Doctor advising pregnant woman at hospital.

Can a Child be Adopted without the Consent of Both Parents? The Ultimate Explainer

Adoption provides the security and stability of a loving family when it is not possible for a child to be raised by his or her birth parents.  Adoption is the legal process of birth parents surrendering parental rights to adoptive parents to bring up a child as their own.

So, before the adoptive process can begin, the law dictates that both birth parents consent to the adoption. While some parents agree on every decision during adoption, for others, the situation is complicated by the birth father’s absence, unknown status, or unwillingness to go through with the adoption.

If you’re in this scenario, you may want to know whether you can proceed with the adoption without the father’s legal consent. This post explains a father’s rights in adoption and the various scenarios in which it may be possible to proceed with the adoption without the birth father’s consent.

Understanding the Rights of a Birth Father in the Adoption Process

Almost all states require the birth father’s consent for adoption, provided they meet some requirements. In Pennsylvania, these include:

  • If both parents were married to each other for a period before the child was born
  • If there is overwhelming evidence showing the father is a legal parent to the child (paternity)
  • If the mother consents to the father’s voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, filed with the Department of Public Welfare
  • If the father claims the child as his own and provides financial and emotional support

In such a case, the birth father might be required to terminate their parental rights for an adoption to proceed legally. If the father opposes or challenges the adoption, they must establish the following:

  • Paternity: The father should issue a court order establishing their parental rights through a DNA paternity test
  • Commitment to the child: The father must show commitment to the child’s welfare, including a sense of responsibility to the child’s mother.
  • Be involved in the child’s life: The birth father must show they make reasonable efforts to see the child and communicate with them regularly.

However, if you’re the child’s mother and wondering if a child can be adopted without the consent of both parents, the short answer is yes. All relationships are different, so the law determines such issues on a case-by-case basis. The specific scenarios where you can legally place your child      for adoption without the father’s consent include:

Father is Out of the Picture or Unknown

If the birth father is unknown to you, through no fault of your own, you may proceed with adoption without the father’s consent only if:

  • The father isn’t registered as a putative father with the Putative Father Registry
  • The birth father hasn’t provided monetary assistance during the pregnancy
  • The birth father lacks legal proof that the child is theirs through a DNA paternity test
  • All efforts to get ahold of the father are explored to no avail

Father is Known but Unsupportive

If the birth father is present but unsupportive of the adoption decision due to issues with adoptive parents or other personal reasons, the court will require them to commit to assuming the father figure role through support or custody.

Failure to provide any assistance to the birth mother during and after the pregnancy may revoke the right of a birth father to stop an adoption. An adoption agency or attorney can help you determine whether to proceed with the adoption or not.

Father Prefers Abortion

If the birth father is trying to influence you into an abortion, you may have grounds to pursue adoption without their consent, regardless of their role in the child’s life. While some fathers prefer abortion to adoption, ultimately, the decision always lies with you (the child’s mother). At such a time, it would be best to talk to an adoption agency to help them see adoption as a positive outcome

Fathers’ and Mothers’ Rights to Consent to an Adoption in Pennsylvania

The state of Pennsylvania requires the natural parents of a child less than 18 years of age to consent to an adoption. However, consent for a child’s adoption may not be required from both parents when:

  • The child to be adopted is above 18 years
  • Parental rights have been terminated
  • The child is a minor with no biological parents alive
  • A court finds ground under § 2511 for involuntary termination

The consent of both parents will include the date and location of its execution and the signatures of at least two witnesses to the consent. For consent to be revoked by the birth father or mother, it must occur within 30 days of its execution or the child’s birth, depending on the specific circumstances.

Steps to Take If the Birth Father is Making the Adoption Process Difficult

Birth fathers that are difficult during the adoption process may have different reasons for doing so. If your child’s birth father is complicating the adoption process, try to get to the bottom of the reason for their behavior. Perhaps their unwillingness stems from not having a role in the adoption planning or from fear of not having a role in the child’s life in general.

The best way to soften their stance on the matter is to get them involved in the adoption process. Giving the father an active role may make them more comfortable with the process. So, whenever possible:

  • Allow him to take part in your decision-making process
  • Ask the father to help you review family profiles for potential adoptive parents
  • Include them in developing an open or semi-open adoption plan with the adoptive parents
  • Include them in your hospital plan
  • Show him that you can be a support to each other throughout the process and after the adoption

You must ensure you work within the provisions of the law when seeking adoption without the consent of your child’s birth father. Birth fathers have a legal say in the process, especially if they meet the set thresholds. Working with an adoption agency can help you avoid going against the law and choose the best legal path forward.

Contact Haven Adoptions for Personalized Adoption Services

If you were asking yourself, can a child be adopted without the consent of both parents, you have your answer. If a birth father is making it hard to proceed with the adoption process, it may be because they lack information about the process and might have insecurities. Talking to adoption professionals can help them understand the process better and ease their minds. Even if the father disagrees, you can still file for an adoption. Contact us today for more on the legal options to pursue.

About the Author

Kelly Weidner is a co-founder of Haven Adoptions, Inc., and is a a well respected advocate in the adoption community. In that time, she has lead Haven Adoptions in connecting countless children with loving homes. Kelly is a member of the National Association for Professional Women, on the Executive Committee of the Our Lady of Mercy Board of Jurisdiction and lives in Ambler, PA with her three children.
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