Birthfather Rights

Birthfathers have rights, but the extent of those rights varies according to the state where the baby is born. It is essential to find out what the law is in the state where the child is born.

In most states, a birthfather that is married to the birthmother has equal rights to the child. What this means is that he must agree to the adoption plan or there is no adoption. This is true even if he is not the biological father.

An unmarried birthfather may or may not have legal rights to his biological child. In some states, he has the same rights as a married birthfather. In other states, his rights depend on the actions he takes or does not take to claim paternity. Every state has different rules for how an unmarried birthfather declares paternity.

Most agencies, like the IAC, will contact the birthfather and try to get him to participate in the adoption planning even if he does not have any legal rights to the child. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, it is ethical to inform the birthfather of his rights. Secondly, birthfathers play an important role for adoptive children as they have half of the child’s medical, social, cultural and racial/ethnic history. This is information that birthmothers often do not have.

Finally, whether or not a birthfather will cooperate in an adoption, it is vitally important to legally terminate his rights. It is imperative to work with your agency and/or attorney to ensure termination is legally secure. If there is more than one possible birthfather, proceed with termination of parental rights for all of them.

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  • Glen Pridgen

    Why would you insist on terminating a birthfather’s rights even if he is cooperating?

  • Ann Wrixon

    Glen,

    This is a good question. In all adoptions the rights of both the birthparents are terminated. If a birthfather is cooperating with the adoption he would sign a relinquishment, just like the birthmother, in order to terminate his rights.

    In open adoption, although the parental rights of the birthparents are terminated, they still have the right to have contact with the child. This right is protected with an open adoption agreement signed by both the adoptive and the birthparents. The agreement outlines what sort of contact the families will have on an ongoing basis. This agreement is legally enforceable in 23 states.

  • http://www.adoptionhelp.org Ann Wrixon

    Glen,

    This is a good question. In all adoptions the rights of both the birthparents are terminated. If a birthfather is cooperating with the adoption he would sign a relinquishment, just like the birthmother, in order to terminate his rights.

    In open adoption, although the parental rights of the birthparents are terminated, they still have the right to have contact with the child. This right is protected with an open adoption agreement signed by both the adoptive and the birthparents. The agreement outlines what sort of contact the families will have on an ongoing basis. This agreement is legally enforceable in 23 states.

  • http://www.adoptionhelp.org/ Independent Adoption Center

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