A Michigan attorney recently opined that a biological mother has the right to do anything she wants to do with a child regardless of a biological father’s wishes. While I certainly respect this attorney's right to express his opinion on moral issues, I strongly disagree with the opinions he has expressed on legal issues.
It is true that the law provides that a mother can terminate her pregnancy without the father’s consent. It is not true that a mother can give a child up for adoption without the biological father's consent and/or that she can avoid the biological father exercising any rights unless she chooses to keep the child. A father’s parental rights are substantial and are protected under the Due Process clauses of both the Michigan and the United States Constitutions.
Now I'm up here on my "constitutional highhorse" and my goal is to define what legal rights a father has to a child if he is not married to the mother. This discussion does not include a situation where the mother is married to another man during either conception or birth. That situation raises even more complicated issues that were discussed on this blog in April 2005. [You can see Numerick v Krull, decided by the Michigan Court of Appeals on February 15, 2005, Docket No. 249172 for the state of Michigan law.]
The issues involving an unmarried mother and an unmarried father are many and are complicated. But Michigan’s Adoption Code clearly requires notice and hearing must be provided to a putative father before his parental rights may be terminated to permit adoption of a child. If his consent to an adoption is not obtained and where a mother refuses to provide the identity of the biological father to a court, an adoption may later be subject to challenge provided that the father is subsequently able to learn that the child has been given up for adoption without his knowledge and consent.
Most adoptive parents would prefer to avoid the uncertainty of a later challenge to an adoption by making sure that a biological father’s identity is known and that his consent is given or that his parental rights are otherwise legally terminated.
How a Biological Father Can Protect his Parent-Child Relationship?
Access Blog Archives: all step-parent adoption posts here.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: November 7, 2013
To read other posts about step-parent adoptions, especially a 2013 post about a serious challenge to the application of adoption statutes that will be resolved by the Michigan Supreme Court, see the following posts:
In the Matter of AJR, a very important case that will determine the future of step-parent adoptions [See Post here]
Do you need help with a paternity or child support case? Find a Michigan Family Lawyer near you.