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What rights does an unmarried father have?

Giving a child up for adoption generally requires the consent of both the mother and father. If the biological father is not in agreement to give up the child and is not married to the mother, however, he must not only be able to establish paternity to stop the adoption from happening, but must also show that he is willing to make a commitment that he will raise and be a parent to the child.

When there is a legal dispute or uncertainty about who the biological father is, the paternity generally is decided through a civil lawsuit and through the use of DNA testing. Unfortunately, failing to establish that a father is the parent of a child early on can potentially result in an unmarried father having no parental rights or claim to his child at all.

Fathers that wish to have a say in the matter of their child's custody or adoption need to make an effort to establish paternity as soon as they can. In some cases, this may even mean working to establish paternity before the mother gives birth. This is considered especially important if a woman has indicated that she is considering putting her child up for adoption.

While you may think that not knowing about a child until after the fact would still allow a father some legal rights in the say of their child's custody or adoption, this is not always the case. You may find that you have only a short period of time to indicate that you wish to have custody or that you object to an adoption.

Knowing and understanding your rights as an unmarried father can help to ensure that your legal rights are protected.

Source: FindLaw, "Parental Rights: Unmarried Fathers and Adoption" accessed Mar. 19, 2015

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