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There is a misconception that often a birth father is left out of the adoption process. A birth father has a Constitutional right to be notified that he might be the father of a child who is being placed for adoption.

One of the biggest parental rights is the right to consent or the right to object to the adoption of one’s child. Generally, both parents of a child must consent to an adoption only if both parents meet certain requirements that give them the parental right to block or consent to the adoption. If the father is not known, or the whereabouts of the father is unknown, many states require that some sort of notice be published in the legal advertising section of the newspaper, informing all persons claiming to be the biological father of the pending adoption.

In some instances, this may be the case, but for most adoptions, birth fathers are active participants or are invited to be included. When a birth mother finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy, one of the first things she is likely to do is talk with the birth father. There are hundreds of responses to this kind of news, including: “What should we do now?” “We can’t take care of a child.” “What about our future?” “You should get an abortion.” “How do you know it’s my baby?” “We can be great parents!” “My mom will raise the baby for us.” “We have no jobs.” “We’re still in school and our parents are going to be furious!”

While these are just a handful of replies, what happens after the news is digested is also quite varied. Some birth mothers find the birth father to be very supportive and helpful, willing to talk about parenting the baby, getting married, having joint custody or adoption. Other birth mothers find the birth father’s phone is no longer in service, he’s left his apartment, gone back to his home state or country, or doesn’t respond to calls or texts and wants nothing to do with her.

Those that are willing to be involved should be applauded for taking their share of the responsibility in creating life. Many birth fathers in this category take an active role in the adoption plan including: meeting with adoption agency case workers, participating in counseling, helping to select the right adoptive parents for the baby, and providing emotional support to the birth mother during labor and delivery. These fathers also are involved in the openness agreement, whether it is together with the birth mother or their own separate plans. They sign the relinquishment documents at the appropriate time and place. These birth fathers, like the birth mothers, feel all the emotion of placing a baby for adoption. They love and cherish their child, just as the mother does.

Others take their responsibilities seriously, but do not want to be directly involved in the day-to-day process of adoption. Many of these birth fathers are in agreement that adoption is the best option for the baby and are willing to sign the relinquishment paperwork, terminating their parental rights. This is also a mature and responsible way for a birth father to show he is sharing the duties of parenthood. Others will relinquish their rights even if they are unsure whether they are the child’s biological father, showing support for a birth mother that is choosing adoption.

Every state has laws concerning the establishment of paternity. The best advice to a birth father who wants to parent is to establish his paternity early. By doing so, he is being forthright with what his intentions are and stating that he wants to actively parent the child. This gives a birth father and mother time to make the best possible plans for their child, without any uncertainty or unknown variables. Establishing paternity comes with responsibility. As a birth father that has established his rights, he should then be willing to take on his share of the expenses and the time and effort in raising the child. It is not the sole responsibility of a birth mother to clothe, feed and raise a child with an absentee father. Those who go into an unmarried, parenting situation should set clear boundaries and expectations where each parent is equally responsible.

Parenting is a wonderful, challenging, joyful, stressful and rewarding job. Making a good decision for your child is of the utmost importance. Placing a baby for adoption can also mean being a good parent. Those who have placed children understand this, and it is reiterated when they receive pictures of happy times and milestones in their child’s life, which would have been more than difficult for them to provide. Adoption is a wonderful commitment that birth parents make for the well-being of their child. And, just think how lucky that child is … having two sets of parents who love and adore him/her!

Does the Biological Father Have to Consent to an Adoption?

Whether or not a father’s consent is needed for an adoption to go forward can depend on the state, the relationship between the father and the child, and the relationship between the two parents.

  • In virtually all states, a child cannot be adopted without the consent of the birth father if the parents are married, or were married within a certain time period before the birth of the child.
  • If the parents were not married, but lived together either at the time of the child’s birth, or within a certain time before the child’s birth, some states require consent of the father.
  • If the biological parents were never married and have never lived together, most states do not require the father’s consent before placing a child up for adoption. The birth father is given notice of the intent to put the child up for adoption, and if he does not challenge the adoption, his parental rights are terminated. If he does challenge the adoption, a hearing will be held to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child.

What is a putative father registry?

A putative father is the legal paternal relative to an unborn or born child, where no legal relationship has been established or confirmed. A putative father claims to be or is alleged to be the biological father of the child. Generally, couples are not married at the time of the child’s birth, which makes this process more complicated.

Many states have a voluntary Putative Father Registry. A father can register whether he knows or simply believes he is the father of a child born outside of marriage. Fathers who desire to parent are typically permitted and encouraged to register prior to the child’s birth so that others will be aware of the fathers’ intentions to establish paternity to the child.

In the U.S., about half of the states participate in established paternity registries. While filing is voluntary, this is sometimes the only way that fathers can protect their rights as unmarried parents. All states have a procedure for establishing paternity through the courts, even if they do not have a paternity registry. Some information regarding the procedures for establishing paternity in the various states can be found on the website for the Child Welfare Information Gateway, at

Because laws change and Adoption Choices of Kansas is not responsible for the data compiled on the government website, we do not guarantee the accuracy of information on the website listed above. Birth fathers may want to contact governmental authorities or counsel in a particular state to find what the putative father laws are in that state. Birth fathers who are aware that a birth mother is living in another state or that a child is or may be born or placed for adoption in or pursuant to the laws of another state may be required to comply with the putative father laws of the other state.

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