What is a contested adoption?
Contested adoptions typically occur in instances of infant adoption, when one biological parent, typically the birth mother, intends to place an infant for adoption, while the other biological parent, typically the birth father, objects, or when the birth mother is giving a baby up for adoption without the father’s consent. While other instances of contested adoptions can occur, including divorce, or state-initiated cases of welfare adoption, this article is specific to infant adoption.
A contested adoption may occur because a birth father was unaware the birth mother was pregnant, because a birth father believes he was coerced into providing consent, a change of the birth father’s mind, or because of mistaken identity of the birth father.
What happens when an adoption is contested?
Adoptions may take several different forms based on individual circumstance. They may be completed with or without the assistance of an attorney, agency, or other third party. They are also required to adhere to the laws of the states both parties reside in.
In a standard adoption, a birth mother develops an an adoption plan, which includes the selection of adoptive parents. Following birth the baby is placed with the adoptive family while the court processes the birth mothers’ termination of rights and transfers custody to the adoptive parents. However, the specific time period throughout this process varies based on respective state laws. If during this time the biological father of the infant decides he is interested in parenting the child himself, he is legally able to contest the adoption in court, halting the proceedings, and incurring a contested adoption hearing.
What is a contested adoption hearing?
When a biological father refuses to terminate his rights, all parties must attend a consent hearing in court. At this point a judge must assess whether or not the birth father has followed appropriate measures as outlined by associated state laws, and demonstrated appropriate demeanor during the birth mother’s pregnancy.
If the court sides with the birth father following the contested adoption hearing, the adoption can no longer proceed. If the court sides with the adoptive parents then the court may either decline the biological fathers petition and grant custody to the adoptive parents, or schedule a best interest hearing. If a best interest hearing is required, the court conducts an assessment of which party would provide the child with a more permanent and stable life. The custodial decision is based on these findings.
What Adoptive Parents Should Know about Contested Adoption:
In order to insure an adoption moves forward as smoothly as possible, it is important to gather an understanding of the father’s perspective on the impending adoption. This process should alert adoptive parents to potential red flags that may indicate a future issue.
To reduce uncertainty, adoptive parents should work with the birth mother to establish information on accurate paternity and the father’s intentions. Adoptive parents should be aware that even if the birth mother states that the father is unknown, uninterested, or has verbally agreed to adoption, only a positive paternity test and the completion of formal paperwork relinquishing paternal rights are possible safe guards against potential contentions.
Even if a birth father contests an adoption, it is still possible to be awarded custody if the court can prove the father is unfit to parent, or if he did not follow appropriate standards prior to the adoption proceedings.
What Birth Mothers Should Know about Contested Adoption:
To insure the adoption is completed smoothly, with little deviation from your intentions, it is critical to develop open and transparent communication with the child’s birth father and the prospective birth parents.
If you are unsure of paternity, a simple DNA test will be able to provide insight. If you and the birth father are unable to come to an agreement, it is still possible to procure a successful adoption for your child.
What Birth Fathers Should Know about Contested Adoption:
If you believe you are the biological parent of a baby being placed for adoption by his or her birth mother, and you wish to maintain your custodial rights, meaning you assume the full parental role, there are several essential steps to follow. Simply claiming paternity is not sufficient, and it is important to be aware of the steps required in order to veto the adoption.
In order for the courts to view your case positively, your paternity must be formally proven through DNA testing. You would also need to have demonstrated reasonable support to the birth mother throughout her pregnancy, including consistent financial support. Additionally, you would need to adhere to the state specific laws regarding contested adoption.
Determining paternity and establishing an agreement with the birth mother prior to her relinquishing the rights of the child typically provides the best outcomes for birth fathers who wish to parent. However, if you believe your child is being placed for adoption, and you are capable of providing a safe and loving environment, it is still possible to maintain custodial rights to that child.