Birthfather Rights

For this week’s Tuesday’s Trials I want to touch on something that an unfortunate number of adoptive parents face – the termination of Birthfather Rights. In order for an adoption to be finalized, a birthfather’s signature is not necessary. Without the signature though, measures must be taken to legally terminate his rights to parent.

Each state has its own set of laws regarding this. The birthfather’s rights are complex due to the various relationships they have with the birthmother. Is he the husband and presumed father? Are the birthparents unwed, but have a continued relationship in which he is supporting her pregnancy? Has he abandoned the birthmother? Etc. I cannot emphasize enough to prospective adoptive families the need to understand the state laws and if possible the birthfather’s stance on the adoption.

With our son, we faced the situation with an unmarried birthmother who did not name the birthfather. We were given some information on the dynamics of the situation and felt fairly comfortable proceeding with the adoption, but we knew he would not be signing the paperwork terminating his parental rights and that was a risk we would have to accept.

The state that we live in has a Putative Father Registry. For us, the possible father has the length of the pregnancy and up to 30 days after birth to sign up. Basically it states that he believes he has fathered a child and if said child is placed for adoption, he would like the right to parent. The registry is checked after 30 days to see if anyone has stepped forward to contest the adoption. If no one has, then measures are taken to legally sever the birthfather’s parental rights.

I was fairly confident that we would not have a problem in our situation, but I remember that feeling of a weight being lifted off of our shoulders when that was behind us. I refused to allow anyone to throw us a baby shower until we had reached that milestone.

In an ideal world, the birthfather would be known, aware of the pregnancy and consenting of the adoption, but unfortunately the real world and the ideal world are often not the same thing.

It is one of the things with our son that uncomfortably lurks in the back of my mind. When Turkey-Man asks about his birthfather, I have no information about why he did not step forward and make his wishes known. It’s a question I have no answers to. In some ways I hope that Mama-A can help fill in some of the gaps in this area of Zeke’s roots.

I try not to let my mind wander too far into the “What If’s” of his birthfather. I can conjure up plenty of adoptive mother guilt allowing the scenarios play out in my imagination. It is one of the subjects that I have to remind myself that with the amount of prayer that went into Turkey-Man’s adoption, I know we are the parents God wanted for him. Otherwise, God would have placed him elsewhere. We are where he is supposed to be and that bit of peace will have to be good enough!

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