Ask your attorney also about whether you need to send mom support money, pay her pregnancy care bills, or pursue visitation to avoid an abandonment claim. If the attorney says you must wait until the child is born, or until you locate mom, get a second attorney's opinion.
Despite what state agencies advertise, putative father registries exist more to preclude you than to include you. Then, even when the adoption petitioner locates you through the registry, the petitioner may still try to terminate your parental rights by claiming you are unfit or did not support the child and mother. Thus, register with your state's putative father registry and consult an adoption attorney about establishing your paternity and avoiding being found unfit.F. Are putative father registrations confidential?
Somewhat. Besides giving putative fathers notice of adoption petitions, agents of the child may be able to search putative father registries to get child support from you or claim inheritance. Many states also require registrants sign paternity acknowledgments, notices to adopt, or other support intents to effectuate putative father registration. At this point, depending on the state's laws, mom may find out about your registration. Some states let mom search the registry before or after an adoption petition is filed. However, putative father records are not normally subject to freedom of information acts. Consult an adoption or family law attorney regarding the consequences and duties regarding signing a state's putative father registry.G. How to find a lawyer
The best ways to find a lawyer, in order, are:
Ask family members or friends who work in the legal industry or who have dealt with lawyers, if they know a good family or adoption law attorney.
Go to Martindale.com or lawyer.com and search for lawyers in family or adoption law by geographical area (where the child or pregnant mother is residing). Call three lawyers who look impressive. Don't be surprised if the lawyers you contact refer you to other lawyers.
Call the bar association of the city, county, or state where the mother lives and ask them to refer you to a family or adoption law attorney.
Use the yellow pages as a last resort, or you if lack time to do the above.
You will likely be found fit at the consent hearing if, before the adoption petition was filed, you established a legally recognized relationship with the child. Adoption petitions can be filed very soon after the birth. Thus, you establish a recognizable relationship by acknowledging paternity, signing the state's putative father registry if that state has one, reasonably and consistently supporting the mother and the child financially, representing and holding yourself out consistently as the child's father, and doing your best to visit and communicate regularly with the child and the mother. If visiting and supporting the child and mom before the petition is filed is impossible, make a bona fide effort to visit and support anyway. Consult an attorney about the best ways to do this. You may not be able to do all of these things, but honestly try to do as much as you can. The typical grounds for termination of parental rights are: abandonment (including failure to acknowledging paternity or sign the state's putative father registry timely), not supporting the mother or child before and after the pregnancy, endangering the child, mental or physical disability, or a previous termination regarding another child.
If you actually satisfy the state's criteria for becoming a presumed father, it will be much harder for the petitioner to terminate your parental rights. Consult an attorney about how to become a presumed father and read section A of this article. To terminate a presumed father, the petitioner must usually show that he abandoned or failed to support the child over a prolonged time (for example, one year), or overtly neglected, endangered, or abused the child. Putative fathers, however, can be terminated because they either did not sign a putative father registry by a certain strict time after the birth, did not acknowledging paternity within days after the birth or before the adoption petition was filed, or did not consistently and reasonably support the mother financially during and after the birth. With all fathers, being incarcerated or having a felony record is not usually enough, in itself, to support termination of parental rights. If you are in jail, you may still preserve your parental rights by sending mom financial support to the best of your ability, signing putative father registries, filing paternity acknowledgments, and bringing paternity actions. Consult an attorney