As family structures are changing across the country, many children are being born to unwed parents in Louisiana. This has repercussions when determining the legal parents of the child-if a couple is married when a child is born, it is assumed the couple are the parents. When the parents are unmarried, the mother is legally the parent, but the father must establish paternity in order to become the legal parent of the child. Additionally, the legal father must consent or withhold consent from allowing the child to be adopted.
Adoption requires consent from both the parents and if a father wishes to protest the adoption, not only must he establish paternity but he also must demonstrate a commitment to raising the child. The failure to acknowledge paternity actually demonstrates a lack of commitment to raising the child and becoming an active part of their life-waiting too long is taken to mean that there is not enough interest in the child. It is important to know that unwed fathers that did not learn about their children until after the child was adopted cannot object when they find out-the clock on establishing paternity begins when the child is born or even during the pregnancy. The obligation to care and provide for one’s offspring begins as soon as the child is born, not when the father learns of the child.
Acknowledging paternity is the first step-caring for one’s child requires much more than that. It means meeting the child’s emotional, material and even financial needs. Without demonstrating a commitment to meeting those needs, the constitutional right to parent for an unwed father will not be guaranteed. This can be established by paying for pregnancy costs, birthing expenses and child support costs after the delivery. Fathers who cannot demonstrate the ability to provide support or who have established drug or alcohol problems may not be allowed to object to the adoption of their children.
Unwed fathers who want to object to an adoption must demonstrate that they have and will continue to have a full parenting relationship with their children. Often times though, the mother is opting for adoption because the father of the child is unfit to act as a responsible parent for the child. At the end of the day, ensuring the child gets the best care possible should be everyone’s priority and parents aiming to provide that through adoption may want to consult an experienced attorney to ensure there are no deficiencies in their case.