It may surprise many to learn that under Florida law, unmarried fathers have few automatic rights to their children. Under the law, fathers' rights usually only become applicable once a father makes an affirmative step. Generally, this means petitioning the court for custody. Otherwise, a child's mother has ultimate control over when and if the father can have any role in the child's life.
One Florida mother tried to keep her baby's father from raising the child after she decided to give it up for adoption. A Utah court has recently decided this man can fight for custody of the child. The woman got pregnant in 2009 after a casual relationship with the man. The woman made it clear she did not want to raise the baby and sought adoption.
The man registered with the Putative Fathers Registry in Florida, Arizona and Utah in an attempt to be notified in case of an adoption so he could contest any proceedings and get custody. However, his paperwork in Utah was not filed in a timely manner by the Vital Records and Statistics office. The man filed the required paperwork on Jan. 12; however, it was not entered into the database until Jan. 20. In the meantime, the woman gave birth and the child was adopted in Utah. The man sued to contest the adoption but the lower court denied his claim, saying that he had not gotten the paperwork in on time.
The Utah Supreme Court recently overturned this ruling. They said that since the man had done everything he could to get the paperwork in before the child was born and the delay was strictly the fault of the government, he should be treated as if the paperwork were completed on time. With this ruling the man can return to the lower court to contest the adoption.
This case shows how difficult it can be for a father to assert his rights. However, with professional guidance, the right steps can be taken so that a father has the opportunity to be an active participant in his child's life.
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah Supreme Court: Florida man gets a shot at being a dad," Brooke Adams, Nov. 27, 2012