Birth Father Rights in California

What You Need to Know

Sometimes, we receive questions from women about pursuing adoption without parental consent — in other words, wondering how to adopt a child without the father’s consent to the adoption. This is not a simple yes or no question. Every situation is different, and adoption laws where birth fathers are concerned can be tricky to navigate.

Please do not interpret this article as legal advice. If you have questions about giving up your baby for adoption without the father’s consent, whether that means pursuing adoption without knowing the father or making an adoption plan against his wishes, you will need to seek legal counsel. American Adoptions works with experienced attorneys in California who will be able to learn more about your individual situation and help you to proceed in an appropriate manner. To speak with an Adoption Specialist, call American Adoptions at 1-800-ADOPTION.

If you’re curious about California’s adoption laws involving birth fathers, you should know that they change depending on your relationship with the father of your baby.

If you are married to your baby’s father:

If you are married to your baby’s father and he won’t give written consent to an adoption, the only way an adoption can take place is if the state of California decides to terminate his parental rights. To do this, you must file a petition to terminate the father’s rights, just as someone would proceed to terminate the mother’s parental rights.

There are only certain situations in which a California judge will allow adoption without consent from the father if he is married to the mother. These include abandonment, meaning the father has left the child for at least a year with little or no communication with him or her, failure to child support, or habitual drug use or a felony conviction.

While it may still be possible for you to put your baby up for adoption without the father’s consent, it may also be possible for your American Adoptions Adoption Specialist to act as a counselor between you and your husband to help you find a solution.

If you are not married to your baby’s father:

Not being married to the father doesn’t mean there are no birth father rights in adoption. Birth father adoption laws still apply. California requires that the father be notified of your pregnancy. An adoption attorney will serve the father with a Notice of Alleged Paternity. At this point, he has 30 days to file papers with the court; if he fails to do so, he forfeits his rights of a biological father in adoption.

If he does file before the deadline, this doesn’t mean that adoption is out of the question. If a judge finds that adoption is in the child’s best interests, he or she can still terminate the father’s rights.

If you don’t know who your baby’s father is:

Some women who consider giving a child up for adoption don’t know who the father is; if this describes you, you aren’t alone. Your Adoption Specialist will help you do everything you can possibly do to find him and notify him, which the state of California does require. A judge will have to agree that you did everything you could to find the father before you can complete an unknown father adoption.

This must be a very thorough search, but American Adoptions can help in numerous ways:

  • Search for the father online

  • Send a letter to his last known address with a return receipt requested. If the post office knows the father’s new address, they may return the letter with it included.

  • Call mutual contacts

  • Contact the DMV to see if they can provide any information

  • Search for voter registration records

  • Pay a private investigator

Pursuing adoption without parental consent is never an ideal situation, but it may be possible in certain circumstances. If you feel unsafe around the father of your baby, do not attempt to speak with him alone. Speak with your Adoption Specialist to discuss ways to safely notify the father of your plans. Never put yourself in harm’s way when there are other ways to contact the birth father.

For more information about how to proceed with an adoption without a father or his consent, call 1-800-ADOPTION to speak with an Adoption Specialist. 





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