Is Florida's Adoption Law Fair or Good Law Concerning the Mother's Sexual History?

I came across this story in this morning’s newspaper, and I was wondering what the rest of you thought of it. According to it,

This strikes me as being tremendously unfair, not to mention a way to discourage private adoptions. I am a firm believer in father’s rights, on the other hand, I believe a person’s sex life is his or her own business, and have no desire to read about someone else’s in the paper. I suspect that the announcements will probably be in fine print, somewhere in the less-read sections of the papers, where someone would be unlikely to find it unless he or she was actually looking for it. This amounts to an arguement in favor of the law, I admit, but the contents of the notice bother me.

I’ve no doubt this will be challenged in court, and I do like the idea of the courts serving as a check on bad law. I also realize the whole situation may be one of the many hard situations in which there is no good, one-size-fits-all solution. Still, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, opinions, and rationales.


The bottom line here must be protecting the interests of the child.

The intention seems to be to do everything possible to identify the father before adoption so that, if he is going to challenge the adoption, the challenge comes beforehand and not afterwards, when he finds out what has happened. So far, so good.

But the problems with the law are obvious, and are mentioned in the news report. It seems to me that a better way to address the issue would be to limit the right of the father to challenge the adoption. If you’re going to be so irresponsible as to conceive a child in circumstances where you don’t know, and can’t find out, whether you have conceived a child, it seems reasonable to me that your rights in respect of that child can be limited where that seems to be in the child’s best interests.

It is in the best interests of the child that the father be identified. If the mother is unwilling or unable to identify the father, then this seems like a reasonable way of attempting to do it. If a mother does not want this to happen she has it easy: identify the possible fathers.

There’s a difference between being sexually irresponsible and paternally irresponsible, UDS. It’s likely that a significant number of fathers whose children are being adopted away don’t even know there has been a child. For those fathers, this newspaper ad policy is a last chance to identify their children before their parental rights are terminated and the children adopted.

I doubt this is the best way to go about it, however. The better solution, it seems to me, is to make the mother give the state the same info that would go in the ad, then let them track down the likely father(s). Getting a call from the state is a much more effective notice than a tiny ad hidden in the classified section of a newspaper the father probably never reads.

As the new article points out, sailor, she may not be able to do that if she has, e.g., been raped by a stranger (or, less dramatically, had sex with a stranger).

If, by “bad law” you mean “unwise law,” then I’m afraid the courts have little role in changing it. Creating laws are the province of the legislature, not the courts.

Of course, if by “bad law” you mean “unconstitutional”, in that the law is violative in some way of rights guaranteed by the Florida or U.S. Constitutions, then it is well within the power of the courts to correct, since the constitutions are the overriding law of the land, and the courts’ job is to interpret and resolve conflicts in law.

Turning to the wisdom of the law, it seems to me that a reasonable person could well be in the dark as to whether he had conceived a child. While no reasonable perosn would be blind to the possibility, the actual pregnancy may be unknown to him, especially if the relationship ends within the first few months after pregnancy. It also seems to me to be good puclic policy that a father has the right to be a party to the adoption of his child.

This law seeks to solve that problem by creating a strong incentive for the mother to identify the father on the birth certificate. If someone would like to suggest a less intrusive method of accomplishing the same end, I’m - as Ross Perot once famously said - all ears.

  • Rick

Frankly, this seems utterly barbaric and likely to lower the number of babies placed for adoption. I wonder if the legislators who passed this law would be willing to publish their own sexual history in the newspaper. I like minty green’s suggestion much more.

Hi, minty green

Well, the information the mother can give might be something like “well, I met him last July at a dance in [venue] and he had a green shirt and was about 5’ 10” tall.” What is the state going to do with that?

The idea of the ad, I presume, is to enable fathers to identify themselves, or their family or friends to do so, when they sees the information in the ad.

I accept that there is a distinction between sexual irresponsibility and parental irresponsibility. I also agree that it is in the child’s best interests that the father be identified. And if the father is willing to care for and provide for the child and is not obiously incompetent or unfit, that is probably a better option for the child than adoption.

I think what I have a problem with is the inflexibility of the rule. The ad must be placed even if there is no realistic prospect that it will identify the father. In so far as this discourages or impedes adoptions and so limits still further the avenues open for protecting this child’s interests.

A better rule would be one which required the court, in considered the adoption, to determine that all feasible steps had been taken to identify the father, unless it were shown that these offered no realistic prospect of success and/or that this did not, on balance, seem to be in the interests of the child (which would be unusual).

And, logically, should similar steps have to be taken in relation to a child whose father is unknown even if the child is not placed for adoption? All children surely have a right to know who their parents are.

>> sailor, she may not be able to do that if she has, e.g., been raped by a stranger (or, less dramatically, had sex with a stranger).

