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Arkansas Court: Father's Consent Needed Before Adoption

Every year thousands of Arkansas women experience unplanned pregnancies. In a number of those cases, the women decide that their best option to put the child up for adoption.

But what happens when the father disagrees with this choice? What are a father's rights when it comes to adoption of a newborn child?

The Supreme Court of Arkansas addressed this issue in a recent case.

Father Wanted Custody, Mother Hid

The case involved a pair of students who were attending college in Missouri. When the woman became pregnant, she decided that she would put the baby up for adoption. Near the end of her pregnancy, she moved to a home in Texas that helped young mothers prepare for adoption.

The father did not want the child to be put up for adoption and instead wanted to raise the child himself. He had registered as the child's putative father after learning of the pregnancy.

The father refused to sign documents relinquishing his parental rights, but the adoption moved forward anyway. After the baby was born, it was adopted by a couple that lived in Pulaski County, Arkansas.

The father then filed a complaint for a paternity and custody. In response, the adoptive parents said that the father's consent was not required to complete the adoption, since the father had never been married to the mother and had not provided the child with any support. The father, for his part, asserted that his attempts to form a relationship with the child had been intentionally thwarted by the child's mother.

The court considered the facts of the case and found that the father had done everything he could to protect his rights. He filed with putative-father registries in four states and brought paternity actions in two. In addition, he made an effort to provide support to the mother and the baby, which ceased only after the mother concealed her location from him.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court vacated the adoption, holding that it was not valid without the father's consent. The case was sent back to the lower courts to determine whether the father would be able to take custody of the child.

Source: Supreme Court of Arkansas, "In the Matter of the Adoption of Baby Boy B.," March 1, 2012.

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