One of the most unfair aspects of human existence is that, when there is an unplanned pregnancy (regardless of how the conception occurred), the father might choose to walk away while the mother is left to deal with the pregnancy.
The failure of a birth father to be involved in the important decisions relating to the pregnancy – namely issues such as parenting and the question of whether to place the child for adoption – can be heartbreaking, especially when there was or is a romantic relationship involved. A birth father should ideally take responsibility and do whatever he can to support the mother through the pregnancy and beyond.
At the same time, however, the lack of involvement by a birth father – whether due to his own apathy or a decision by the mother to protect her own interests and that of the child by keeping the father out of the process to the extent legally possible – can be helpful in some ways. But doing so can require the birth mother to take some important steps (while avoiding missteps) to facilitate the adoption and protect her own future and her child’s future.
How a Birth Father’s Lack of Involvement Can Actually Be Helpful
A father of a child has certain parental rights to that child, whether the parents are married or not, although the extent of those rights will depend on whether the father is a presumed father or an alleged father.
You can find out more on that distinction and what means for you here [FILL IN LINK TO “Do I Have to Tell the Father” blog], but, in short, a presumed father will have to either give his consent to the adoption, or a court will have to terminate his parental rights over his objections in order for the adoption to go through.
An alleged father (one who is not married to the mother when the child is conceived or born, or who does not have his name on the birth certificate or hold himself out as the father) should still be notified of the adoption, but will have less legal rights to impede the adoption process.
All of which is to say is that a birth father who does not want to be involved in the adoption process will presumably put up less of a fight in standing in the way of the adoption.
What You Will Need From Him Even if He Is Uninvolved
Again, based on whether the father is a presumed father or alleged father, you will need to take some steps to either obtain his waiver of parental rights or, at the least, make him aware of the adoption process.
In either case, obtaining a consent from the father to the adoption process is easiest for all parties involved. Many uninvolved fathers are willing to do this as doing so will mean that they will not be responsible for paying child support for the child over the next 18 years.
Your adoption attorney can handle this process of reaching out to the birth father on your behalf if you prefer, and can take care of all necessary steps to obtain his consent, or, if necessary, take other legal action to prevent him from objecting to the adoption.
In addition, you may want or need to have a conversation with the birth father about any ongoing contact he would like with the child after the adoption via the open adoption process. This can be tricky to maneuver, but, again, a father not wanting to be involved with the adoption may also not have strong feelings about wanting to remain in the child’s life post-adoption.
Pitfalls to Avoid in Protecting Yourself With an Uninvolved Birth Father
There are several actions you may want to avoid in dealing with an uninvolved father in order to make the adoption process as smooth as possible while protecting your rights going forward.
First off, you should think twice (and speak to an adoption professional) before having the father’s name put on the child’s birth certificate. Doing so will cause the father to be a presumed father and give him more rights in regard to the adoption process. If you do decide to parent the baby at a later time, you can still take steps to collect child support even if the father’s name is not on the birth certificate.
Additionally, be careful about involving the father’s family. While an uninvolved father may be happy to consent to the adoption, especially when the upside for him is not having to pay child support, his family members may take action to get involved and cause unnecessary drama and delay for all involved.
In all cases, speak to an adoption attorney about taking the steps necessary to your particular situation to avoid unwanted issues with the birth father.