Having a son who is having a baby with his ex-girlfriend has been an eye-opening experience for me. I had always assumed that the father had as much say in what happens to the child as the mother does. However, I discovered I was wrong. So does a father have any rights to his child before the baby is born?
The sad truth is, if you are a father, there is not much you can do before the baby is born. From a legal standpoint, you have no rights. While the baby is in the womb, the mother is the one who makes all of the decisions, and she doesn’t have to let the father know of her choices. She doesn’t even have to let him know that she is pregnant.
- Can the Father of an Unborn Child Stop the Mother From Having an Abortion?
- Can the Father of an Unborn Child Stop the Mother From Placing the Baby up for Adoption?
- What Can the Father Do to Help Show His Sincerity and Ability to Take Custody of His Child?
- What Steps Should the Father Take Once the Baby Is Born?
- Does the Biological Father Have the Right to Have His Name on the Birth Certificate?
- If the Father and Mother Aren’t Married When the Baby Is Born, Who Decides What the Baby’s Last Name Will Be?
- Can a Married Father Prevent His Wife From Having an Abortion?
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Can the Father of an Unborn Child Stop the Mother From Having an Abortion?
By a ruling of the Supreme Court, the father cannot stop the mother from aborting her unborn child. The mother also does not have to notify the father to tell him about her decision to terminate the pregnancy.
Can the Father of an Unborn Child Stop the Mother From Placing the Baby up for Adoption?
Until the baby is born and paternity has been established, the father has no say about what happens to the baby. So if the mother is planning to place the child up for adoption, he cannot do anything about it until the baby is born and paternity has been established.
However, once the child is born, the adopting party will need to obtain consent from both parents. This is protected by law. So if the father establishes paternity once the baby is born, he has a short amount of time to object to the adoption.
In order to object, his paternity information would need to be on file with the court, and it would be helpful if he were able to show documentation of his ability to support his child.
Even if the mother moves to another state while pregnant, as soon as the child is born, the father still has a short time to prove paternity, and if it is confirmed, he would need to give his consent to the adopting family.
What Can the Father Do to Help Show His Sincerity and Ability to Take Custody of His Child?
There are some things a father can do before the child is born in order to appear favorable to the courts.
- Show up at the mother’s doctor’s appointments and at the birth of their baby even if the mother does not allow him to be present. Doctors and nurses will witness the mother turning the father away, and this will show his interest in all things pertaining to his child.
- Pay for some or all of the medical costs during the mother’s pregnancy. This contribution will show his commitment to caring for his child and will make him appear favorable to the courts. If the mother is choosing to place the baby up for adoption, she will have to prove to the courts that the father had no contact with her during the pregnancy and provided no financial support. By doing these things, the father can prove her wrong.
- Once the baby is born, the father will need to establish paternity right away. This won’t guarantee he gets custody or visitation rights, but it will give him legal grounds to contest decisions the mother is trying to make regarding their child.
What Steps Should the Father Take Once the Baby Is Born?
As soon as the mother goes into labor, it is important for the father to be there waiting, even if the mother will not let him into the delivery room. Once the baby is born, the father needs to make his intentions known that he wants his name on the birth certificate. He will need to fill out and sign a voluntary AOP (Affidavit of Parentage) form. If he is present during the birth, the hospital will most likely provide the form and witnesses.
After signing an AOP, the father’s lawyer will help with getting a paternity test if needed. Once paternity is proven, the next step is to file for custody and/or visitation rights, and request that the father be granted access to the child’s medical records.
Does the Biological Father Have the Right to Have His Name on the Birth Certificate?
In most cases, if both parents are present at the birth and the father is voluntarily declaring his paternity by signing the Affidavit of Parentage, then it is not likely the mother will be able to do anything to keep his name off the birth certificate.
All states have their own similar form for the father to sign, and they have varying time limits on which to have them completed. In some states, the father’s signature on this form substitutes for a court order, making it official that he is stating he is the father.
As an example, let’s say a mother is delivering a baby in the state of Florida. The father is present but is not married to the mother and is no longer in a relationship with her.
In Florida, the form is called an Acknowledgement of Paternity. Once the father signs this form, it’s considered a legal document establishing he is the father of the child, and his name will be on the birth certificate. If the father later changes his mind and says he is not the father, he has 60 days to rectify his legal relationship with his child. If, after 60 days, he does not want to cancel the order, then, under Florida law, he is considered the child’s legal father.
If the Father and Mother Aren’t Married When the Baby Is Born, Who Decides What the Baby’s Last Name Will Be?
In most cases, the baby’s parents will decide together what the last name of their child will be. But in some instances, the couple does not get along, and they are unable to come to an agreement. Who gets to decide upon the last name of the child will depend upon the laws of the state where they live. In some states, the unwed mother is considered the custodial parent at birth, and she will be able to make the final decision.
However, in other states, it is required for both parents to agree, and no one parent’s decision will supersede the other parent’s decision.
Can a Married Father Prevent His Wife From Having an Abortion?
If a man’s pregnant wife chooses to have an abortion, she is not legally required to gain his consent. She can choose to terminate the pregnancy whether the father agrees or not. The reasons are based on the mother’s right to medical privacy and her right to make her own medical decisions about her body, and the fact that she is the one who is directly affected by the pregnancy.
Unfortunately for the father, the Supreme Court considers laws that require a father’s consent for his wife to have an abortion unconstitutional. In Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, the Supreme Court ruled that the father refusing to give his wife consent to terminate the pregnancy of their child would overrule the woman’s right to choose to terminate the pregnancy. And since the woman is the one most affected by the pregnancy, her decision stands.
The Court assumes that most husbands and wives would discuss a decision to terminate a pregnancy, and if they don’t, it’s usually because the woman is in an abusive relationship. Therefore, requiring spousal notification would put an undue burden on a woman who may fear for her safety or the safety of their children.
To summarize, historically, unmarried fathers did not share the same rights to their children as fathers who were married but divorced their spouses. However, unmarried fathers started to challenge the termination of their parental rights when mothers attempted to put their children up for adoption. They claimed that they should have the same rights as married fathers because of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Several of these cases made it to the Supreme Court, and they ultimately ruled that unmarried fathers have constitutional protections as long as they can show that they have established a substantial relationship with their child. The U.S. Supreme Court resolved that due to the “biological link” between the fathers and their children, fathers have the right to establish a substantial relationship with their children.
Alexandra Christensen is a freelance writer and editor. When she is not working on an assignment, she can be found hanging around with other writers on Medium.com/@alexandra_creates where she writes mostly about raising foster and adopted kids and those with invisible disabilities.