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Establishing paternity and adoption: Time is of the essence

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2024 | Adoption |

When it comes to adoption law, timing is important. A recent case underscores the importance of timely action for father’s who are either not married to the birth mother or otherwise have yet to establish paternity. In the legal world, these individuals are known as putative fathers.

What happened in this case?

The case started when the Birth Mother gave birth to Child on August 15, 2022. Two days later, Birth Mother consented to adoption and entrusted Child’s care to an adoption agency. During this process, Birth Mother declined to reveal Child’s biological father. Adoptive Parents took physical custody of Child that same day and filed an adoption petition a week later.

The legal issues arise regarding the Putative Father Registry’s timing. Specifically, the deadline for putative fathers to register was either:

  • 30 days after Child’s birth, or
  • The date of filing the adoption petition.

An individual claiming to be the father registered on September 23, 39 days after the child was born. He believed he had met the requirement by registering within 30 days of the adoption petition filing. The trial court agreed but was flawed in its interpretation. The Court of Appeals clarified that a putative father must register:

  • Not later than thirty days after the child’s birth, or
  • Not later than the date of filing the adoption petition, whichever is later.

By failing to register within his given timeline, a putative father implicitly consents to the adoption. His right to challenge the adoption or establish paternity is irrevocably barred.

What can other families learn from this holding?

In adoption cases, precision matters. Putative fathers must heed deadlines set by the Putative Father Registry to protect their rights. It is helpful for adoptive families to be aware of these restrictions to help better ensure a successful journey through the adoption process.

In re: the Paternity of L.A. (March 6, 2024) (Adoption Consent Case)

C M, et al. v. Y N (in.gov)

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