Birthfathers are an important part of the adoption process. When both birth parents are actively involved and on the same page, it makes for the most successful adoptions.

There are two types of birthfathers: legal fathers and putative fathers, also referred to as potential fathers. The specific rights for either type of birthfather depend on the laws in your state.

Types of Birthfathers & Their Rights

If you are married to the birthfather, or you listed the birthfather on the baby’s birth certificate, he would be considered the legal father. A legal father has automatic parental rights and must consent to an adoption plan. Consent does not just mean involvement. At the very least, he would need to sign papers for an attorney or social worker.

If you were never married to the birthfather, he would be considered a putative father. A putative father is a man who claims to be the father, or who the birthmother claims is the father. Whether there’s one or more putative fathers in the picture, these men do not have automatic legal rights. They do, however, have the right to be notified of an adoption plan taking place.

Once given notice of the adoption plan, a putative father has two options. First, he has the right to take legal action to prove paternity and fight for custody or parental rights if he wishes. His second option is to acknowledge his potential paternity and consent to the adoption plan, giving up any legal rights to the baby.

Legal Fathers

  • Are married to the birthmother or listed on the birth certificate
  • Have automatic parental rights
  • Must consent to an adoption plan

Putative Fathers

  • Were never married to the birthmother
  • Claim, either themselves or by the birthmother, to be the father
  • Do not have automatic parental rights
  • Must consent to an adoption plan

what if I don’t know who the father is?

This is not an uncommon situation. If there are multiple potential fathers, they must all be notified of your adoption plan so they can decide whether to prove paternity and fight for custody or to consent to the adoption. If you don’t know the potential father’s identity, where he is, or how to reach him, your adoption service provider will explain the process of how an unknown birthfather will be handled in your state.