Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Case Law Development: Unmarried Biological Father's Consent Required For Adoption If Paternity Uncontested in Other Prior Proceedings

The Florida Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's order of adoption without securing the consent of the biological father.  The child and Mother had both tested positive for cocaine at the child's birth.  As a result, the state initiated dependency proceedings and identified Father as the biological father, without objection. 

In an effort to avoid the dependency proceeding, Mother's parents brought an action to adopt the child, to which Mother consented.  The trial court found that Father's consent was not required because he had not timely registered in the putative father registry.

The court of appeals reversed, finding that the trial court erred in determining that the Florida statutes requiring registration in the putative father registry is the sole method of preserving an unmarried biological father's rights.  Rather, the court held, a court must obtain consent to adoption from any man who qualifies as a father under any of the statutory sections of the statute.  "Thus, subsection (b)5 [the putative father registry] is not a default provision under which all unmarried biological fathers must qualify to protect their parental rights -- it is merely one statutory method among five to identify a child's father."  The court went on to note that father's consent was required because he met the statutory section in which paternity has been "established by court proceeding." "The phrase "established by court proceeding" is not limited to a formal paternity adjudication under chapter 724, Florida Statutes (2004). Rather, any time a court makes a factual determination as to the identity of a minor child's father, and the determination is material in the proceeding before the court, that proceeding qualifies as a "court proceeding" under subsection (b)3."

The dissent argues that the majority's conclusion that father's consent was required under the adoption act was "unsupported by the facts, directly contravenes the expressed legislative intent set forth in the Florida Adoption Act, and directly conflicts with prior case law from this court as well as overwhelming precedent from around the country."

B.B. v. P.J.M. & K., 2006 Fla. App. LEXIS 8011 (May 22, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited May 23, 2006 bgf)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/05/case_law_develo_22.html

Adoption, Paternity, Termination of Parental Rights | Permalink

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