Notice to Unmarried Father Required Before Baby Can Be Adopted? Sometimes.

An adoption agency notified a biological father that his baby was going to be adopted.

That was how the biological father allegedly first learned of the child’s existence.

By that time, the baby was two months old and had been living since he was three days old with the family that planned to adopt him.

Upon learning of the boy, the father sought custody of his son.

But the New Mexico trial court terminated his parental rights on the grounds that he had abandoned the baby and his mother, freeing the baby up to be adopted.

On appeal, the ruling was reversed and the father’s parental rights restored.

The case was remanded for a custody determination, but appeals are on the way.

Read more in this Albuquerque Journal article: Birth Dad’s Lawsuit Could Alter N.M. Adoptions; Father Is Seeking Custody of Child.

The New Mexico ruling could have a chilling effect on adoption in the state, to the detriment of would-be adoptive parents and, at least arguably, children awaiting adoption.

But what about father’s rights, especially where the father allegedly did not even know about the child?

One measure that several states, including Florida, have taken to aid fathers in protecting their parental rights is the creation of a registry in which unmarried, potential fathers may log each partner with whom they have the potential to have fathered a child.

Timely registrants have rights to notice and to consent to any adoption of their child.

Failure to register before a termination of parental rights case is filed waives any rights the father may have had.

This approach balances all of the interests involved.