This case established the rule that where an unwed father lacks a custodial or legal relationship with the child, despite having had ample time to pursue one, the state can give him less authority to veto an adoption than it gives a man who fathered the child in a marriage.
Under Georgia law, a father of a child born out of wedlock could veto the adoption only if he had legitimated the child. A married or divorced father could automatically veto the adoption unless found unfit.
In Quilloin, the child was born out of wedlock and lived only with the mother. When the child was three years old the mother married another man. Eight years later, the husband petitioned to adopt the child. Before then, the unwed father had visited the child many times but had provided child support on an irregular basis. Only after the adoption petition was filed did the unwed father seek visiting rights and legitimization (establishing paternity). The Georgia court granted the adoption based on the child's best interest.
The US. Supreme Court held that the father's rights were not violated when the Georgia court applied a "best interests of the child" standard instead of a fitness standard because the father had never sought custody of the child in eleven years and the adoption aimed to formalize an already existing family unit. Under those facts, the state could apply a child's best interest analysis, rather than a fitness test, in deciding whether to order the adoption.
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