A putative father's consent to adoption is unnecessary where he willingly failed to support and care for the child or mother before the child was surrendered or placed in the adoption petitioner's home. Before then, the father must send the mother a reasonable amount of support and calmly try to visit the mother and child He must also sign the putative father registry no later than 30 days after the birth--even if also filing a paternity claim. After an adoption petition is filed, the father has 14 days to file an objection with the court.3
Where a court finds parental consent to an adoption required, and the parent does not consent, the adoption may not proceed.4 How courts in Ohio determine whether the father's consent is needed depends on whether the father is legal or putative. A father is putative where he:
- (1) was not married to the mother when the child was conceived or born
- (2) has not adopted the child
- (3) was not determined before the adoption petition was filed to be the child's legal father,5 and
- (4) has not acknowledged paternity under R.C. 3111.21 to 3111.35 (mutual acknowledgement before a child support enforcement agency).6
If the father can refute one of the above, he is a legal father and separate standards apply.7 This article concerns only putative fathers.
Need to register and object
The father must register with the Ohio putative father registry no later than thirty days after his child's birth to have a right to contest the adoption. This applies to men of all ages.8 The father need not confirm a birth or pregnancy to register.9 Ignorance of the pregnancy does not excuse failure to register.10 The father must also file an objection to the adoption within 14 days after proof is filed that notice was given to him.11 The objection must be absolute, not conditional. A father cannot condition his consent to adoption upon his retaining visitation rights, for example.12
When courts find consent unnecessary
Where the father has timely registered and objected, and his biological fatherhood has been determined, the court will find his consent unnecessary under any of the following four circumstances: He willfully:
- (1) abandoned the minor
- (2) failed to care for and support the minor
- (3) abandoned the mother during her pregnancy and until she surrendered the child
- (4) abandoned the mother during her pregnancy and until the child was placed in the petitioner's home.13
Because failure to care for and support the minor usually means abandoning the mother too, courts focus on failure to care for and support the minor. The petitioner must show both failure to care and failure to support.14 Giving the mother sufficient financial support, therefore, defeats the petition Similarly, the father having had an ongoing and genuine relationship with the child defeats the petition.15_________________
1 This article does not pertain to neglect, dependency, or abuse proceedings, which proceed under the juvenile code (R.C. chapter 2151).
2 B.A. Psychology, California State University Bakersfield; M.A. Psychology, University of South Dakota; Independent Law Clerk, Columbus, Ohio. firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 R. C. 3107.07(K).
4 In re Adoption of Baby Boy Brooks (2000), 136 Ohio App.3d 824 (10th Dist.) citing McGinty v. Jewish Children's Bur. (1989), 46 Ohio St.3d 159.
5 Under R.C. 3111.01 - .18 (parentage) or R.C. 3111.38 - .54 (request for administrative determination of paternity) or similar proceeding in another state.
6 R C. 3107.01 (H). The statute does not state that criterion 4 must occur before the adoption petition is filed. The father would be wise to assume so, however.
7 Under R.C. 3107.07(A) .
8 See In re Adoption of Suvak, 2004-Ohio-536 (3rd Dist.)
9 R.C. 3107.061; OAC: 5101:2-48-02(B). See Erik L. Smith, Basics of the Ohio Putative Father Registry. Ohio Lawyer. March/April 2005 at pg. 6, for the law regarding the putative father registry, and where to contact the registry office. That article is available from the Ohio Bar Association or http://www.ohiobar.org/pubs/ol/.
10 R.C. 3107.061.
11 RC. 3107.07(K), In re Adoption of Greer (1994), 70 Ohio St.3d 293.
12 In re Adoption of Zschach (1996), 75 Ohio St.3d 648
13 R.C. 3107.07(B)(2)(b-c)
14 In re Adoption of Bowes (1995), 105 Ohio App.3d 574, 581.
15 Id., following In re Adoption of Darnall 92-LW-0331 (3rd).