A woman finding herself experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and deciding that adoption would be the best course of action will then need to tackle the question: What about the baby’s father? If you’re a birth-mother-to-be and not in contact with or in agreement with the baby’s father about adoption, you may still wish to proceed. If so, here is what you should know about birth father rights:

1. Birth father rights vary from state to state. Although the 14th Amendment to the Constitution ensures rights for men who prove paternity, just what those rights are seem to be ambiguous. AdoptionNetwork.com tells us: The existence of a biological link between a child and an unmarried father gives the father the opportunity to establish a substantial relationship, which [the 14th Amendment] defined as the father’s commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood, as demonstrated by being involved or attempting to be involved in the child’s upbringing. 

2. The term “father” is defined differently in each state. Proving paternity for the purpose of maintaining birth father rights is required in every state. However, even the definition of “father” varies, and it is essential to find out how your state defines a father. But in more than half of the states, establishing the relationship of the man to the child requires at least:

-Birth mother and birth father were married. Either they were married at the time the child was born, or within 300 days of the birth.

-Birth father’s name is listed on the birth certificate. If the birth father agreed that his name would be listed, and it is documented on the original birth certificate, this is partial proof of paternity.

-Birth father provides financial support for the child. Whether by choice or by court order, supporting the child is partial proof.

-Child lives with the birth father.  If for any period of time the child resides with the birth father and he claims the child is biologically his, this is partial proof.

3. Many states provide registries for birth fathers. And many do not. In some states, providing documentation to be listed on the registry is enough to give the man birth father rights. Other states require less, and some more. When listed on the registry, this gives the man access to information regarding potential adoption, termination of parental rights, and notice of court proceedings regarding the child. In all cases, at a very minimum the birth father must provide:

-Name, address, Social Security Number, and date of birth for both the father and the mother.

-The child’s full name, date of birth, place of birth.

-Signature

-Notary or Witness

For more information on birth father rights generally and specifically for your state, go to the Child Welfare Gateway: The Rights of Unmarried Father page.

Are you pregnant and considering adoption for your baby? Click here to connect with a compassionate, experienced adoption professional who can help walk you through your options.