No adoption is without risk. Every family considering adoption must consider the level of risk they are able to tolerate. If you are not factoring in the rights of the legal, biological, and/or putative father(s), you are not accurately assessing the risk involved.
Sometimes birth mothers and prospective adoptive families fail to give fathers the attention and importance they are due under the law. This can cause tremendous stress for all parties. Talk to an attorney at the Adoption Law Center of Middle Tennessee, PLLC early and often if you are considering adopting to explore these issues.
There are three classifications of fathers in Tennessee. The different classifications determine the level of legal rights afforded the father, the methods available for termination of parental rights, as well as impact the grounds available in a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights:
There are several ways a father can be established as a legal father:
- Married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth (or within 300 days of the birth). This is the only way to have full custodial rights equal to the birth mother.
- A Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity is a document usually completed at the hospital that requires the notarized signatures of both the mother and father. This is most common method to list the father on the child’s birth certificate if he is not married to the mother.
- A Court Order establishing paternity accomplished either through agreement or DNA testing.
One of the following must be satisfied to be a putative father:
- File a Petition to Establish Parentage.
- File a statement of intent to claim paternity of the child with the Putative Father Registry and inform the registry of any changes of address.
- Identified by the birth mother in a sworn, written statement or by other information the court determines to be credible and reliable.
- Openly living with the child and holds himself out as the father of the child.
- Enter into a permanency plan with the Department of Children’s Services.
A biological father is the man that contributed genetic material to the child. Putative and legal fathers’ rights must be terminated prior to an adoption, but not a biological father if he does not fit into either of these categories. This is a complex legal analysis that requires attorney consultation.
It is important to determine the category of the father as this will have implications for whether and how his parental rights can be terminated. There are specific, less rigorous grounds for termination of parental rights referred to as “g9” grounds that apply only to putative fathers. G9 grounds are defined in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113(g)(9).
Birth mothers need to keep in mind that it is a criminal offense to withhold or give false information about the birth father in a sworn statement. Sometimes birth mothers are attempting to avoid conflict or contact with the birth father. However, it must be emphasized that the security of the adoption is dependent on her giving accurate information.
Contact the Adoption Law Center of Middle Tennessee, PLLC to discuss fatherhood or any concerns related to adoption. We offer free consultations!