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Can an unmarried father block an adoption?

If you’ve decided to place your baby for adoption, the last thing you want is to find yourself caught in a legal battle with the baby’s father. So, what should you know about unmarried fathers’ rights?

Florida’s adoption laws devote a lot of words to fathers and their rights. The gist is that the law gives them a lot of power, but only if they exercise that power and show real commitment to parenthood. The law expects them to act responsibly during the pregnancy and after the birth.

The biological fathers legal rights

Florida says that biological fathers have an “inchoate” interest in their children. This means they have partial rights. Those rights aren’t full-grown and legally protected until the fathers earn them. To earn full parental rights, biological fathers need to demonstrate a full commitment to the mother and child.

The law expects this commitment to include medical care and financial support. The father needs to establish paternity. And this needs to happen in a timely fashion. In other words, if your baby’s father wants to challenge the adoption, you’ll likely know well in advance.

When the fathers consent is required

The law says certain people must give their consent to finalize an adoption. The biological father is one of those people if he meets one of the following standards:

  • You and he were married when the baby was born
  • He adopted the baby
  • The court has acknowledged his parental rights before the adoption
  • He has filed for paternity before the adoption
  • He has filed with the Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health

In these cases, the father needs to agree to your adoption. In other situations, the state will focus on your interests, plus those of the child and adoptive parents. The father won’t have a say.

Generally best to inform the father

There are some exceptions, such as in cases of abuse, but experts agree that it’s generally best to inform the father. It’s in your interest to make him aware of the pregnancy and your intent to place the baby for adoption. This avoids any future confusion and shifts the burden of proof onto him. If he hopes to raise the child, he needs to show that with his actions. Otherwise, he forfeits his parental rights, and you are free to proceed with the adoption as planned.

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