Family Law Quarterly
This article analyzes the trend in the California Supreme Court's treatment of unwed birth fathers' rights to raise their newborn children when the birth mother has chosen adoption. The author begins by describing the social, political, and constitutional factors influencing such cases. California's attempts to address the father/child rights balance are examined, with a discussion of the historical statutory distinction between fathers who are involved in their children's lives and those who are not. The specific situations presented by 3 major cases (Baby Girl M., Kelsey S., and Michael H.) are summarized from factual and constitutional points of view. The author asserts that after earlier favoring birth fathers, the California Supreme Court has recently taken tentative steps toward a greater recognition of the child's interests by allowing the child to stay with the adoptive family when litigation has dragged on long past infancy. The author suggests that the court has indicated that it will take a more critical look at the behavior of a father who asserts his parental rights. The author recommends that the state legislature take action to clarify the standards to be applied in such cases, and makes specific suggestions that could make the court's decision easier and speedier when judicial intervention is unavoidable.
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