Infant Adoptions: Establishing Father's Rights Before It's Too Late


Cruising Facebook, I have seen “friends” posting about new grandchildren. The post has parents and a son with his tiny infant in the hospital. Every single time I see one of these posts, I think, “is he married…has he established his rights.”

Since my phone reads my thoughts, I received a news clip in my feed from Florida involving fathers fighting to revoke adoptions in which their children were adopted without their consent. I thought Ohio has a much better system than Florida to protect against these incidents, but then I dove through an internet rabbit hole of research to discover, that Ohio, as well as Florida, and other states require certain quick actions upon birth to establish father’s rights. These steps are essential to protecting father’s rights in adoption cases.

Every Unmarried Sexual Encounter is Presumed to Result in a Baby

So here we go… If man has a sexual encounter with a woman outside the protection of marriage, and that woman has a baby, there are steps the man MUST do to find out paternity AND establish rights. Establishing father’s punitive rights is necessary to avoid an adoption terminating rights to a child.

In 1996, Ohio lawmakers established a putative father registry. “Putative father” is a presumed father who has not yet established his rights to become a “legal father.” Under the Ohio Revised Code (3107.061), a father’s consent to the adoption of a minor child is not required UNLESS the father registers with the putative father’s registry no later than 15 days after the child is born.

In 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court held that a father is prevented from contesting an adoption if he has waited too long to register in the Ohio putative father registry. The Court stated simply, file in Ohio putative father registry within fifteen days of birth or relinquish rights to object to an adoption.

The Ohio Supreme Court states “Ohio’s adoption laws reflect the legislature’s careful balancing of rights, through specific procedures, to further the best interests of children. Importantly, when a child needs a stable family environment and adoption is necessary to meet that need, the statutes require an adoption to proceed expeditiously. And while we have held that any exception to the consent requirements for adoption must be construed in favor of protecting a natural parent’s right to parent his or her child, when the language of the statute is clear, we apply the statute as written. In re Adoption of H.P., 171 Ohio St.3d 453, 2022-Ohio-4369.

Establish Rights Before It is Too Late

The problem is unwed fathers have no notification of their obligation to establish rights within fifteen days of birth. There are no pamphlets at the hospital, nothing at high schools or colleges, nothing in juvenile courts or juvenile justice centers. Frankly, not a single Facebook friend commented (including myself): “Nice grandbaby, has your son established his rights?”

If you know of a man that is sexually active, make sure he is aware of his rights. Every sexual encounter is presumed to have conceived a child, putting a father on notice of the appropriate protocol to preserve his parenting rights. The best course of action is to contact an attorney to discuss establishing rights PRIOR to birth. Attorneys at Smith & Smith Law Office will assist fathers through the Ohio Punitive Father Registry to make sure rights are established before it is too late.