Many women believe erroneously that the father of their baby has no say in what she does. After all, she could go abort the baby without his consent and against his wishes. She can chose to parent the baby without his consent and against his wishes. Shouldn’t adoption be the same way?
Whether it should or shouldn’t, it isn’t the same. In most every state, birth fathers have rights equal to the birth mother. It does get confusing however, because in some states a woman can choose who, if anyone, is listed on the birth certificate as the father. This doesn’t really have anything to do with parental rights, it is simply a choice she can make.
We always recommend that you employ the services of an adoption attorney for advice and legal counsel on the rights of birth fathers. Here are some key things to keep in mind when discussing the role of the father with potential birth mothers:
- If the birth father is expressing an interest in parenting the child or stating that he will stop an adoption, you may want to believe him. Even cases where a father is imprisoned or a sex offender, adoptions have been halted. Speak with an attorney immediately instead of hoping he doesn’t follow through. If you need to make a decision involving a calculated risk, you want an expert opinion on what the calculated risk is.
- If the birth mother is married, most states have laws about her husband consenting to the adoption, even if he is not the birth father. In some adoptions, this complicates things, in others it simplifies them. Your attorney will advise but it is important to learn if she is legally married to anyone at this time.
- Be open to talk to your child’s birth father. Many times, if they know they can be included in the decision making process and updates down the road, they are more compliant and willing to sign papers. Showing kindness can go a long way here.
- Remember that she may not know specifically who the father is, and you may be faced with a number of potential fathers. In these cases, absent a DNA test, they may all have to consent or agree or at least be notified. It can be confusing, and it is best not to judge her for her behavior or even mention that this feels like a challenge. She likely has felt some shame in admitting this and doesn’t need more guilt heaped on her.
- Some birth fathers who express interest in parenting are good guys who have the support of their family to be a single father. This is why it is vital to learn as much as you can from the birth mother before getting too deep into a situation.
- Good questions to find out answers to are will he consent to adoption, do they have other children together, is he supporting his current children, and does he want to participate in the adoption. Those give you some basic information to provide to your coordinator for evaluation.
It is key to remember that birth fathers have rights. They need to step up and assert them if they want to parent, but they do inherently have parental rights to the child. Don’t be afraid to ask about the child’s father, and don’t be afraid to speak to him if possible. Getting his consent and buy-in will yield a more solid adoption and reduce your stress significantly!
Learn more about birth fathers in our lesson about birth parents.