Currently, every state has different laws when it comes to biological fathers, their rights, and their responsibilities. For example, Utah has some of the worst laws, so many adoption agencies there will fly in expectant mothers who wish to circumvent the rights of their babies’ fathers. I recently found out that, in most states, convicted rapists have custody and visitation rights to the children they fathered through rape. And did you know, that if a woman is married, her husband is a child’s presumed father even if he’s not the biological father? And that, depending on the state, the biological father may have no rights at all in this situation?
Not so in Robyn’s Adoption Land.
Apparently, in some countries, if a child’s biological father is unknown, he can never terminate his rights, so the child remains unadoptable. There are actually some people in this country who think this is a good idea.
It’s important to ensure that most biological fathers’ rights are protected. In general, if a man is willing to raise his child and capable of raising his child, he should be given the chance to do so.
Cases of Rape
In confirmed cases of rape, bio fathers have no rights. None. Nor do their families. What do I mean by “confirmed”?
- The rapist has been convicted by a court.
- The rape falls under statutory rape laws (for example, a 26-year old man having sex with a 16-year old girl).
- The rapist has confessed to the rape.
- The rapist has been caught on video.
- A rape was reported, the woman received care consistent with having been raped, but the rapist is unknown.
But what about cases of rape that are more ambiguous? A young woman wakes up foggy after a frat party, and, months later, figures out that she must have been roofied. An on-again, off-again boyfriend/girlfriend pair get into a case of he said/she said. A prosecutor decides not to prosecute an accused rapist because he or she can’t make a case.
I don’t know. I really have thought about this, and I really don’t know exactly how you deal with that. On the one side, you don’t want women to accuse men of rape to circumvent a man’s rights. On the other hand, you don’t want to give a rapist more control over his victim. Statistics tell us that most women do not lie when they say they’ve been raped. Many rapes go unreported because the victim is ashamed or embarrassed. The best I can come up with is that there is a burden of proof, though not as much as is required for a court case. If that burden of proof is met, the man loses his rights.
Cases of Incest
Men who commit incest have no rights to children fathered through incest.
Cases of Prostitution
Most birthmothers are not prostitutes. However, in the last several years, I have seen two or three situations in which the expectant mother was, in fact, a prostitute. Any man who has sex with a prostitute pretty much gives up his right to any children he might father that way. Short of making guys register and give their driver’s licenses to these ladies, I can’t see how to find out which customer was the one who got one past the goalie.
If a bio father will be in prison for an extended period of time, he forfeits his rights. I’m not sure how long “extended” is, exactly, as different states have different feelings about this. In Robyn’s Adoption Land, the amount of time would likely be based on what child development experts say is an acceptable amount of time for a father to be absent from a child’s life. I do know that if a man is likely to be in prison for as long as the child is a minor, he forfeits his rights.
Oh, and if he’s in prison for a crime committed against a child, he loses his rights regardless of how long he’s in prison.
If there is a chance that a woman’s husband is not the father of her baby, that must be established. A man cannot be presumed to be a child’s father. If it is known that a woman’s husband is not the child’s bio father, then the husband has no rights to the child.
I truly believe that most women have some idea of who their children’s fathers are. Even if a woman has had more than one partner, she can narrow down to a number of specific men. However, there are instances in which a father is truly unknown. All reasonable measures must be taken to ensure that the bio father knows about the pregnancy.
Currently, some states have putative father registries. What that boils down to is, if a man has sex with a woman, he has to register that fact with the government, in case that woman should become pregnant. The person who came up with that idea is an idiot. Putative father registries are hardly ever used.
Currently, some states require publishing ads in newspapers – specifically newspapers, not any other media – to find unknown fathers. The ads read something like, “Any man having known Woman’s Name on or about Date, please contact Attorney.” First, who even reads newspapers anymore? Second, how does that preserve the woman’s privacy?
If a woman really doesn’t know who the father is, then we must determine a way in which find this man while still preserving some of the woman’s privacy. I think it can be done. But that’s the kind of minutiae that would make this post very, very long.
If a woman says that her baby’s father is unknown, and it is later determined that she lied, she will be prosecuted for fraud.
The Rest of the Guys
If the expectant father is known and agrees with the idea to create an adoption plan, he should be encouraged to be included at least as much as the expectant mother is. If he chooses not to be included, that’s acceptable. He can simply sign the termination of parental rights, provide as detailed a medical history as possible, and be done.
If the expectant father is known and does not agree with the idea to create an adoption plan, he has to prove that he can parent the child. I know some of you are saying, “But there’s a constitutional right to one’s own children!” Yes, there is. Unfortunately, however, I have seen far too many situations in which a bio father refuses to terminate rights, not because he’s willing or able to parent, but because a) he doesn’t want to give up his “flesh and blood”, b) he wants to use the child to control the child’s mother, or c) the man’s family says that they want to parent the baby.
There are men who have multiple children by multiple mothers and are not supporting or interacting with any of them, yet they will not terminate their rights. That’s not OK.
There are men who are violent and abusive towards their girlfriends, but because they have not abused any children, the state has no reason to terminate their rights. That’s not OK either.
So, if a man wants to disagree with an adoption plan, he has to prove himself a fit parent. We’re not asking him to do anything that adoptive parents don’t have to do. He must meet the same standards they do.
When Can a Father Terminate His Rights
In some states, a father can terminate his rights before the baby is born. The TPR isn’t activated until after the baby is born. Sometimes there is a revocation period (but that’s another post).
I’m torn here. I think it would be a good idea not to allow fathers to sign TPR before birth. But, there are some guys who won’t want to stick around that long. A compromise would be to allow a father to sign an Intent to Terminate Rights. Then, allow him some amount of time after the baby is born to change his mind or sign an actual TPR. If he doesn’t appear, then the intent is taken as TPR.
Any known father must provide as detailed a medical history as possible. We’re finding out more and more that genetics play such an important role in health. I hate that we don’t have any medical history from my children’s birth fathers. Many adult adoptees lament the lack of medical history as well. Therefore, men will have to provide a medical history.
I think that’s it. Did I miss anything?