Can a Previously Unacknowledged Biological Father Challenge an Adoption?
While finalizing an adoption can be straightforward if both parents consent or had their rights terminated, the process gets trickier if the biological father was not in the picture. Many adoptive parents end up worrying that an unknown father can appear one day and try to regain custody of their child. Understanding how paternal rights in New Jersey work can help reduce stress during this challenging process.
Understanding How Paternity Is Established
Many people in the process of adopting a child want to know what they should do if a man suddenly appears claiming to be the biological father. In these sorts of cases, it’s important to figure out whether the biological father has actually legally claimed paternity for the child. If the father was not married to the mother and has taken no legal steps to try to claim paternity, they cannot just show up and take your adopted child. They are only able to get involved with the adoption process if they have legally established paternity.
Usually, if both the biological mother and father agree that the father is the biological parent, they can fill out a voluntary certificate of parentage. If they do not agree, the person claiming to be the biological father can try petitioning the court to establish his paternity with a DNA test. Keep in mind that just establishing initial paternity does not mean a man will have the right to get custody of your adoptive child. It is simply a legal acknowledgment that the person is in fact the biological father.
How to Tell If a Father Actually Has Rights
In these sorts of situations, the main thing to focus on is whether the biological father has any parental rights in the first place. A father may automatically lose his rights if he was involved in a serious crime like the rape or assault of the mother. However, the usual reason that a biological father does not have rights is just that he waited too long to establish paternity.
The simplest option in an adoption with an unknown father is often not getting the biological father involved at all. In most areas, if the biological father does not establish paternity within a set amount of time, his parental rights are automatically terminated. This time period varies depending on location. It’s 120 days in New Jersey. The clock starts either when the child is born or when the preliminary adoption hearing is held, whichever occurs first.
How to Handle a Father Who Still Retains His Parental Rights
If you start the adoption process without knowing who the biological father is, there is a chance in the first few months that he could show up soon enough to still have paternal rights. Of course, the simplest option is just convincing him too also consent to the adoption. However, if that does not happen, you may still be able to finalize the adoption of your child.
Usually, these types of situations will end up being decided by the court. Our NJ adoption lawyer is capable of discussing these sorts of contested adoptions with clients. If you can show that the father has not tried to regularly care for the child and that he is unlikely to be able to care for the child in the future, you may still be able to finalize the adoption.
Ultimately, you usually do not need to be concerned as long as enough time has passed since the child was born. However, these sorts of cases can be complex, so it’s still important to have an experienced NJ adoption lawyer on your side. At Cofsky & Zeidman, we have a talented team that will be happy to help you navigate all the local and federal laws about adoption. You can call our office in Haddonfield at (856) 429-5005 or our office in Woodbury at (856) 845-2555 to learn more about your options.