It was the father's responsibility to inquire about the pregnancy and protect his rights, not the mother's duty to name the father to the court in the adoption proceeding.
In New York, an unwed father qualified for notice of an adoption proceeding either by having been adjudicated to be the father, filing a timely notice of intent to claim paternity, living openly with the mother and child, having been named by the mother in a sworn statement, having married the mother after the birth, or by filing with the putative father registry.
In Robert O., the unwed couple broke up without the father knowing about the pregnancy While separated, the father knew the mother's location, but neither contacted her nor filed with New York's putative father registry. After the birth, the mother surrendered the child for adoption. The mother did not name the father, and the trial court did not ask for the father's identity. The child was seven months old when the trial court ordered the adoption.
Ten months later, the mother told the father about the child. The father immediately reimbursed the mother for her medical expenses, filed with the putative father registry, and moved to vacate the adoption on due process grounds. The trial court denied the motion. The father appealed, arguing that before an adoption was ordered, the court had to determine the biological father's identity and whether he had sufficient opportunity to establish a father-child relationship.
The New York Court of Appeals disagreed, reasoning that the constitutional right to the opportunity to form a qualifying relationship existed only for unwed fathers who manifested their willingness to be custodial parents promptly, where promptness was measured in terms of the child's life, not the onset of the father's awareness Here, the father could easily have discovered the pregnancy, yet he took no steps to do so.
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