Birth Father Rights
Some birth fathers have the right to be notified that an adoption is taking place and some may even have to be involved in the process. It all depends on what responsibility he has taken for the child. Any birth father, whether he has rights or not, can be involved in an adoption plan if he and the birth mother agree that he should be part of the process. However, no birth father can be required to be part of the adoption process if he refuses to do so.
Presumed Birth Fathers
The birth father has the right to be involved in the adoption and, if he wishes, to refuse to allow the adoption to happen if:
- he is listed on the child’s birth certificate
- he is married to the birth mother within certain time frames of the child’s birth
- a court has judged him to be the father of the child
- he is openly living with the child or the mother
- he has substantially supported the child
- he has filed a paternity action within 30 days of the child’s birth
- he openly holds the child out as his own
In all these cases, the birth father must be notified of the adoption plan and has the right to agree with or to oppose the adoption plan.
It is sometimes hard to determine what rights a birth father may have because he may not clearly fit one of these categories. The law itself is not clear as to exactly what a birth father has to do to provide “substantial support” or what it means to “openly hold the child out as his own.” It is best to consult with an adoption attorney to be sure that the birth father is given whatever rights he may have.
If a birth father is determined to be a presumed father, his legal rights must be dealt with. There are several different ways to do this depending on the specific situation and how cooperative or uncooperative he may be.
Putative Birth Fathers
If a birth father has not done anything to become a presumed father, he is a Putative Father. This means he has no right to be informed of the pregnancy or adoption plan unless he takes specific action to obtain rights.
In Minnesota, the Fathers’ Adoption Registry was created by the Minnesota legislature (MN Statutes, section 259.52) to allow putative fathers to receive notice of pending adoption proceedings for their children. By registering any time between conception and thirty days of his child’s birth, a putative father ensures that he will be notified of the adoption plan. The goal of the Registry is to balance the interests of the mother, child and father when an adoption plan is being considered, and to stabilize the adoption process by placing time limits on a putative father’s ability to assert his rights.
If a putative father registers within the time allowed, he becomes entitled to notice if an adoption plan is made for his child. Once notice is served on him, he has 30 days to take additional action.
If he wants the adoption to go forward, he can sign a consent. If he does not want the adoption to proceed, he must begin a paternity action. Or he can change his mind and ask that his name be removed from the Registry. If he fails to take any action within the 30 days, he cannot obtain any future rights to be involved in the adoption.