Under Michigan law, a man may be a putative (presumed or alleged father) or a legal father. A putative father is generally the father of a child born to an unmarried woman. A legal father may be the husband of the birth mother or he may be a man who has been declared legal father through a paternity action. Regardless of the status of the father, his parental rights will have to be terminated in order for the adoption to proceed.
The putative father may be an individual with whom the birth mother has had a longstanding relationship or he may be a very casual acquaintance. Regardless of the length of the relationship, if a child is conceived, a putative father has some rights, but not as many rights as a legal father, and his rights will need to be terminated.
There are several different things a putative father may do with respect to the adoption proceedings if he agrees with the adoption. First, he may sign a court form that states
a) he is the father and does not wish to parent, or
b) that he may be the father and does not wish to parent or
c) that he is not the father.
Signing this form in the presence of a witness and the submission of the form to the court is sufficient for the Court to terminate his rights.
If the putative father does not sign the above-mentioned paper, he must be given notice of the hearing at which the birth mother will consent to the adoption. He must be personally served with this notice which means the notice must be personally handed to the putative father. It may not be mailed
The putative father may be difficult to locate. In these situations, the statute requires “diligent effort” to locate the birth father. Documentation is required to be submitted to the Court on the efforts that were made. In some situations, an investigator may be hired to locate and serve the father. If the birth mother and birth father had only a one night encounter, testimony may be sufficient. What needs to happen will all depend on the circumstances of the case and the directive of the Court.
The putative father may also appear at the hearing and consent to the adoption.
A legal father is one who is married to the birth mother, one who has acknowledged paternity or one who has had his paternity declared by the court. A legal father may consent to the adoption.
If a putative father appears at the hearing and does not consent or a legal father refuses to consent, the adoption may proceed to further hearings. This does not mean the adoption cannot take place, but it adds additional issues to the proceedings which must be addressed.
Unless there is consent, the termination of the legal father’s rights is more involved than the termination of a putative father’s rights. Here we will focus primarily on the termination of the parental rights of the putative father.