By Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire
In honor of National Adoption Month (November), I launched last month a ten part series on Adoptions in Pennsylvania. The seventh piece in this series focuses on the question: what happens if I honestly do not know who the father is? If you are interested in an adoption, I encourage you to please return and read my articles on adoptions.
While not ideal, it happens: a client (either the natural or adoptive parent) comes into the office and wants to proceed with an adoption, but the mother genuinely does not know the identity or whereabouts of the father. While this does provide an extra wrinkle to the adoption, it is in no way fatal. How it will be handled, however, will depend on the situation and ultimately will be decided by the court. As a result, in this situation, the mother must be willing to explain the circumstances of the presumed conception to help provide the court with guidance on how best to ensure that the natural father is provided an opportunity to respond to the adoption before his rights are forever terminated.
If the mother can identity those individuals who are potentially the father, the court may require that the individuals be granted an opportunity to secure DNA testing and then an opportunity to respond to the adoption. If the identity of the father is completely unknown – a chance encounter with a stranger at a party – then the court may require that notice of the adoption be published in an appropriate newspaper. In other circumstances, the court may be more creative. Ultimately, because the termination of parental rights is serious and permanent, as well as the fact that the identity of the father may later be relevant for health reasons, the court will make some effort to identify the father and include him in the proceedings.
If you, a family member, friend, or coworker are considering an adoption, please call our office and setup a free initial consultation.