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“Can She have my Child Adopted?”

August 23, 2016

Steven called me in a very stressed state. He had split up with his girlfriend, Angela, a few months ago. Angela is pregnant with their child – a girl due in 3 months. Steven is looking forward to becoming a father even though he and Angela are no longer together as a couple. Steven has just learned that Angela has contacted Child, Youth and Family about having their baby placed for adoption after birth. Steven told me that his biggest fear was that Angela would have his daughter adopted without him having any say in the matter. Can she do this?

Before an adoption can occur, the consent of the child’s father is required if he is (or was) married to the child’s mother or if he is (or was) a guardian of the child. If the father is not married to the child’s mother or isn’t a guardian of the child, the Family Court has a discretion to require a father’s consent to the adoption if it considers it “expedient” to do so. The Family Court will usually find it is expedient to obtain a father’s consent to adoption if the father has been involved in the support or upbringing of the child or if he has taken steps to apply for guardianship or parenting orders for the child.

Steven and Angela weren’t married but it is likely he will be a guardian of their child. As a guardian, his consent to any adoption would be required. A father will be a guardian of a child if he is registered on that child’s birth certificate as the child’s father. There is a legal obligation on both parents to register their child’s birth and have their details recorded on the birth certificate. The exceptions to this are very limited. A father can also become a guardian by being appointed as such by the Family Court.

Steven was concerned about how the Court will know of his role as the child’s father. Child, Youth and Family (CYF) is not legally obliged to identify or make contact with the birth father. That doesn’t prevent Steven from initiating contact with CYF about the proposed adoption although he may be frustrated by CYF having a duty of confidentiality to the child’s mother. Furthermore, an adoption cannot proceed without the birth certificate having been issued and provided to the Court. Furthermore, a child’s mother needs to provide evidence to the Court about who the child’s father is and CYF is encouraged to include information about the father in its report to the Court.

As Steven could see, the birth certificate registration process shortly after the birth of his daughter was important in establishing him as a guardian with the legal rights and responsibilities that come with that role. If you are a father who is concerned about your child being adopted or about your legal rights and responsibilities as a father then the best course of action is to seek advice sooner, rather than later.

If you have an adoption issue or question about your rights as a parent, then call Family Law Results on (0064) (9) 297 2010 or send us an email to lawyers@familylawresults.co.nz to discuss how we can help. 

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