If she had sex with a stranger and now she cannot locate him I have no problem wit the ads being placed. Sex has consequences. If a woman wants to avoid the ads all she has to do is keep a log of “visitors”. It doesn’t seem to much to ask to safeguard the child’s rights.

Now, if a woman was raped, that’s another story. But the question is not whether ads are good way to find the father. The question is whether a rapist should have any parental rights in the first place. I say he shouldn’t and therefore the question of the ads should not arise.

Hi sailor

I’m inclined to analyse this from the perspective of the rights and interests of the child, not the father. Even if the father was a rapist, the child has a right to know who he is.

Besides, how practical is it to say to the mother “you must place this ad, unless this pregnancy results from rape?”. Are we not simply encouraging mothers to claim falsely (or at least debatably) to have been raped in order to protect their own privacy? What purpose does this serve? And is it in the interests of the child?

While the child’s rights must be paramount, the mother’s rights are not irrelevant. If the ad is going to impinge severely on the mother’s right to privacy (as it plainly is in most cases) and offers little practical likelihood of leading the father to identify himself (which depends on the circumstances of the case), do the child’s interests really require that the ad be placed?

And according to the newspaper story, the Florida Supreme Court agrees with you on the rape issue, sailor. I think that’s the general rule in the U.S., although it may be unclear in some places. Certainly, I’m unaware of any instances where a rapist father was granted any kind of parental rights (though of course, there may be a dispute over whether it was rape, in which case you’ve got a fact question for one or more juries to resolve first, and they won’t necessarily agree with the mother on the circumstances of conception).

I also agree with UDS and sailor that ads may be reasonable when daddy is just a stranger who the mother never knew. In that case, however, there’s no reason to believe that the father knew the mother either, so using the mother’s name would not be necessary in the ad. That negates a whole lot of the privacy concerns, although I still think a newspaper ad is pretty poor notice.

Just curious: does anyone have a link or a cite to the actual statute? I hate discussing points of law based on descriptions in a news story.

What? This idea is so typical of liberal thought. It has the best of intentions, but makes absolulely no sense.

So, in order to avoid some embarassment to the mother who has had many sexual partners, you want “the state” to “track down” the likely fathers. What government agency to you feel this new task would be the responsibility of? Or, maybe a new agency could be created with this task. Of course, taxpayer dollars are paying for the whole thing.

We can’t track down illegal immigrants, deadbeat dads, or criminals with warrants in this country already because of lack of resources. Now, you want some government agency “tracking down” every man that had sex with these women to ask if they would like to be a father?!? All to save face for these women who can’t identify the father of thier own child? This is beyond rediculous.

Just a point of fact: in my experience, in the case of private adoptions the agency usually attempts to find the father and get him to sign a release, if for no other reason than the fact that no one wants to spend 18 years worrying about a biological father appearing at the door one day, lawyer in tow. When my 15 year old friend was pregnant, they moved to another state (for other reasons, not as a reaction tothe pregnancy). She gave her baby up (open adoption, not that it is relevnt here) and did not tell the father that she was pregnant beofre she left. Her plan was to never tell him, but the adoption agency and the adoptive parents hired a private detective to find him (he was semi-homeless) in order to secure that release form.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if it is possible to get a release form, adoptive parents are willing to go to through signifigant time and effort to do so. In cases where the claim is made that it is impossible to identify the father, I suspect that either 1) it really is a complete mystery or 2) there is good reason to believe that the release form would not be signed. Unfortunantly, those two options support opposite sides of this arguement.

This comment is so typical of snotty rudeness. It attempts to make a point, but instead turns into a pointless exercise in political name-calling.

And me, a liberal? It is to laugh, my ill-mannered friend. I average out as centrist as they come, though apparently anybody who ever votes for Democrats looks like a liberal to some on the extreme right.

Yes. You get points for reading comprehension, at least.

How about the same state agencies that are already tasked with terminating parental rights, enforcing child support, and placing children with adoptive parents? Considering the state does this all the time in child support and adoption cases, it’s not exactly a new thing.

Or, maybe, you could imagine other ridiculous things and argue against them, too.

Jeez, notifying fathers that they’re about to lose their children for all time seems like a pretty good expenditure of state funds. And how much money does it take to send out a handful of letters saying “You have been identified as a potential father of Baby Doe. If you want to avoid having any parental rights terminated, please call Child Protective Services at 515-555-5555”? You’re complaining about a pittance–and a pittance that promotes adoption (you like adoption, right?) while preventing costly court battles like the ones referenced in the newspaper article.

Nonsense. We track down deadbeat dads all the time. Locating them is far easier than getting them to cough up money, and locating them is all you need to do here. Hell, most of them are in the phone book.

No. In order to provide actual notice to fathers that the state is about to take their children away from them for all time.

Yes, that’s pretty rediculous.

