As a continuation from yesterday's blog, we will now discuss why James Strickland, an unwed father in Utah, cannot reverse an adoption of his child when he failed to file a paternity action or otherwise establish himself as the biological father.
Most states have laws that require the biological father to take specific steps to establish himself as the father in order for him to be able to prevent an adoption, or to have other parental rights:
"Under a typical law, an unwed father can earn full parental rights through marriage to a child’s mother, being named on a birth certificate, being adjudicated the biological father, or living openly with the child and her mother. Some states also set up a “putative father registry,” which would permit men who registered to be notified of proposed adoptions or other actions regarding their children."
The reasoning for the strict requirement placed only on the unwed father is that, in the past, adoptions were ended years after the child was placed because courts found that biological fathers were not given the chance to consent to the adoption and at that time they ruled in favor of the biological father. This was devastating for the child and the adoptive parents. In order to prevent this from happening, and also to give the biological father the chance to take the opportunity to retain his rights, states now require them to make an effort to file a paternity action or to be placed on a putative father registry before he will be able to prevent an adoption from proceeding.
Utah's statute, for example, holds that an unwed father is "on notice that a pregnancy and adoption may occur by virtue of the fact that he has engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman." It also states that the father is not excused from filing a paternity action upon reliance on the mother's statements or representations regarding whether she will proceed with adoption.
The laws of most states are similar and are based on the idea of protecting the child's best interests. While no on can refute who the biological mother is, an unwed father cannot be deemed to be the biological father unless he is established to be so. If he fails to establish himself as the biological father, the mother can usually consent to adoption unilaterally and the father has no recourse. Any unwed father who desires to parent his child must take whatever action is required in the state to protect his parental rights.