What If the Father Doesn't Cooperate?
If you are pregnant or just had a child, you very likely feel that the weight of decisions about that child fall on your shoulders — especially if the father of the child is absent. However, under the law, the father has an equal say into whether or not the child can be adopted. You must, under most circumstances, obtain his consent, or make an effort to obtain it. However, this does not mean that the father will always serve as an obstacle in the adoption process.
Issues With the Father in Washington Adoption
If the father of your expected child or new baby is missing, withholding consent or refusing to cooperate in your decision to place your child for adoption, a Washington adoption lawyer can help you navigate around this difficult situation. Joyce Schwensen is an experienced adoption lawyer who has helped many birth mothers who face problems with the father. Whether you are having difficulty reaching the father or he is actively opposed to your plans to give the child for adoption, Joyce Schwensen can help you. Call the Law Office of Joyce S. Schwensen today at (206) 367-1065 to schedule a free consultation.
The Law Office of Joyce S. Schwensen assists birth mothers with adoptions throughout Washington, including in Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver and Tacoma.
Consent Required Under Washington Law
Under Washington law, anyone who is married to the birth mother of a child at the time of birth, or was married to her at any time during the 300 days prior to the birth of the child, is a “presumed parent” of the child and their consent to adoption of the child is required. Also, anyone who claims to be the father of the child or who the birth mother claims to be the father of the child is an “alleged father” and their consent to the adoption is also required. In either case, the parental rights of the presumed parent or alleged father must be terminated legally for an adoption to be completed.
If the presumed parent or alleged father is aware of the adoption and agrees to it, he may sign his written consent before the child is born, creating a smooth transition. He will be able to change his mind and revoke his consent to the adoption until the court approves the consent, which cannot happen until the later of 48 hours after he signs or 48 hours after the baby is born.
However, if the presumed or alleged father is not aware of the pregnancy or child birth, he must be notified. Revised Code of Washington Section 26.33.310 requires that the presumed or alleged father must be served with notice of the hearing on the parental rights termination either by personal service, or if he cannot be located in the United States and its territories despite a diligent search the court may allow him to be served by mail at least 30 days in advance and by publishing notice three times in a legal newspaper.
If you are unsure who the father of the child is, you may have to seek consent to the adoption from every person who you believe might be the father. Each possible father will have to either give consent to the adoption or have his rights terminated by the court in a hearing following service of a notice on him.
If the child was conceived as a result of rape or incest and the father of the child is convicted of that crime, then his consent to an adoption of the child is not required.
If the Father Refuses to Appear
The father may simply not show up to the hearing. If he does not, your Washington adoption lawyer can show that he was properly served with notice, and the court may terminate his parental rights without his consent.
It is far more desirable that you obtain his consent, however. First, the process is easier, and there is no need to prove that you tried to locate him and served papers on him if he consents. Second, adoptive parents may be less inclined to go forward with an adoption if the father is not consenting, because of the risk that he may come forward and block their efforts to adopt the child. So, the best alternative is to obtain the cooperation of the child’s father if at all possible.
If the Father Refuses to Consent in Washington
The father may reject the adoption, saying he wants to raise the child or that his relatives will raise give the child. Though this may complicate an adoption plan, it does not always completely block the possibility of an adoption. Usually in these circumstances the father doesn’t get custody of the child or get to give the child to relatives to raise. Rather, the mother retains custody until a court approves a parenting plan providing for each of the parents to jointly parent the child, and providing for payment of child support.
To fathers who genuinely want to raise their children, this will be acceptable, and an adoption cannot take place. However, some fathers who who object to adoption saying they wants to raise the child will agree to the adoption once they realize that they will have to share the parenting responsibilities with the child’s mother and possibly pay child support to her, even though she tried to make an adoption plan for the child.
Some fathers who initially resist the idea of placing their child for adoption change their mind after they find out that they may be able to maintain contact with the child after the adoption. An open adoption or semi-open adoption may satisfy the father’s concerns and desires to stay in touch with the child, while allowing the adoption to go forward. Once the father is aware of all the options, he may find that adoption is the right choice for his situation and his child. An open adoption agreement requires court approval and must be in the best interest of the child, so it is important to work with an experienced adoption attorney if you are hoping to place your child in an open adoption.
In cases where the father of the child will clearly be an unfit parents, the court may terminate his parental rights without his consent if it is proven by clear, cogent and convincing evidence that the father failed to perform parental duties under circumstances that showed a substantial lack of regard for his parental obligationsand that termination of his parental rights would be in the best interest of the child.
Law Office of Joyce S. Schwensen | Washington Adoption Attorney for Birth Mothers
If you are seeking to place child up for adoption, obtaining the birth father’s consent may be an issue. However, that doesn't necessarily have to stop you from going through with your plans. Washington adoption lawyer Joyce Schwensen can assist you in finding a way to address this problem. Call her today at (206) 367-1065 to set up a free consultation.