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Putative Fathers Sue Utah Over Adoption Laws

According to Fox News, twelve men are suing the state of Utah over their claim that the state’s adoption laws are unconstitutional, under both Utah’s state constitution and the national constitution. The adoption laws allow mothers to place their newborn babies up for adoption without consent of the biological fathers. In some instances, the biological fathers are not even notified regarding the adoption of their children until the adoptions have been finalized.

Utah’s Adoption Act is unique in that birth mothers are not required to reveal the identity of the potential biological father, and thus may place their child up for adoption without notifying the alleged father. See Utah Ann. Code § 78B-6-110. Like many states, Utah has a putative father registry, where men who suspect they may be the biological father of a child may register in order to assert their paternity interest. Utah Ann. Code § 36-2-318. Registering with the putative father registry would entitle a man to notice of adoption proceedings regarding his or her purported child, however in situations where a father has a relationship with the biological mother, many fathers fail to avail themselves of the putative father registry, because they often have no idea that the mother has plan to place the child up for adoption. In situations such as this, if the mother fails to reveal the identity of the potential biological father, she may place the child up for adoption without notifying or seeking the consent of the biological father. The twelve fathers who are attacking Utah’s adoption laws have experiences that virtually mirror the hypothetical situation laid out above.

Fortunately, unlike in Utah, in Georgia putative fathers are granted greater protections. Before an adoption may proceed in Georgia, all identifiable potential birthfathers must be contacted and informed of the planned adoption and given an opportunity to contest it. If the identity of the biological father is unknown, notice must be provided to the unknown father via publication in addition to a search of the putative father registry. Not only must Georgia’s putative father’s registry be consulted before the adoption may proceed, but, even if the name of the potential father is unknown or not revealed by the birth mother, the child placing agency may conduct an investigation to determine the identity of the potential father. See O.C.G.A. § 19-8-12. 

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