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Rule Mother Can’t Put Child Up For Adoption If Father Not Told About Child

April 23, 1986

DOVER, Del. (AP) _ The Delaware Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a mother cannot put her child up for adoption if she refuses to name the father who is unaware of the child’s existence.

The ruling upheld a Family Court decision that would not allow the mother to terminate her parental rights because she would not name the child’s father.

″It’s an incredulous decision and it’s one that absolutely, totally disregards the rights of this child and the needs of this child,″ said Richard V. Pryor, executive director of Catholic Social Services Inc., the adoption agency that appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

The ruling said that although there is no statutory requirement that the father receive notice of termination of his parental rights, ″the father does have a due process right to such notice.″

Family Court had ruled it could not terminate the father’s rights because he had been ″denied the opportunity to express any interest in this child or meet his personal and financial responsibilities as a father.″

Pryor said to his knowledge, the ruling marked the first time the court had denied a mother’s termination rights for not divulging the name of the father.

″Court decisions in the past, as well as state statutes, have provided for the mother to withhold the name under certain conditions,″ Pryor said.

The mother, who was not married to the father, had a relationship with him in 1984 and the child was born in 1985, according to court records. The child was placed with an adoptive family in Delaware later that year with the mother’s approval, Pryor said.

″It won’t be finalized until the court puts approval on it. Technically speaking, you could say the child is in foster care, but it’s not state- supporte d,″ Pryor said.

″But what this decision does is put that child in limbo and put that family in limbo. The decision bodes ill for the adoption process,″ he said.

Pryor said the agency is deciding on whether to appeal.