Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent unmarried fathers from intervening to prevent the mother from putting the couple’s child up for adoption. The bill has sparked a nationwide discussion surrounding the issue of father’s rights.

The bill is an attempt to undo a recent state Supreme Court decision. The case involved an unmarried father who attempted to intervene after the mother placed their child for adoption. At the time of the child’s birth, the father did not list his name on the birth certificate because he was waiting for the results of a DNA paternity test. The results of that test arrived too late for the father to declare paternity after birth.

The child was then placed in the home of its prospective adoptive parents. The adoption certificate listed the father as “unknown.”

After a six year legal battle, the father was finally able to regain child custody last summer.

The bill attempts to prevent similar legal battles by severely limiting unmarried fathers’ rights to intervene in the adoptions of their children. The bill would prohibit fathers from intervening in adoptions unless they have provided the following:

  • Consistent financial support to the mother before the child is born
  • Payment for the mother and the child’s prenatal care
  • Child support payments after the child is born
  • Regular visitation and contact with the child
  • Payment for the child’s education and medical care

Fathers could be exempted from these requirements only if their efforts to support the child were “actively thwarted” by the mother.

Many worry that the bill will present unnecessary and unfair hurdles to fathers who want custody of their children.

If passed, the bill would only be applicable in Missouri. Still, it highlights an important point that all fathers – both in Arkansas and throughout the country – should be aware of: if you think you might be the father of a child, it is extremely important to act quickly to protect your rights.

Source: CBS St. Louis, “Fathers of Illegitimate Children Would Lose Rights to Adoption,” Josie Butler, April 10, 2012.