Ohio Fathers may need to act fast to preserve their rights to parent their child. Although registering with the Ohio Putative Father’s Registry before the birth of their child or within 15 days of the birth of their child will entitled them to notice of an adoption, it does not necessarily preserve their right to stop their child from being adopted, and their parental rights from being terminated. Recent Ohio Supreme Court decisions have promoted father’s rights and affirmed the rights of birth fathers to stop the adoption of their children. The conclusion that can be drawn from these decisions is thats the best way to stop your child from being adopted, and your parental rights from being terminated, is to file an action in Juvenile court to establish paternity and/ or parental rights. An action to establish paternity can be filed even before the child is born.
In re Adoption of G.V. and In re Adoption of P.A.C. both held that the probate court may not proceed with an adoption while there is an issue pending in juvenile court concerning the parenting of the child. The Court applied their 2006 decision In re Adoption of Pushcar to these cases, holding that the issue in juvenile court must be finalized before the adoption may proceed.
In Pushcar, the child’s biological parents were not married. The husband of the child’s mother filed to adopt the child, and the biological father opposed the adoption. The biological father’s paternity action had not yet been finalized, and at issue was whether it was necessary for the biological father to consent to the adoption. The Court held that his consent to the adoption was necessary, even if paternity had not yet been formally established.
Behind this decision is the policy concern that, “the right of a natural parent to the care and custody of his children is one of the most precious and fundamental in law.” In re Adoption of Masa. Ohio recognizes the interest parents have in raising their children as fundamental, and “the state’s interest in finding the best home for the child does not arise until the parent has been found unfit.” Cruzan v. Director.
The Ohio Supreme Court applied this principle in the 2010 decision In re Adoption of P.A.C. In this case, the child’s biological father, Gary Otten, was not married to the child’s mother and was not listed on the birth certificate. Otten opposed the child’s adoption. Applying Pushcar, the Supreme Court affirmed that his consent to the adoption was necessary, even though he had not registered with the Putative Father Registry. Pushcar was applied in another recent decision as well. In In re Adoption of G.V. the biological father had registered with the Putative Father Registry before the adoption petition was filed. The Supreme Court again held that Pushcar applied to this case, making his consent to the adoption necessary.
A putative father is an individual who may be a child’s father, but was not married to the child’s mother on or before the child was born, has not established paternity of the child, or has not been determined to be the father of the child by a court proceeding or an administrative agency. In the event that an adoption petition is filed for a child, the Putative Father Registry operates as a system to identify an undisclosed putative father and provide him with notice of the adoption petition. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services suggests that anyone who thinks someone may be pregnant and that he may be the father should register with the Putative Father Registry no later than 15 days after the child’s birth. Registration is free, and adults or minors may register. You can read more about the Putative Father Registry here: http://jfs.ohio.gov/pfr/.
PLEASE NOTE: The Ohio Putative Father Registry form only has a post office box. If you are close to the 15 day deadline, and do not want to take a risk that your form will be processed too late, or that your form may be lost in the mail, then you should consider going down to the Putative Father Registry office in person. There is a toll free number on the form that you can call, and if you explain your circumstances they SHOULD give you their office address. The last published address that this office was able to find was: 50 W. Town Street, Suite 400, Columbus, Ohio, 43215. Remember, it is up to YOU to make sure you have their current address, so pick up the phone and call them, don’t rely on this website to make sure you have the current address.