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Fathers: Seek legal help to prevent unwanted adoptions

Fathers: Seek legal help to prevent unwanted adoptions

If you’re an unwed father, what right do you have to prevent your child from being put up for adoption?

None — unless you take action to assert yourself and establish the legal paternity of your child.

If a couple is married when the woman becomes pregnant, paternity is automatically assigned to the husband — but that isn’t how it works when a couple has no legal tie between them. Many young men are unaware of that fact.

In many cases, young men also don’t realize that they can lose their chance to be a father before the child is ever born — simply by being uninvolved with the mother during the pregnancy and leaving her without support or by waiting until after the child is born to start trying to assert paternity.

Once the mother decides to put the child up for adoption, the attorney for the state or the adoption agency may push the court to terminate the parental rights of the possible father on several different grounds:

  • The father hasn’t stepped forward to claim paternity, indicating that he is unwilling to accept responsibility for the child.
  • The father both physically and financially abandoned the mother while she was pregnant.
  • The father didn’t make any substantial effort to establish a relationship or bond with his child following birth.
  • The father is physically, mentally or emotionally unable to provide a stable home for the child.

This is one of those situations in the law where what you don’t do can come back to haunt you. If you were unaware of the pregnancy and didn’t know you were about to be a father, the court is unlikely to hold that against you. However, if you were informed by the mother of the pregnancy and you didn’t offer her regular support — at least financially — the court can take that as an indication that you are either disinterested or incapable of doing so.

The court’s primary interest is in the well-being of the child, not your biological ties to that child — so you have to take steps to show the court that you are both willing and capable of being a father.

The process of stopping an unwanted adoption can be complicated. For information on how we can help you with your father’s rights case, please visit our web page.

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