Could Your Child Be Up For Adoption Without Your Consent?
There are cases under Michigan State law that, “right” or not, allow a mother to put her child up for adoption without the father’s consent. Obviously, if no father is known, the mother has sole discretion about the status of her child’s availability for adoption — but the court does require that a “reasonable effort” to find the father has been made.
But what about situations where the father is known, but he cannot be located? Under these circumstances, a father is assumed to have abandoned his interest in the child if:
- Reasonable efforts to contact the father have failed, and
- He has not made contact with, provided financial support for, or made any indications of interest in the child within the last 90 days.
If both of these things are true, the mother can ask the court to terminate the father’s parental rights, at which point she is again in control of her child’s adoptive status.
Even more rarely — so much so that the law doesn’t have any definite standards to cover it — the situation arises when the father is known but incapacitated. For example, if a father filed a Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity (see the previous post) but then fell into a coma due to a traffic accident, what rights can he exercise? What rights can the mother exercise? In these cases, the standard answer is “go talk to a Family Law attorney, get a court date, and get a firm answer from a judge.”
Finally, there’s the obvious situation: if the father is known and located and is there to ask, he may acquiesce to the adoption, or he may deny the adoption.
Getting “Known” As the Father
Unfortunately, it’s all too often that a mother simply never informs the father of her child that she is pregnant, or that he has a child at all. Michigan does offer a tool to help fathers — it’s called the Putative Father Registry or the Responsible Father Registry. But it’s not easy to use; you must call, request a form be mailed to you, fill it out, and mail it back with a $10 fee. The address and phone number follow:
Vital Records, Health Statistics
3423 N. Martin Luther King Boulevard
Lansing, MI 48906
(517) 335-9334 FAX (517) 335-9264
The wrench in this plan is that the law expects you to do this for each and every woman you have sex with. By doing so, you establish that you may be the father of any child conceived within a reasonable period of the registered date.
Furthermore, the law currently has a somewhat titanic failure in that while registering as a Putative/Responsible Father will trigger the state informing you that the mother is putting your potential child up for adoption, it doesn’t actually stop the adoption. If you haven’t had a relationship with or supported the child (which would be normal if the existence of the child has been a secret to you), the courts may legally decide that you have, by default, ‘abandoned’ your interest in the child and allow the adoption to continue regardless.
This is a problem that many Family Law attorneys in Michigan, including Gucciardo Family Law, are aware of and working to fix, but currently, the only workaround is a sympathetic judge.
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