What Rights Does an Unwed Father Have to Stop an Adoption in Florida?
If you have fathered a child, it is important to know your legal rights and responsibilities. For fathers who were not married to the biological mother, your rights may be more difficult to establish. You must take active steps to establish your place as a father in your child’s life. Failure to take these steps in a timely manner could result in a complete loss of your parental rights. This is even more true if the mother is placing your child up for adoption. Your first step should be to seek the counsel of an Orlando Child Custody Attorney, who can guide you through the process of protecting your parental rights.
If the mother wishes to place the child for adoption, such an adoption can take place without your input if you fail to demonstrate “a prompt and full commitment to your parental responsibilities.” 63.053 In contrast, a father who is married to the biological mother has automatic legal rights and the mother must gain approval from the father before an adoption may take place. An unwed father must preserve their rights through taking preemptive action.
In order to be established as the legal father of a child, you and the biological mother may sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity; or you may seek acknowledgement of paternity through a court proceeding. If you are able to establish your paternity rights through one of these two options, your signature and consent is necessary in order to proceed with an adoption of your child. However, many fathers do not take these steps and further action must be taken in order to prevent the adoption of their child.
First, the unmarried father must “file a notarized claim of paternity form with the Florida Putative Father Registry.” This registry is managed by the Florida Department of Health and unmarried fathers who currently lack parental rights can create and maintain the right to notice and consent if the child is ever put up for adoption. This claim of paternity document includes information regarding to your willingness and intent to support the child you fathered. However, there is a timeline for this form to be appropriately filed. You may file this document at any time before the birth of the child and during their life. However, this timeline comes to a close when an action to terminate parental rights commences. Under chapter 742, failure to file this document in a timely manner, before an action for termination of parental rights, bars any right to claim paternity.
An unmarried father will be exempt from this filing if, the mother identifies you as the potential father to the adoption agency or he is served with a notice of intent to adopt. The mother must also file this intent to adopt and notice of service to the potential father, with the Office of Vital Statistics. After this service, you have a 30 day window to claim paternity, or your rights will be waived. When filing a claim, you also willingly submit to a DNA test to establish scientific evidence of paternity.
The importance of filing this document is crucial, as before every adoption the registry must be consulted before an adoption can be completed. If the biological mother or prospective adoptive parents find the father on the registry, the father must receive a Notice of Intended Adoption Plan. After notice through the registry, the father once again has 30 days to establish paternity. If you fail to preemptively acknowledge paternity, register with the office of vital statistics or respond after receiving notice of an adoption of your child, you will waive rights to your child and a default will be entered against you. This default will allow the adoption proceedings to continue without your knowledge or consent.
If you wish to establish a relationship and maintain the parental rights you are entitled to with your child, take active steps to ensure you are protected. Contact an experienced Orlando Child Custody Attorney with extensive experience in handling these sensitive paternity issues in order to protect the rights to your child.
Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.