The Columbus Dispatch also carried a story yesterday about two recent Ohio Supreme Court rulings in favor of birth fathers that some observers say are putting putative-father laws on shaky ground. (See In re Adoption of G.V. and In re Adoption of P.A.C.)
"I don't think it's hit people yet just how pervasive this might be," Susan Eisenman, an Upper Arlington adoption lawyer was quoted as saying. "If the guy doesn't want the adoption to go forward, all he has to do is file a paternity suit. Even if he's done nothing for the child, he can stop it."
Others, however, praise the decisions as a fair and sensible tip of the scales toward biological fathers, saying that putative-father registries in Ohio and elsewhere deserve to take some legal hits because the little-known laws can be used as blunt instruments to sever parental rights.
"Ohio’s Putative Father Registry was created in 1996 as a way to allow children to be promptly placed for adoption and avoid court battles.," the article said. "Putative essentially means reputed - the man thinks he's the father of the child but is not married to the child's mother and has not established paternity in court…. To be considered a putative father, the man must sign the registry within 30 days of the birth. But, even then, he might not be able to block adoption if a judge determines that he was not supportive of the mother and child."
In the two cases the court decided by 4-3 rulings last month, neither father had paternity legally determined before the adoption proceedings began. "One man," the article related, "whose child was placed for private adoption in Lucas County, had signed the registry on time. The other had not signed the registry but had been involved with the mother and sought to contest the adoption of his daughter by the woman's new husband in Hamilton County."
The facts in the two current cases differ, but the Court's holding in both was near identical, based on its 2006 precedent, In re Adoption of Pushcar…. “In In re Adoption of Pushcar, 110 Ohio St.3d 332, 2006-Ohio-4572, 853 N.E.2d 647, this court stated, 'The issue presented for our review is whether a probate court must refrain from proceeding with the adoption of a child when an issue concerning the parenting of that child is pending in the juvenile court. We hold that, in such circumstances, the probate court must defer to the juvenile court and refrain from addressing the matter until adjudication in the juvenile court.' We consider our holding in Pushcar to be dispositive of the issue."