ArticlesVolume 13, Number 1 (2004)

Father by Newspaper Ad: The Impact of In Re the Adoption of a Minor Child on the Definition of Fatherhood


“Under the ice I see fire, and warn you to beware lest it prove a volcano.”

The definition of fatherhood in the United States has become unclear. It has become politicized, and both law and society are unsure what it currently means. In the past, fatherhood was the method of attaching children to fathers, in order to care for the children. Today, as alternatives to the traditional nuclear family appear, family law is not always equipped to deal with new familial situations. One example is the rights of the unknown father when the mother wants to give the child up for adoption. The question is: when does the father of an illegitimate child have the right to know that the child is being placed for adoption? The United States Supreme Court and a now overturned and amended law in Florida had very different definitions of a father’s rights in this situation. Their determinations of a father’s rights turned on whether the man must demonstrate his commitment to being a parent or whether the sexual activity that results in pregnancy is enough. This paper will argue that the Supreme Court and the Florida legislature in 2001 had different definitions of fatherhood. It will also discuss the reasons why future legislatures or political leaders considering this issue should reject the Florida legislature’s 2001 definition.