The decision to place a child for adoption, whether you are carrying the child now or have already given birth, is an extremely difficult one. Ideally, the father of the child will be a source of support and guidance throughout this process, but there are many situations in which it can feel like involving the father in the adoption process will only make it more difficult.
When the father is not currently in your life, and perhaps not even aware of the pregnancy or birth, it may even feel easier to simply not tell him (assuming you know where to find him) about the child and/or your decision to place that child up for adoption. But a failure to do so may place the adoption in jeopardy.
The Basic Law on a Father’s
Rights in an Adoption
State law governs the rights that a father has in an adoption, and those laws vary considerably from state to state. That said, if the adoptive parents live in another state, it may be possible to finalize the adoption under the laws of either that state or yours, depending upon which state laws best serve your interests.
Most state laws make a distinction between a “presumed” father and an “alleged” father, the difference being that a presumed father will have more rights in regard to an adoption than an alleged father.
In most states, a presumed father is the person: 1) who you were married to while the baby was conceived or born; 2) whose name is on the birth certificate; OR 3) who lives with you and holds himself out as the father. A presumed father has the same parental rights to the child as you in most but not all cases, and so it will be necessary for you to get his consent to terminating his parental rights to the child or to have a court determine that his parental rights should be terminated. Abandonment of the child by a presumed father may be grounds for terminating his rights to object to the adoption. Failure to support the child or to have meaningful contact with them may be considered abandonment.
An alleged father, on the other hand, is generally anyone who does not fit into those three categories above. In many states, some effort will need to be made to make him aware of the planned adoption, but then it will be up to him to decide if he wants to be involved, do nothing, or contest the adoption.
If an alleged father does nothing after being notified, or if he does not need to be notified (such as a state law exception for when the father has been convicted of certain crimes or if he is a physical danger to you), or if your attorney cannot locate him after reasonable efforts, the adoption can usually go ahead unimpeded.
Note that, because presumed fathers have more rights than alleged fathers and may impede an adoption, you should consider not putting the father’s name on the birth certificate so as to prevent him from automatically being a presumed father.
Be Honest With Your Adoption
Attorney About the Father
If the idea of contacting the father sends shivers up your spine, understand that your adoption attorney can take care of all of these matters on your behalf, including determining what the best option is for reaching out to the father (and whether to do so at all) and even contacting the father for you.
But your job as the mother is to be honest and upfront with your adoption attorney so he or she can help you make the best decision, while protecting you from future legal issues with the adoption. You should provide honest, complete information to the adoption attorney regarding who the father is (which can be more than one potential person if there were multiple sexual partners around the time of conception), where he might be found, and any issues regarding him that will be important, such as whether he knows about the pregnancy and whether you are afraid to tell him.
All of this information will help the adoption professionals working for you to move forward in ways that protect both you and the child. If you fail to be honest with your attorney, this can put the adoption at risk, even after it goes through, so do everything you can to be transparent with the people working for you so that they can create a plan that best serves both your needs and your child’s.
For more on Birth Father Rights, read our article on State Laws about Adoption Consent.
Also, feel free to contact one of our partnering adoption professionals from your state who can walk you through the adoption process and help answer your questions further.