Is a father’s consent required if the child was the result of rape or incest?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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If a child is produced as the result of rape or incest, the mother may be psychologically disposed to place the child up for adoption to avoid being reminded of the pain and suffering she endured resulting from the circumstances surrounding the child’s birth. The rules regarding whether or not she will need the father’s consent to put the child up for adoption can vary.

Parental Consent for Adoption in Rape Cases

The specific rules for consent to adoption in cases of rape or incest vary. In some cases, no consent will be required on the part of the father if the child was produced because of rape. In all states, if the father is unknown (i.e. if the child was a result of stranger rape) and reasonable efforts have been made to locate/identify him, then generally the adoption may proceed without his consent.

However, if the child’s father is known, he may need to consent to the adoption before it may go through in certain jurisdictions. For example, in the state of New Jersey, the rules regarding consent for adoption are the same even in the event that a child was a product of rape. A known father who is a rapist still has parental rights unless/until he terminates them by waiving them or by abandoning the child. 

These laws exist both to protect a parent/child relationship and to protect the rights of adoptive parents. While it may be seen as unfair for a rapist to be given the right to consent or not consent to adoption, the rule does exist in some jurisdictions. 

Getting Help

To find out the specific rules in your state for paternal consent for adoption in cases of rape or incest, you should consult with a lawyer 

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