This paper argues that states need to strengthen protection of putative fathers' rights to their infant children when the mother wishes for the child to be adopted. Part I frames the discussion around established parental rights through constitutional case law. To do this, the paper addresses both the Supreme Court's parental rights doctrine and its biology-plus doctrine, which requires unwed fathers to show that in addition to being the biological father they also have taken responsibility for their children. Part II describes common state statutes that affect putative fathers, including putative father registries, safe haven laws, and laws granting custody of an infant child to preadoptive parents instead of the father when he contests an adoption petition. Part II also discusses these statutes' inherent flaws, which violate an unwed father's parental and due process rights, and suggests ways states can strengthen these statutes to provide greater protection for fathers. Part III addresses how state practices implicate poor policy decisions. Specifically, states promote adoption for illegitimate children even when unnecessary and psychologically harmful, and when federal child welfare policy promotes family preservation. Part IV adds two more recommendations for how states can strengthen their protection for unwed fathers: greater compulsion of mothers' cooperation in identifying the father of their child and better recognition of the child's interest in being raised by a biological parent.
Robbin P. Gonzalez,
The Rights of Putative Fathers to Their Infant Children in Contested Adoptions: Strengthening State Laws that Currently Deny Adequate Protection,
Mich. J. Gender & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjgl/vol13/iss1/2