Birth Father Rights in Pennsylvania: What to Know
As a birth mother, the adoption process is in your hands, but biological fathers also play a role. A biological father has certain parental rights when it comes to adoption. Staying informed can help you avoid any unexpected changes in your adoption plan. We’ll cover the basics of a birth father’s parental rights in Pennsylvania, and how an adoption agency can help biological parents navigate adoption.
What is a Birth Father?
Families come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s no wonder there’s confusion around the term “birth father.” In the case of adoptions, “birth father” refers to the biological father of a baby. As the biological father, he is involved in an adoption. It doesn’t matter if he has a relationship with the mother or not.
There are some cases where the biological father is unknown, or could be one of a few different men. To finalize an adoption in PA, there has to be an effort to name one or more potential fathers. Then, you have to get their consent to the adoption. In cases like these, adoption agencies can help birth mothers identify, contact, or get consent from potential fathers. We’ll discuss this more down below.
What is Paternity?
Paternity is the legal recognition of a child’s father. Establishing paternity is important for adoptions because of birth father rights in the adoption process. When a man establishes paternity, they can take their legal role of father and have a say in decisions about the baby’s life.
Just like a birth mother has parental rights as the baby’s biological mother, a father who establishes his paternity also has parental rights. The most important decision the father can contribute to is consenting to the adoption. A man who establishes paternity must be consulted and consent to an adoption taking place. If paternity is established, the father will need to consent to giving up his parental rights – an essential step in any adoption. The birth must parents agree to give up their legal rights as parents so an adoptive family can take legal custody of the baby.
How Does a Birth Father Fit into the Adoption Process?
Birth fathers can have many roles throughout the process, and it all depends on how involved he wants to be. After establishing paternity, the birth father can be part of the adoption process or not.
There are several roles that a father can have, depending on the situation.
The Birth Father Knows About the Baby and is Supportive of Adoption
In situations like this, birth father involvement can be different for every expecting mother. Some birth fathers want to actively help birth mothers choose adoptive parents, or arrange an open adoption. A father can even create a post-adoption contact agreement that includes him in the baby’s life. Or, some birth fathers choose to agree to adoption and leave the other decisions to the biological mother. No matter what level of involvement the father wants, having a supportive father means you can have a smooth adoption.
The Birth Father Knows about the Baby and is Not Supportive of Adoption
In some cases, a father may want to explore options other than adoption. If he doesn’t want to put the baby up for adoption, he can establish paternity and make legal decisions about the child’s life. He can choose to be a single father, or work with the mother to come to an agreement about the baby’s future. The birth parents will need to work together and choose a future for the baby. These situations can be tricky, and adoption agencies can help you navigate your options as birth parents.
The Birth Father is Unknown
You may be unsure about who your baby’s biological father is, or think it could be one of a few different men. A Pennsylvania adoption professional can help you get in touch with the alleged father and establish paternity. Or, they can get in touch with several potential fathers and help you establish contact to get termination of parental rights.
In these cases, an adoption agency can be a huge help. They’ll do the work for you and help you avoid contact with the father if that’s what you want. It’s also helpful to have a support system and a person you can trust. Adoption agencies can provide that assistance for you, with a case worker who is dedicated to supporting your adoption journey and your decisions. We’ll get into more detail about the role of an agency when a father doesn’t want to choose adoption. Just know that an agency can always support you, no matter how the father feels about adoption.
The Birth Father Doesn’t Know About the Baby
While it’s rare to have a biological father who is truly unknown, it does happen. Adoption is still an option if you don’t know the father of the baby. But, each state has specific laws for birth father rights. If you’re in this situation, it’s best to get in touch with an adoption professional who works in your state.
An adoption professional will help you find the father, or potential fathers, so the adoption can be finalized. They also have experience with the legal ins and outs of adoption, so they can give you the best advice for your situation. Remember, an adoption professional will be your cheerleader throughout the process and ensure you have the adoption that you want. They can be especially helpful when you’re unsure about who the baby’s father is.
Can a Biological Father Stop an Adoption?
A biological father can stop an adoption. But, you should know before the child’s birth if the father doesn’t want to choose adoption. For an adoption to be finalized, you need to prove to a judge that you got in touch with (or made the best effort to contact) the biological father. That usually happens early in the process. It starts the conversation and you’ll know how the birth father feels before the baby is born.
It’s best to reach out to the biological father as you start to consider adoption so you can get his opinion early in the process. The longer you wait, the more it could disrupt your plans. A contested adoption is difficult for everyone involved.
Birth Father Contesting Adoption
In Pennsylvania, you still have options if the father doesn’t want to move forward with adoption. When a biological father contests an adoption, or tries to stop it, you have certain parental rights as a biological mother. An adoption attorney and other adoption professionals can help you explore your options, especially if they’re a specialist in your state. Biological parents’ rights are different in each state and you need someone familiar with your state’s laws to help in a contested adoption.
How Can a Birth Mother Navigate Communication with a Birth Father?
It can be hard to communicate with a biological father, whether you have a current relationship with him or not. If you’re nervous about communicating with the birth father, adoption agencies can help. They will work with you to determine the father (or fathers) and get in touch with them.
With an adoption agency, you can avoid talking to the father and let your adoption professional take charge.They’ll support you and the father through the process to provide educational and legal support. The goal is to make everyone comfortable with adoption and let them know their parental rights.
Adoption professionals can answer any questions you or the father may have and offer resources, like education or counseling. They’ll make sure you have the information you and the father need to make the best decision for your baby. Best of all, their services are free for biological parents. The best adoption agencies put the focus on the birth parents to support them through the adoption process in any way they can, including financially.
Working with an agency is the best way to have someone who will support you throughout the adoption process and help you avoid any surprises from birth fathers. An agency’s goal is to make the process clear and provide as much information as possible so you and the father know all of your options. As an adoption agency and legal counsel, A Baby Step Adoption can help you and the father navigate your options for adoption in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and beyond. We’re here to support you every step of the way and make sure you and your baby have the best future.