But the father did assert his own rights. And an adoption is never "secure" until ordered. I agree that the best policy is to notify the father. What NCFA ignores is that in A.S., the mother withheld the father's identity after a social worker told her she could do that. But the trial court found that the Adoption Act required further inquiry about the father. Thus, the trial court demanded the mother identify the father, and then ordered the adoption agency to serve notice. By then it was too late too file the paternity claim in the PFR. So the father filed his 742 paternity claim in the adoption case.
What NCFA needs to explain then is why establishing adoptive parenthood is more important than establishing natural parenthood when both are being sought in the same court in front of the same judge in the same case?
NCFA claims that the basic principle behind PFRs is that they are the only way to ensure the child's best interest and the parties' ability to rely on a secure adoption. NCFA errs. PFRs were originally meant to provide a non-intrusive, unilateral way for fathers to qualify for notice when they did not qualify in any other reasonable statutory way (such as being on the birth certificate or named by the mother.) The principle was not to make the registry the only way for any unwed father to qualify for notice of an adoption petition. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in Lehr v. Robertson,6 : "The commission recommended, and the legislature enacted, a statutory adoption scheme that automatically provides notice to seven categories of putative fathers who are likely to have assumed some responsibility for the care of their natural children."7 Being a putative father registrant was one of those categories.
- "The [court's] ruling violates this principle and undermines Florida's registry by fabricating paternity rights for men who have not taken the most basic step to claim them. The ruling will likely result in some possible adoptions never even being considered, due to the uncertainty it creates in the treatment of biological fathers' rights."
The court found that "the legislature has established chapter 742 as the 'primary jurisdiction' to determine paternity"8 and that only the rights of statutory parents could be terminated under the Adoption Act (Chapter 63). Thus, the court concluded that "the trial court could not determine that A.S. had failed to establish his status as a 'parent' but then terminate his 'parental rights.'" Clearly it is the Adoption Act that fabricates parental rights and creates the uncertainty of which NCFA complains.
The Act fell simply victim to the very absurdity I portrayed in my earlier article. Instead of listening and advocating for change, NCFA tries to blame the court.
6 463 U.S. 248, (1983).
7 Id. at 263.
8 Citing § 742.10(1), Fla Stat. (2004).
Full Text of NCFA Memo re Putative Father Registries"Florida court decision overrules putative father registry laws"
"The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland, Florida ruled that a man who fails to file with the state's putative father registry still possesses the right to challenge the adoption of his biological child and fight for custody. In the case in question, a mother had decided to place her child for adoption without notifying her ex-boyfriend, who was the child's father. Although the father never registered with the putative father registry, the court's decision, written by Judge Chris Altenbernd, gives him the right to file a paternity action and halt the adoption process.
"While it is usually best practice to notify the father regarding a pending adoption petition, the basic principle of putative father registries is that the only way to ensure the child's best interests and the birthmother's and adoptive parents' ability to rely on a secure adoption is for the biological father to be responsible for asserting his own rights, by taking the simple step of filing with the registry The Lakeland ruling violates this principle and undermines Florida's registry by fabricating paternity rights for men who have not taken the most basic step to claim them. The ruling will likely result in some possible adoptions never even being considered, due to the uncertainty it creates in the treatment of biological fathers' rights."