The Government Hiding Children From Fathers: Ohio's "Safe Haven" Law and the Separation of Powers Doctrine

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Published Date Written by Erik L. Smith

 

Other Arguments by the State

Compelling interest/Rationale Basis

Proponents also argue that the child is under threat by the mother, and offering her anonymity is the only way to convince her not to harm the child. If so, then the State is allowing extortion. And the state's argument does not change the fact that the court's power to control its own functions cannot be overridden by statute. The DCA also does not require a parent be under duress. And any parent may surrender their infant without court approval under R.C. 5103.15 to protect the child from harm or to ensure the infant gets proper care. [66]Thus, even if rational basis review applied, the anonymity option is invoked arbitrarily. [67]

 

Right to privacy

Nor does a parent have a constitutional right to anonymity while surrendering a child. An Oregon court held:

 

“Because a birth mother has no fundamental right under the federal constitution to have her child adopted, she also can have no correlative fundamental right to have her child adopted under circumstances that guarantee that her identity will not be revealed to the child.” [68]

 

The Sixth Federal Circuit held similarly in Doe v. Sundquist, where natural mothers argued that a statute letting adoptees access their adoption records violated the right of familial privacy:

 

"...[P]eople in Tennessee are still free not only to marry and to raise children, but also to adopt children and to give children up for adoption. We find that if there is a federal constitutional right of familial privacy, it does not extend as far as the plaintiffs would like." [69]

 

66.
Temporary and permanent surrender statute. 
67.
See Boddie v. Connecticut (1971), 401 U.S. 220 at III (Statutes can relate rationally to legitimate state interests yet be unconstitutional if reliable alternatives exist for achieving the state's interest.) 
68.
Does 1-7 v. State, 993 P.2d 822, 836 (Or. App. 1999). 
69.
106 F.3d 702, 706 (6th Cir. 1997). 

The Ohio Putative Father Registry–the WHAT?

I am a single man. Yet I had been in Ohio for over a year before hearing of the Ohio Putative Father Registry, and then only in a Probate Law class. The professor was covering how a child could be adopted without the birth father's consent. "ORC 3701.061: A man who has sexual intercourse with a woman is on notice that if a child is born as a result and the man is the putative father, the child may be adopted without his consent pursuant to division (B) of section 3107 of the Revised Code." That section required the man sign the Putative Father Registry within thirty days after the birth to get notice of the adoption.

 

Ohio Putative Father Registry: The Basics

Unwed fathers are entitled to notice of petitions to adopt their biological children. Yet many fathers lose this right by not registering timely with the Ohio putative father registry (PFR).1R.C. 3107.062. Because adoptions are probate proceedings, lawyers practicing juvenile, domestic relations, or traditional probate law may not understand how the Ohio PFR applies.  At initial consultations then, attorneys may omit counseling fathers about the registry and refer them to attorneys with more specialized experience. But the strict registration deadline, and often unknown deadline date, demand that the father register immediately. Thus the attorney should consider counseling the client about the PFR and help him register that day before referring him. This article gives the information needed to do that.

Preventing Your Infant Child From Being Adopted Without Your Consent

Summary

Consult an adoption law or family law attorney. Otherwise: An unwed father has no absolute right to veto an adoption. You must take action to preserve your rights. Whether the mother is considering adoption or not, an unwed father should, as soon as possible and preferably before the birth:

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