The Birthfather's Role in Adoption

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Prebirth Consent

Most states allow unwed birthfathers to consent to an adoption before the baby is born. (See Birthparent Rights for more information.) If the father has signed the prebirth consent, generally, after the child is born, the consent to the adoption is needed only from the birthmother.

Real Life Snapshots

In a very few isolated cases, birthfathers who have conceived children through rape are given control over the birthmother's adoption decision. In Wisconsin in 1992, a convicted rapist prevented a 14-year-old girl he had impregnated from placing her baby for adoption. He didn't want to give up his paternal rights. Outraged Wisconsin legislators subsequently changed the law so that the parental rights of rapists would be involuntarily terminated, and birthmothers would not need the consent of the birthfather to place a child of rape for adoption.

Consent to an adoption is not required in Virginia if the child is the result of a rape and the rapist was convicted of the crime. Other states are attempting to pass such laws. It seems only fair, though, that in these cases the adoption decision should be the birthmother's alone.

Note here that the consent of the biological father isn't always necessary, although notice to him is usually required. If the man who has been named by the birthmother signs a document denying paternity, the consent of the birthmother alone may be sufficient. Again, it's very important to remember that state laws vary drastically on this and other adoption matters.

The agency or attorney and prospective adoptive parents should be confident that the alleged father is the father (whether he admits to paternity or not) to avoid the problem of some other man stepping forward and attempting to assert paternal rights.

For this reason, many adoption social workers or attorneys seek either consent to an adoption or a denial of paternity from any man who might be the father of the child, including any men with whom the birthmother had sexual intercourse during the time frame that she became pregnant.

Proclaiming Paternity

Despite the heavy media coverage of birthfathers upsetting adoptions, most biological fathers do not protest or try to stop them. Here are a few reasons why a birthfather might assert his paternal rights:

  • He wants to raise the child himself.
  • He has parented the child in the past and wants a continuing relationship with the child.
  • His parents want to raise the child and have convinced him to help them.
  • He is angry with the birthmother and wants to exert power over her. He thinks this will force her to return to him.
  • He wants to force the birthmother to raise the child. He assumes if he fights the adoption, she'll agree to parent.
  • It's a macho thing—no one else should parent his child.

Of course, birthfathers aren't always opposed to adoption, and in some cases, they may help the birthmother to locate adoptive parents, attend counseling sessions, and participate fully in the process.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption © 2004 by Christine Adamec. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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