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Mark K. McCown: Consent of parent not always required

Dear Lawyer Mark: I have been married to my husband for five years now, but also have a seven- year-old daughter from before my husband and me met.

We have two young kids together, and they have all been raised together as real siblings.

My oldest daughter knows that she has a different dad, but she never met him, and we haven’t talked since she was about one year old.

I don’t have any idea where he lives.

My husband and me talked about him adopting my daughter, and he wants to.

We talked to a friend of ours that adopted his stepson, and he told us that the real dad had to sign papers saying it was OK for him to adopt the kid.

Well, even if I could find her baby daddy, there is no way he’ll sign any papers.

We had a bad break up, and he told me he would make my life miserable as much as he could.

Do we really need to have him sign? — Anxious in Aid

Dear Anxious: Based upon how you explained your situation, you probably do not need the biological father to sign any papers, or even agree with the adoption.

Adoptions in Ohio are filed in the probate division of the Court of Common Pleas (in Lawrence County, the judge of the Probate and Juvenile divisions is Patricia Sanders).

A step-parent adoption, if granted, means that the adoptive parent is then treated as if the child was born to him.

If there is a later divorce, the adoptive parent and natural parent stand on equal legal footing when it comes to custody and child support.

This also means that the legal relationship between the child and the biological father would be completely severed, the biological father would have no right to visit with or otherwise have a relationship with the child, and likewise would have no obligation to financially support the child.

Because the consequences of an adoption are so big, the law typically requires a biological parent to consent to the adoption.

This consent must be filed with the application to adopt, and if the biological parent does not consent, the court generally is not allowed to grant an adoption.

As with everything in life, however, there are some exceptions.

In an adoption, the consent of a biological parent is not necessary if that parent has failed to visit with the child or provide financial support for the child for a period of one year without justifiable cause.

This means that if he hasn’t tried to contact the child (and you weren’t hiding the child from him or denying him visitation
that he requested), and hasn’t paid court-ordered child support for the last year, you do not need his consent.

You still need to notify him of the adoption, and serve him with the application so that he can object and try to show he contacted or supported the child, but if he can’t show the contact or support, the court can go forward with the adoption even if the biological father doesn’t want it.

Thought for the Week: “Children learn to smile from their parents.” – Shinichi Suzuki

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.