What does "alleged father" mean and why does it matter?

When processing an adoption, it’s important to understand how the law defines each potential father. In adoption, not all fathers are created equally. An “alleged” father does not have an automatic right to custody. He is generally someone to whom the Birth Mother is not married, who she believes is (or could be) the child’s natural father, and it is possible to have more than one alleged father. Every alleged father is entitled to official notice that he is alleged to be the (possible) father of the child and that the child is the subject of an adoption proceeding.

If he is agreeable to the adoption plan, an alleged father can sign a “Waiver of the Right to Further Notice of Adoption Planning” in front of an Adoption Service Provider or a Notary. This form does not terminate his rights. However, it allows the adopting parents to petition the Court for an order terminating his rights without having to give him further notice of the adoption proceedings. Furthermore, he must initiate a legal action if he wishes to rescind his Waiver. If the alleged father does not sign a Waiver, then the adopting parents must arrange to have him legally served with a Notice of Alleged Paternity. He has 30 days after service of the Notice or the birth of the baby, whichever is latest, to file an action to prove that there is a father-child relationship and to ask for custody. If he does not respond to the Notice within the statutory time, then we petition the court for an order terminating his parental rights, if any.

Things get complicated when an alleged father elevates his legal standing to that of a “presumed” father. Presumed fathers have many more rights than alleged fathers. Our office staff are experts at dealing with both alleged and presumed fathers. Terminating all potential fathers’ rights is critical in any adoption, even when a Birth Mother doesn’t know who the father is or where he lives.

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