Adoption Questions: Rights Language Related to Birth Fathers

Posted on: October 13th 2014

Adoption can be emotional, and the language used in the adoption process can also be confusing. Whether you’re a birth mother who’s thinking about making an adoption plan or you’re thinking about bringing a new child into your family, there’s a lot of language around the rights of all of those involved in the adoption process. Here, we focus on the language you’ll see regarding birth fathers. What do these legal terms mean?

Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
Unmarried birth parents may want the birth father’s name to be placed on the baby’s birth certificate. In order for the birth clerk at the hospital to do this, the birth parents must sign a document called a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. The birth mother and the man who states that he is the genetic father of the child can sign this declaration. The hospital social worker or birth clerk usually provides the declaration to the birth parents. It must be signed after the child is born, but it cannot be signed after the child has been relinquished for adoption. Signing a voluntary declaration of paternity is a way for the birth mother and father to provide the child and the adoptive family with a statement about the child’s genetic history.

Terms Used to Describe the Birth Father’s Legal Status
You may also see a number of terms used to describe the legal position of the man who states that he is the father of a child. A declarant father has signed the voluntary declaration that states that he is the father of the child. An adjudicated father means that a court or tribunal has determined that he is the father of the child. An alleged father is a term used when a man has stated that he is the father of the child, or the birth mother has done so, but the birth parents have not signed a voluntary declaration of paternity and his paternity has not been determined. An alleged father is also one who is not married to the birth mother.

Putative Father Registry
While not all states have a putative father registry, in the more than thirty states that have such a registry, unmarried men can register to be notified of the birth of a child and to be made aware of any adoption proceedings. A man who states that he is the father of a child will not necessarily have paternal rights and gain legal custody of the child. Registering with the Putative Father Registry means that he will be notified should the mother of the child decide to pursue adoption for that child.

Adoption is a big decision, and it’s one that’s best navigated with a bit of help. If you’re thinking about adoption, contact us to find out more, or call us at (925) 945-1880.

Image 2 courtesy of Family Formation: client photos printed with permission.