Demonstrate that this is “irresponsibility” on the part of the father. Speaking for myself, while I have always used birth control, it is, er, conceivable that I am the father of one or more children I don’t know exist.

It’s really simple:

  1. Couple has sex;
  2. Birth control fails in a non-obvious way (microtears in condom, diaphragm shifts, etc.);
  3. Couple breaks up before woman’s next expected period;
  4. After break-up, woman discovers she’s pregnant, and doesn’t inform man.

I don’t think that #2 or #4 has ever happened to me, but I have no way of knowing - and I don’t think that I’m irresponsible for not knowing.

I think the answer is simple - the woman should be obliged to contact (or have someone contact) the potential fathers and obtain consent. If there is a reason the woman is fearful of contacting a potential father, seek leave of a court to not contact that person.


BTW, I think the “confidential registry” idea is also stupid. To cover the bases, every guy who had sex with a woman within about 2 months of breaking up with the woman would need to register. That seems pretty damn unworkable.


Sua - I agree with what you suggest. I think the problem arises where the woman doesn’t know who the father or potential fathers are (or, arguably, where she claims not to know).

Requiring an advertisement may be an effective way of discouraging a woman from claiming not to know when in fact she does know, but where she genuinely doesn’t know it does seem to me that the amount of detail she will be able to put into an advertisement may well be unlikely to enable the father to indenitify himself, and in light of this the positive value of protecting the father’s interest and the child’s interest may be outweighed by the negative value of the intrusion into the woman’s privacy.

>> intrusion into the woman’s privacy

Easily avoidable if she just keeps a log book. The consequence of sex is sometimes babies and babies have rights. The state is saying a woman has a responsibility of knowing who is the father of the child and if she doesn’t know then the state will do its best to find out. All the woman has to do is provide the information in the first place and I do not think it is an unreasonable request.


I apologize if I came across as antagonistic. While I am still opposed to your position, I certainly didn’t mean to be snotty or rude.


First of all I am certainly not on the extreme right. Just because I call your idea liberal does not make me a right winger. After reading many of your posts I am surprised to see you deny being a liberal. But, if you insist you are a centrist, I won’t argue the point. However, your response to this particular issue strikes me as typical liberal thinking: “Let the government do it”.


Because those agencies are doing such a good job of enforcing child support and placing children now. Like they did protecting Rilya Wilson. The government caseworker assigned to this little girl had two jobs while she was supposed to be caring for 36 children. She continued to send in status reports on Rilya Wilson for months after she was missing. These same government agencies who cannot care for the children in their keep cannot be expected to do a competant job of finding possible fathers.


I thought that a new agency was what you may have been suggesting. All you had to do was clarify the point.


If the state was running the program thats probably what they would do: Send out a letter to the last known good address and call it a day.


A pittance? The government spends a lot more than a pittance on everything that it does.

Adoption agencies, as others have mentioned, would have a decent chance at success. They are privately run companies, that stand to lose money if the fathers aren’t found, due to possible later lawsuits. Given a contest between a private company trying to cut costs vs. a Government agency attempting the same task it is no contest who will be more successful.


Huh? Oh, ya. being on the extreme right, as you put it, I must be pro-adoption, anti-abortion, blah, blah… because I disagree with you who “ever votes for democrats”. Wrong.


We are talking about tracking down fathers of women who can’t find and identify them themselves. Crack whores don’t take the Social Security numbers of their Johns, I wouldn’t think. I disagree that government child protection agencies are cabable of the task of locating these fathers.

Individuals with criminal warrants have to be lured into police custody with the now famous “free boat givaways” because police admitedly do not have the resources to go out and collect individuals who are listed in the phone book. Or, they wait for traffic stops to get them. If the government doesn’t have the resources to go out and collect known criminals because of lack of resources, I doubt their ability to hunt down every possible father to the kids up for adoption.


I agree the fathers should be contacted. Where we disagree is I think government involvement would make the situation worse rather than better. I am not sure there is any perfect solution to this problem, but saying “let the government handle it” certainly isn’t one. Maybe mothers who cannot identify the father of their child should be prevented from giving it up for adoption. That would certainly motivate them to find the father. They have a much better chance of success (if properly motivated) than the state does. Or, private adoption agencies could handle the task of finding hard to reach/identify fathers. They stand to loose money if they fail, so they would have more success than the state also.

I completely agree that a woman should be obliged to notify or have a government agency notify potential fathers and obtain consent, but to require that she take out an ad in the local paper announcing the men she has had sex with is ludicrous.

What happens when a spiteful woman falsely lists a married man? What about employers, church members, neighbors, or God forbid, YOUR GRANDMOTHER, given access to your recent sexual history? What about the children who are raised by a mother who doesn’t want them but refuses to make her sex-capades public?

I am still in shock something this asinine could have been passed into law.

You’re kidding, right?