Adoption lawyers in Miami, FL, often have to address stepparent adoption inquiries. There is one surprisingly common question that frequently arises. This relates to whether the court must notify the biological father if the stepparent wishes to adopt the child. The answer to this will depend on the facts of the case. Here, we’ll look at one common scenario that we often deal with.
Dealing With Absent Fathers
A common case in point relates to a father who has been absent for most of his child’s life. In such cases, the parents never married, and the father’s name isn’t on the birth certificate. In practice, the father has abandoned his child, having failed to support, or see him or her for years. Meanwhile, the mother has married another man who can and wants to adopt the child. In a case like this, the court will probably not require the biological father to consent to an adoption. This applies if he has given no regular monetary support and has had no contact for more than one year.
How Is Abandonment of A Child Defined?
The law doesn’t require biological fathers to consent to a stepparent’s adoption of their children in abandonment cases. The definition of abandonment under Florida law is as follows:
The parent of a child makes no provisions for the support of the child, although he can. The parent also fails to try to communicate with his child. This is evidence the parent has willfully rejected his parental obligations.
A court may also decide that any attempts to communicate with and support the child may be only marginal. The court may, therefore, declare the parent has abandoned the child in such cases.
In either event, the stepparent won’t need the birth father’s consent to adopt the child.
When a court has finalized an adoption, the adoptive parents and child form a legal parent/child relationship. Simultaneously, an adoption decree will terminate the parent/child relationship between the birth parents and adoptees.
Should a natural father waive his rights to consent by abandoning the child, no termination action is necessary. Conversely, though, if the father’s consent is necessary, but he refuses to give it, termination action is necessary. The court must carry out this action before the stepparent can adopt the child.
When Must A Biological Father Consent to An Adoption?
Under Florida law, it’s only necessary for a father to consent to an adoption if:
- The child was born or conceived while he and the child’s mother were married.
- He has already adopted the child.
- The courts have already established paternity.
- He has openly acknowledged he’s the father of the child. He must also have filed his acknowledgment with the Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services’ Office of Vital Statistics.
- He has supported the child customarily and repetitively.
Under Florida law, there’s nothing that says the father must maintain any sort of relationship with his child. However, the law still requires him to give consent to an adoption if the above criteria apply.