I'm a Birth Father: What does that Mean?

A birth father is the biological father of a child who has been or will be adopted; understanding your rights and how they apply to the adoption process is just as important for you, as it is for the birth mother of the child.

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What is a Birth Father?

As a birth father you’re just like every other biological father. The term ‘birth father’ is used to refer to the biological father of an adopted child, or child for whom adoption is planned. It is just as important for you to understand your rights and how they apply to the adoption process as it is for the birth mother of the child.

Birth fathers…

  • are the biological fathers of their child or children,
  • may or may not have parental rights to their child(ren), which is something that is determined on a state-by-state basis,
  • may or may not have surrendered their parental rights when adoption is planned, and
  • may or may not need to have their parental rights addressed through court action, when adoption is planned for their baby.

If you are finding out ‘after the fact’ that your child has been placed with an adoptive family, this is not uncommon. The baby’s expectant mother is usually the one to choose and meet with the hopeful adoptive parents and work with an adoption professional. When the birth father is involved and supports adoption for his baby, he can share in the experience and plans. But, in situations where the baby’s father is not around or not known, then depending on the state laws involved, any needed attempts to locate and notify may not happen until the placement documents are signed.

When required by the state laws, as part of the legal process, an adoption attorney makes an attempt to locate the father of the child and provide notice to them so that they are aware of the adoption plan. If required, information about their rights as fathers is also provided. Not every state requires that a birth father receive notice of a proposed adoption or of any parental rights he may have. In many cases, an adoption takes place without the birth father’s knowledge or consent.

In most U.S. states, if you are married to the mother of your child at the time of birth, you are considered the child’s legal father with parental rights equal to those of the mother. If you are not married to your baby’s mother, when you live in a state with a Putative Father Registry, you may be able to go through the steps needed to be considered a ‘putative father.’ Each state treats father’s rights with laws that may differ from another state and not all states have registries. A man who believes that he may have created a baby and wishes to have a role in that child’s life should seek legal guidance and information as soon as possible.

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