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How would an adoption be handled if the mother of the baby does not know who the father of the baby is?

Lansdale, PA |

I am a woman in my 30s who has been contemplating adopting a child some time now. Last week, the young daughter of an acquaintance found out that she is pregnant. She says she has no idea who the baby's father is. She does not want to keep the baby, nor do her her parents or any other family members. She does not want to have an abortion. Her mom contacted me to see if I would possibly be interested in adopting the baby. I would, of course, be very interested. Right away, though, I question what happens in a case like this with this girl not knowing who the father of the baby is. Obviously, if this would go forward, she is choosing to legally give up her baby for adoption. But how is this handled legally on the father's end if she doesn't even know who the father is?

Hello Attorney Hovey and thanks for your reply. She is saying something similar to what you used as an example, actually. That she was at a concert and "hooked up" with a stranger. Has no idea who the father of the baby could be or how to find him. Forgive me for not completely understanding your answer. Are you saying that yes, his rights can be legally ended even though who he is is not known? And that the specific way of doing this legally may vary (put something in a newspaper or something more creative as you mentioned), but regardless of how it would be done, that it would indeed be done? I guess I'm not as concerned with the "how" as I'd assume a lawyer such as yourself would deal with those specifics if this would move forward. I just want to make sure that there is actually some method of ending this man's rights even though who he is isn't known, and that he wouldn't just have some unending right to this baby. And is there a legal name for this method? Thank you very much.

Attorney Answers 2


  1. If the mother can identity those individuals who are potentially the father, the court may require that the individuals be granted an opportunity to secure DNA testing and then an opportunity to respond to the adoption. If the identity of the father is completely unknown – a chance encounter with a stranger at a party, for example – then the court may require that notice of the adoption be published in an appropriate newspaper. In other circumstances, the court may be more creative. Ultimately, because the termination of parental rights is serious and permanent, as well as the fact that the identity of the father may later be relevant for health reasons, the court will make some effort to identify the father and include him in the proceedings.


  2. It's funny how this question with the same or similar fact pattern has suddenly started popping up on this forum time and time again. As Mr. Hovey indicated, the different county courts have their own ways in which notice to the unknown father may be made. Publication is one way that many of the counties prefer. It can be awkward. Will the court require that the mother's name be published? Will she agree to that? The only way to learn what your county accepts as proper notice is to discuss it with an experienced adoption attorney. Adoptions under these circumstances are never risk-free due to the nature of the paternity issue, but, in my opinion, that's not a reason to forego giving this baby a good and loving home. The best of luck to you.

    Be sure to click Best Answer if you found this helpful. Disclaimer: Please note that this response does not in any way an attorney-client relationship between Kathryn L. Hilbush and the recipient. My responses are general in nature. They do not constitute legal advice. You are advised to consult an attorney regarding this and any other legal matters.

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