despite the controversy, birth fathers do have rights and are allowed the chance to make an informed decision.
“Adoption without the Father’s Consent.” Adopt Connect, adopt-connect.com/blog-post/adoption-without-fathers-consent/.
American Adoptions, Inc. “‘What Does Adoption Mean to a Child?”.” American Adoptions – Transracial Adoption, Interracial Adoption for African American Adoption and More, www.americanadoptions.com/pregnant/birth_father_isnt_supportive.
“Birth Father Rights in Adoption.” Adoption Network, Adoption Network Law Center – Safer Than Adoption Agencies, adoptionnetwork.com/birth-father-rights-in-adoption.
Cordell, Elizabeth. “Everything You Need To Know About Putative Father Registries.” Men’s Rights, 24 Aug. 2015, mensrights.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-putative-father-registries/.
“Parental Rights: Unmarried Fathers and Adoption.” Findlaw, family.findlaw.com/paternity/parental-rights-unmarried-fathers-and-adoption.html.
“The Birthfather’s Role in Adoption.” FamilyEducation, 25 July 2006, www.familyeducation.com/life/birthparent-adoptive-parent-relations/birthfathers-role-adoption.
“Why Don’t We Hear More from Birth Fathers?” Adoption.org, adoption.org/index.php/dont-hear-birth-fathers.