Lagios v. Goldman, a 2016 case decided by the Arkansas Supreme Court, addressed the issue of when a father’s consent is required in an adoption case. Unless he falls into one of these categories, a father’s consent is not required:
1. He was married to the mother of the child at the time of conception or at any time thereafter.
2. He is the father of the minor child by adoption.
3. He has physical custody of the child at the time the petition is filed. Note this is physical custody vs. legal custody. This might happen when the mother has legal custody of the child, but the child has been living with the father.
4. He has a written order granting him legal custody of the minor at the time the petition is filed. Note this is legal custody vs. physical custody. This means the father has a court order that says he is entitled to custody of the minor child.
5. A court has issued an order saying he is the legal father PRIOR to the time the petition for adoption is filed. In the Lagios case, the birth father was adjudicated to be the father AFTER the petition to adopt was filed so the Court ruled his consent was not required.
6. He proves that a significant custodial, personal or financial relationship existed with the minor BEFORE the petition for adoption was filed
7. A father must consent if has acknowledged paternity by executing an affidavit of paternity after the child is born.
In the Lagios case, the father was adjudged to be the legal father AFTER the petition for adoption was filed. As a result, he did not fall into one of these categories and his consent was not required. The adoption petition was allowed to proceed and the Court ruled that it was in the best interests of the child to grant the adoption.
This case also points out the importance of WHEN the adoption petition is filed. Filing the petition in effect draws a line in the sand. Four of the seven categories above make reference to the date the petition was filed. So WHEN the adoption petition is filed can make or break the case. Prospective adoptive parents should file their petition as soon as possible. If you have a question about your situation, I’d be happy to offer a free consultation. Email me at email@example.com or call me at (501) 500-3883.