termination of fathers rights in Indiana

Does the birth father need to sign papers relinquishing his rights in order to give a baby up for adoption?

Indiana Code – Section 31-19-9-1

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a petition to adopt a child who is less than eighteen (18) years of age may be granted only if written consent to adoption has been executed by the following:
(1) Each living parent of a child born in wedlock, including a man who is presumed to be the child’s biological father under IC 31-14-7-1(1) if the man is the biological or adoptive parent of the child.
(2) The mother of a child born out of wedlock and the father of a child whose paternity has been established by:
(A) a court proceeding other than the adoption proceeding, except as provided in IC 31-14-20-2; or
(B) a paternity affidavit executed under IC 16-37-2-2.1;
unless the putative father gives implied consent to the adoption under section 15 of this chapter.
(3) Each person, agency, or county office of family and children having lawful custody of the child whose adoption is being sought.
(4) The court having jurisdiction of the custody of the child if the legal guardian or custodian of the person of the child is not empowered to consent to the adoption.
(5) The child to be adopted if the child is more than fourteen (14) years of age.
(6) The spouse of the child to be adopted if the child is married.
(b) A parent who is less than eighteen (18) years of age may consent to an adoption without the concurrence of:
(1) the individual’s parent or parents; or
(2) the guardian of the individual’s person;
unless the court, in the court’s discretion, determines that it is in the best interest of the child to be adopted to require the concurrence. – See more at: http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/incode/31/19/9/31-19-9-1#sthash.c8udmX5o.dpuf


Absent a statutory ground enumerated in Indiana Code § 31-19-9-8 to dispense with a mother’s consent to the adoption of her child, an adoption cannot take place without the mother’s consent to the adoption. The same is not true of an unwed father. Under Indiana statutes, an unwed father, who is not a”legal ” father  is only entitled to notice of an adoption, assuming compliance with other Indiana statutes, but his consent to adoption is NOT required. Under the Indiana adoption statutes, the consent to adoption is only required of one who has established paternity of child in a court proceeding other than the adoption proceeding or by executing a paternity affidavit. See Indiana Code § 31-19-9-1(a)(2).

The Indiana Supreme Court, in M.L.V. v. Wilkens, 598 N.E.2d 1054 (Ind. 1992), held that the difference in termination between mothers and putative fathers did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
Specifically, the court in M.L.V., held:

Because it is more difficult to identify a biological father than a biological mother,  statute requires that biological fathers take some action to demonstrate their paternity. . . . Given the biological differences between mothers and fathers, the legal differences between unwed mothers and unwed fathers, and the purposes of the adoption statute, we conclude that equal protection will tolerate Indiana’s differential treatment of unwed parents in the adoption setting. The case law of the U.S. Supreme Court suggests some distinction between unwed fathers who are active parents and those who are not. A statutory scheme based upon this distinction could require the consent from unwed fathers who have participated in the upbringing of the child and not require it from those who have not. This, however, would cause litigation of the wrong question in an adoption proceeding. Before a court could decide who was required to consent to the adoption and before th court would reach the basic question of whether or not the child could be adopted, the court have to determine ‘how good an unwed father’ someone has been. Our legislature has not chosen such a scheme, and we conclude it is not constitutionally mandated. (citations omitted)

*Indiana law recognizes two types of fathers. A “legal” father is a man who is married to the mother of the child or who has established paternity of the child in a court proceeding or by executing a paternity affidavit. A :putative ” father is every other man who is, or claims to be, the father of a child. See, Indiana Code § 31-9-2-100, the definition of “putative” father.


If you are confused  about the rights of the father and would like to speak to an adoption attorney at no cost or obligation. please call us at (800) 488-3238