Sex is Notice: The Cure for Every Adoptive Parent’s Nightmare

As an adoptive parent, I know that the biggest nightmare for parents after finalization of the adoption is the possibility of a birth parent challenging the adoption.

Recently, I had the opportunity to help a couple that had adopted several years earlier, and that was potentially facing just such a challenge. Fortunately, in that case, the court files confirmed unequivocally that the birth partners’ rights were terminated properly, and the adoption could not be overturned. While these types of challenges are rare, there are circumstances where this nightmare can come true. The most common of these circumstances likely is a birth father challenging an adoption because his rights were improperly terminated without his knowledge.

While a lack of notice, often caused by an adoption agency’s breach of their duty of due diligence, and disregard of information that would have led to the birth father, will not automatically invalidate an adoption, the recourse for the adoptive family is a costly one. In Massachusetts, in order to maintain the adoption, the adoptive family has the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that:

   “because of the lengthy absence of the parent or the parent’s inability to meet the needs of the child, the child has formed a strong, positive bond with his substitute caretaker, the bond has existed for a substantial portion of the child’s life, the forced removal of the child from the caretaker would likely cause serious psychological harm to the child and the parent lacks the capacity to meet the special needs of the child upon removal;” M.G.L.Ch. 210 §3(c) (vii).

That goal is often out of reach for many families, because lawyers and experts result in huge legal bills and costs. Even if it is not, what a tragedy for everyone involved.

There has got to be a better way to prevent this heartbreak! Fortunately, there is: a National Responsible Father Registry. Many states have such a registry, others claim they do and other states just do not. A Responsible Father Registry places the supposed father in control. If he believes he may have fathered a child, the supposed father registers. If the mother makes an adoption plan, an inquiry at the Registry is mandatory and he will get notice. Making it a national registry will allow the various registries to “talk” with each other. As New York says: sex is notice!!! Think about it.

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