Every year in the U.S., more than 100,000 children are adopted. Adoption is almost always a joyous occasion.
However, an adoption can also set up a three-sided legal dispute among parties with potentially competing interests: the prospective adoptive parent or parents, the birth mother, and the biological father.
And when someone’s legal rights are overlooked in California’s chaotic and crowded family courts, that “someone” is almost always going to be the biological father. But, can an Oceanside child custody lawyer help?
CAN A BIRTH FATHER KEEP HIS CHILD FROM ADOPTION BY STRANGERS?
For most dads, nothing is more important than their children, but biological fathers in California sometimes have to fight aggressively for their parental rights.
If a child’s birth mother in this state decides to place the child for adoption, legal issues are going to arise if the biological father has not been informed and/or has not consented to the adoption.
By law, a birth father must be informed regarding an adoption in our state unless he cannot be located or unless his identity isn’t known. If the birth father cannot be identified or found, the court may terminate his paternal rights.
However, even if the child’s biological father is known, and even if he opposes the adoption, he may have no ability on his own to prevent the adoption from moving forward.
CAN A BIRTH FATHER DO ANYTHING TO STOP AN ADOPTION?
In such a case, the biological father must take immediate and precise legal steps to exercise and preserve his paternal rights – and his relationship with his child.
If you are the biological father of a child in California, and if you need help to stop the adoption of your child, you must reach out at once and get that help from an experienced Oceanside family law attorney.
WHAT’S REQUIRED FOR A BIRTH FATHER TO BLOCK AN ADOPTION?
In most of these cases in our state, a biological father can prevent an adoption only by meeting at least one of these requirements:
1. The birth father is married to the birth mother or was married to her within three hundred days of the infant’s birth.
2. The birth father has raised the child in his home and has publicly declared his paternity.
3. Both biological parents have signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity listing the birth father as the legal father on the newborn’s birth certificate.
4. The birth father has done everything he can reasonably do to support and care for the birth mother and the child financially as well as emotionally.
In California, if a child’s birth father cannot satisfy even one of these four requirements, his consent to the child’s adoption will not be legally required.
IN THESE CASES, WHERE CAN A BIOLOGICAL FATHER TURN FOR HELP?
If a birth father meets at least one of the four requirements, and if he is willing and able to take responsibility and custody of the child, he may or may not be able to keep an adoption from proceeding.
Even in cases where a birth father takes appropriate legal action to block an adoption, his challenge to the adoption may be rejected by the court, and the adoption may proceed against his wishes.
That’s why it is imperative for a child’s birth father in this situation to have an experienced family lawyer’s insights, experience, and representation.
HOW CAN A BIOLOGICAL FATHER PROTECT HIS PATERNAL RIGHTS?
If you are a birth father in California, signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity at the time of the child’s birth is the surest way to establish legally your paternity and your paternal rights.
Personnel at the medical facility where the child is born will be able to provide the birth mother and father (provided that he’s present) with the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form.
When both biological parents sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, the birth father’s name is placed on the child’s birth certificate, the birth father’s paternity is established by law, and the birth father enjoys full legal parental rights.
CAN PATERNAL RIGHTS BE ESTABLISHED LATER?
To establish paternal rights after a child’s birth in California, a birth father or a male who reasonably believes that he is a child’s birth father may petition a court in this state for a paternity order. In such cases, genetic testing may be ordered.
In an adoption, biological parents forfeit their parental rights, and those rights transfer to the adoptive parent or parents. Adoptions take time. Several attorneys, adoption agencies, and legal jurisdictions may be involved in any single adoption procedure.
WHAT CAN PREVENT A BIRTH FATHER FROM STOPPING AN ADOPTION?
In particular circumstances, even if a birth father is married to a child’s birth mother, a California judge may allow an adoption to proceed without the consent of the birth father. These circumstances include:
1. abandonment (the father has been absent for at least a year with little or no contact)
2. failure to contribute to the child’s financial support
3. habitual drug or alcohol abuse
4. a criminal conviction on a felony charge
AREN’T THE COURTS SUPPOSED TO BE GENDER-NEUTRAL?
In any California legal proceeding that involves a child, the best interests and the needs of that child will be the court’s highest priority.
Only a few decades ago, the courts in every state clearly favored mothers over fathers when there was a legal dispute between them regarding their child or children. But in the 21st century, courts are officially “gender-neutral” in matters regarding family law.
Honestly speaking, however, if anyone’s rights are going to be overlooked in a California family court proceeding, it is still probably going to be the father’s rights.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY?
If you are a child’s biological father in southern California, and if you need to stop an adoption, fight for your child’s custody, or prove your paternity, you must contact a family law attorney as soon as you know that you need legal representation.
Your legal rights as a dad are officially recognized by California state law, but you may need a family lawyer to help you exercise and protect those rights.
If you are the kind of dad who believes that nothing is more important than your kids, do not hesitate to get the legal help you need – as soon as you need it. That is your right, and it’s the right thing to do.