The Atlantic recently featured a story about a man’s struggle to establish parental rights to his infant daughter. The story is long, fascinating and moving; we will summarize it and discuss the legal issues involved. We also encourage you to read the full article in The Atlantic, A Father’s Struggle to Stop His Daughter’s Adoption.
A charismatic young African-American man began dating a young white woman in South Carolina. The woman hid the relationship from her racist parents, but when she became pregnant, she could no longer keep it a secret. Despite the man’s best efforts to endear himself to her family, her parents would not accept the relationship because he was black.
The man consistently pledged his love for his girlfriend and his dedication to making them a happy family of three when the baby arrived. Despite his efforts, the woman’s family was able to secretly persuade her to give the child up for adoption. She began deceiving the father, who specifically said he wanted to solo parent the baby – if it came to that. She even deceived him when the child was born, saying it was still in her womb.
The father, who had registered as the child’s dad on South Carolina’s putative father registry, had to resort to a legal battle to establish rights to his daughter; she was already living with an adoptive couple. He eventually gained sole parental rights to his daughter and the adoptive couple was forced to surrender custody and rights to the child.
It is an emotional story and much of the agony could have been avoided had the mother not been so deceitful, under the direction of her parents. A father was temporarily denied his parental rights and an adoptive couple lost the infant they loved and cared for during her first precious months of life.
The Arizona Putative Father Registry is an extremely important tool for a father to notify all parties of his claim of paternity — as the father did in South Carolina in the story above. In Arizona, if a putative father files a Notice of Claim of Paternity before the birth or within 30 days after the birth, he is entitled to notice of judicial hearing regarding adoption proceedings. The registry is valuable for many fathers, but it is also important for couples who wish to adopt.
Adoption and termination of parental rights are not guaranteed to go smoothly. The process is often a psychological rollercoaster for biological parents who plan to surrender legal rights to their child. As we witnessed in the story above, parents may not be on the same page – especially in out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
The story illustrates the importance of family law attorneys in disputes concerning parental rights. Just because something is “right” does not mean that it will happen. Parental rights cases can be extremely complicated; both parents and judges can make mistakes. It is crucial to work closely with a lawyer you trust to guide you through the complex and emotional proceedings.