This case established the rule that unwed mothers and unwed fathers must be treated the same where the father has a substantial relationship with the child.
New York let only mothers block adoptions of children born out of wedlock, regardless of the relationship between the children and the natural father.
In Caban, the unwed mother and father lived together for five years and had two children The father was listed on the birth certificate. When the children were four and two years old, the couple separated, though the father visited the children regularly. The mother then married another man who petitioned to adopt the children The unwed father opposed the adoption. The trial court granted the adoption based on the children's best interest.
The US. Supreme Court held that the statute violated the equal protection clause because the father had a relationship with the children fully comparable to that of the mother. The state therefore could not give the mother an absolute veto, while forcing the father to show child's best interest before he could retain parental rights. The court distinguished the case from those where the father had never helped rear the child.
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