How can a man protect his paternity rights if the mother wants to place the child for adoption?

By: Jeanne M. Hannah, J.D.

Copyright © 2006 Jeanne M. Hannah. All rights reserved.

Jeanne M. Hannah is a family law lawyer located in Traverse City, Michigan, who handles divorce, child custody, paternity, adoption, neglect, and other family law matters, and who assists fathers and mothers to exercise their rights to custody and parenting time.

         

On March 19, 2006, the New York Times published a news story about a father living in Arizona whose parental rights were terminated by a Florida court so that the child born to his former fiance could be adopted. Jeremiah Clayton Jones learned that about the pregnancy just three weeks prior to the childís birth when an adoption agency telephoned him to inquire whether he would consent to an adoption. He decided to raise the child that his former girlfriend did not wish to keep. He hired a lawyer and filed a paternity case in Florida where the mother lived on the day before the child was born. See Unwed Fathers Fight for Babies Placed for Adoption by Mothers, NY Times March 19, 2006.

 

Why did he lose the rights he tried so hard to protect? In Florida, as in about thirty states with state putative father registries, when a father doesnít register within a specific and usually short period of time, his rights may legally be terminated. In Florida, the registration must be before a petition for adoption is filed. Other states have deadlines that range from 5 days to 30 days after birth. Mr. Jones did not know about the registry.

 

For a putative father registry to work to protect a manís parental rights, he would have to know about the registry. In Florida, where the registry has been called ďa well-kept secret,Ē only 47 men registered in 2004 and there were 89,436 out-of-wedlock births. Also, a man would have to register for every sexual partner he has. How many men are going to do that?

 

Another problem with registries is that they operate state by state. Suppose a man and woman live together in Ohio, where the deadline for registering is 30 days after a childís birth, suppose that their relationship ends while she is pregnant, and suppose that the father registers with the putative father registry in Ohio. Now suppose that the mother moves to Utah, gives birth there, and surrenders the child to an adoption agency. The father hasnít registered in Utah, thus his parental rights are not protected by Utahís state registry.

 

To correct this latter problem, Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, will introduce in Congress later this year a bill called The Proud Father Act, which would create a national registry.

 

In Michigan, fathers who sign an Acknowledgment of Parentage are protected in some ways by the fact that this acknowledgment is filed with the state registry and becomes a permanent record. A father may also file a notice of intent to claim paternity under the Adoption Code, Section 33. However, if a mother subsequently decides to consent to an adoption, and the fatherís rights may be terminated under Section 37 of the Adoption Code if:

(2) If the identity of the father cannot be determined, or if the identity of the father is known but his whereabouts cannot be determined, the court shall take evidence to determine the facts in the matter. The court may terminate the rights of the putative father if the court finds from the evidence that reasonable effort has been made to identify and locate the father and that any of the following circumstances exist:

(a) The putative father, whose identity is not known, has not made provision for the child's care and did not provide support for the mother during her pregnancy or during her confinement.

(b) The putative father, whose identity is known but whose whereabouts are unknown, has not provided support for the mother, has not shown any interest in the child, and has not made provision for the child's care, for at least 90 days preceding the hearing required under section 36.

Related Articles:

 

Preventing your infant from being adopted without your consent  By Erik L. Smith

 

National Directory of Putative Father Registries By Erik L. Smith [Registries for 23 states]

 

What Rights Does an Unwed Biological Father Have When a Mother Wants to Give up a Child for Adoption? Posted August 6, 2005

 

What are the Rights of a Biological Father if the Mother is Married to Another Man? Posted April 4, 2005

 

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Jeanne M. Hannah welcomes you to contact her regarding any family law lawyer issue, including, but not limited to divorce, child custody and parenting time, child and spousal support, property settlement, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, paternity, adoption, neglect, and other family law matters. You can contact Ms. Hannah by telephone, E-mail, fax, or at the address listed above.

Jeanne M. Hannah, a family lawyer located in Traverse City, Michigan, represents clients in Grand Traverse County, Benzie County, Leelanau County, Kalkaska County, Antrim County, Emmet County, and other selected counties throughout Michigan.  Copyright © 2005 [Jeanne M. Hannah]. All rights reserved. Revised: 11/11/09

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Jeanne M. Hannah, Family Lawyer
Postal address:5922 Deer Trail Drive, Traverse City, Michigan 49684 ē E-mail: jeannemhannah [at] charter.net
 

Practice Areas: Divorce  Custody  Parenting Time  Child Support Post-Judgment Modifications  Paternity  Adoption  Personal Protection Orders  Spousal Support  Property Distribution  Pre-Nuptial / Post-Nuptial Agreements Estate Planning Guardianships/Conservatorships  Neglect/Abuse Cases 

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Send mail to jeannemhannah [at] charter.net with questions or comments about this web site.

Copyright © 2005 Jeanne M. Hannah. All rights reserved. Last updated November 2009

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