Man and woman in a serious discussion

If you are choosing to pursue adoption, it is likely because you have taken the time to research your options and learn about the details of how adoption works. During this process, you probably learned a good deal about your rights as the parents of your child, but you may not understand the rights of the child’s father. Do you both need to be present for the adoption? Can you pursue adoption without the father’s consent?

The relinquishment of a birth father’s parental rights is different for every state, but more times than not, his parental rights can legally be terminated whether he is identified, unidentified, supportive or unsupportive of the adoption. As the mother, you can make sure you choose a respectable adoption professional, usually a national adoption agency, that will have the expertise to effectively handle all of the state-specific legalities involved in the relinquishment of the birth father’s parental rights.

There are several different birth father scenarios, each with different implications of the adoption’s finalization.

Supportive Birth Father

The best-case scenario is for the birth father to be supportive of the adoption. In this scenario, the birth father is willing to work with you as a team to ensure that the child will be given the best life possible with a loving adoptive family. Most often the birth mother fights the emotions of grief and loss on her own, but if the father is supportive of your decision, he will be experiencing the same emotions, which both of you can work through together.

If this does not describe your scenario, do not worry. While having a supportive birth father can make the process easier, there are protocols for other scenarios, and your adoption specialist will be able to help you pursue your adoption.

Unsupportive Birth Father

This is the most common scenario because many birth mothers choose adoption so their child can grow up in a two-parent household. This void left by the birth father is often the main reasons birth mothers choose adoption, sometimes even more so than financial struggles.

If the birth father is unhappy about the pregnancy itself, he will most likely be unsupportive of the adoption as well. Some birth fathers even attempt to run from the situation by pressuring the birth mother into having an abortion, thinking that will make the “problem” disappear.

It is important for you to remember that whatever decision you make should be yours alone. Be upfront with him about your reasons for choosing adoption and why you feel it is the right decision for you and the baby. If he isn’t receptive to your reasoning, you can seek support from other loved ones and even your adoption specialist. Speak to your professional about how to place your baby for adoption without the father’s consent.

By placing your baby for adoption through a national adoption agency, a social worker can help the birth father understand the adoption process and why it is the best decision. National adoption agencies’ social workers are experts on state laws and have access to lawyers who can answer any unsupportive-birth father-related questions.

Unknown Birth Father

Even if the birth father is unknown, the court can still proceed to relinquish any of the possible birth fathers’ rights, although state laws vary greatly. Your social worker will explain the state laws to you and how to pursue adoption when the father is unknown or unable to be located.

Uninvolved Birth Father

The man that you identify as the birth father is known as the “putative father.” The putative father is sought by the agency and attorney to relinquish his parental rights in most adoptions. If he denies being the father, he has three possible choices of action based on state laws:

  1. Relinquish his parental rights by writing that “he doesn’t believe he is the father, but if he is, he relinquishes any rights.”
  2. Ignore the court and agency’s attempts at serving him consent papers to relinquish his rights, in which the court would then involuntarily terminate his rights.
  3. Take a DNA test to disprove his paternity. This option is rare and usually not necessary.

The relinquishment of the birth father’s parental rights can be a complicated process because of the each state’s intricate laws. This, however, isn’t something you should concern yourself with, as the national agency you place with will take care of all of the legalities associated with the adoption.

The one thing you can do to help the process is to be open and direct with the birth father and tell him why adoption is the correct decision for your baby. Tell him you’d appreciate his help and acceptance of your decision.  No matter what his feelings are, the decision is yours and yours alone, and the adoption will almost always be successful with him or without him.

Other Resources:

Birth Father Rights Regarding Child Adoption

The Right of Unmarried Fathers

Birthfather Legal Rights — What You Need to Know