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Long lost daughter
March 26, 2007 8:10 AM   Subscribe

An ex-girlfriend from when I was 18 yrs old recently got back in touch. She says I have a 10 year old daughter.

Apparently she got pregnant just as we were breaking up. Our break-up was messy and she decided not to tell me at the time. She joined the Navy and met her husband who then adopted the child. They now have 4 children including my daughter. I guess I should say alleged daughter. I know for a fact that she cheated on me numerous times. However I do believe that she believes that this is my child and certainly there's a good chance that indeed it is.

She would like us to meet with a lawyer for me to sign away any parental rights and the ability to contest the adoption. She would sign away any rights to child support past or future. She does not want the child to know me.

I would like to do what is best for the child. I do not want to force my way into her life. For all intents and purposes this other man is her father and I'm comfortable with that. However, the reason that my ex contacted me was because she felt a moral obligation. Does not that obligation extend to the child as well? At the very least my medical history could be important for her to know.

The daughter knows she was adopted and has asked about her real father.

I've suffered from bouts of depression for the past 10 years and have finally just started to come out of it with the help of my wonderful fiancee. Perhaps I should let this go and continue my recovery. Or perhaps letting this go will make me relapse back into depression. My fiancee believes that the child should know about me and that our future children should know that they have a sister.

I'm just looking for advice. Has anyone here been through something like this? What are my moral obligations? What are my legal obligations? I guess the next step is talking to a lawyer. The child is in California, but I'm in New York. I guess we follow California law? Does it matter where the child was born? How do I ensure that there are no shenanigans with a paternity test (ie she has a different daughter tested and says "oops I was wrong, I guess your not the father") if I'm across the country? WTF should I do?!

Needless to say I'm confused and somewhat disoriented by this whole thing. Apologies if anything is unclear. Thanks very much in advance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (51 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
She's 10 now, and when she's 18 she can seek you out or do whatever she wants notwithstanding her mom's signature. Is this something you can wait eight years for? Your yet-to-be-born children won't have to wait nearly that long.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:18 AM on March 26, 2007


A lawyer will be able to answer most of your questions, so that should be your first concern.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:22 AM on March 26, 2007


a) Lawyer up.
b) Ask lawyer to research this, the jurisdictional questions, and to research the woman in question, to and to advise you in general. Medical history is important and you should bring this up with your lawyer as well.
c) Please discuss this with your therapist and fiancee. The decision is up to you, but you'll need their support.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:22 AM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Indeed, speak to the lawyer. Your ex seems to be offering a very clear-cut easy way out, which makes me a little suspicious.

Absent maltreatment of the child, let her go. When she's of age, if she really wants to know, she'll come looking. That's only 8 years away. Plan for it now.

The mother doesn't want you in her life, and forcing your way in, or attempting to, will only cause dissent and drama unnecessarily.
posted by pjern at 7:22 AM on March 26, 2007


Your ex-wife has lied to you and has not come to you out of moral obligation. She came to you to get you to sign away all your rights. Get a DNA test, and then never sign that form. It doesn't mean you need to see your daughter, but it does mean you can change your mind at some point in the future.
posted by xammerboy at 7:25 AM on March 26, 2007 [5 favorites]


A DNA test for you and the daughter is a mandatory first step. Everything else can wait until that is resolved.
posted by JJ86 at 7:34 AM on March 26, 2007


She waited 10 years to right a "moral obligation"? Get the DNA test and then figure out the real reason she contacted you. Is this kid coming into a big inheritance or something?
posted by DU at 7:36 AM on March 26, 2007


What the previous commenters have said - get a lawyer - sign nothing without a lawyer.

The child may not in fact be yours. Just because she believes it is is meaningless. There's only one way to check and she couldn't check until she found you.

I recommend a paternity test. If the kid wants to know her real dad and your current fiancee wants to integrate the knowledge of the daughter into your new family, you want to be certain right now that the kid is in fact yours, Otherwise you could build up people's expectations over a misunderstanding. Facts now, supposition later.

Next, based on your recitation of the facts, there are too many interests competing for your attention and you haven't decided yours yet. Your ex says she doesn't want the daughter to know you, even though the daughter is asking about the real dad. Your fiancee says she wants her future children with you to know they have a sister.

This is chaos in the making. My guess, the ex doesn't want the kid to know about you because that forces the ex to answer the question "Why did Daddy leave me?" with either the truth "He didn't, I never told him about you," or with a lie. Based on her past behavior and her secrecy here, I'm guessing she's going to lie, which won't make you look good in the eyes of the daughter. If your new fiancee gets her way, your new family will know about the daughter that hates you over a lie. She how messy things get.

Find out what you want here, not what other people want. When the daughter is 18, she can find out about you. Will she conduct that search for you in the context of a lie she was led to believe, or in the context of the truth? This is in your control. If you choose to haver her and your family know each other, my guess is you probably want the truth, but that's for you to decide. If you want to commit you ex to the truth, you can force her to sign an affidavit that fully articulates the story as part of signing all the contracts.

Lawyer, paternity test, therapist, lawyer again. Then sign only what you are comfortable signing.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:41 AM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


IANAL etc.

The reason you need to a lawyer is to find out if, in whatever jurisdiction this would be taking place in, terminating your parental rights actually relieves you of future (or back) claims to child support. That may not actually be legal, depending on where you are.

The child support issue aside, I would plan to go ahead and terminate your rights if you are comfortable doing so. Not doing so will send a message you actually intend to be active in her family in some capacity and will frankly freak your ex out and this will all get real ugly, real fast.

However, the overriding concern here should be the moral right of your daughter to have access to information about her origins. Perhaps your lawyer can help you frame an agreement where she has the option to access you, or information from you, whenever she wants it, and your ex is obligated to facilitate that process.

Certainly for any medical emergencies between now and 18, you minimally need to agree to maintain mutual contact details between your families.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:47 AM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Good advice above, particularly the paternity test.

Keep in mind at all times that the best interests of the child come before your own. She has a stable family and brothers and sisters, do not go messing with her little mind out of your own curiosity or emotional needs. You can drop her a postcard when she turns 18.
posted by LarryC at 7:49 AM on March 26, 2007


Ask your ex to lawyer DOWN. 'Cause frankly, if she wants you to sign away your parental rights, thats NOT in the best interest of the child. How would a child feel, knowing one of their birth parents signed these rights away and never tried to see them?

Your ex isn't doing this for the child, she's doing it for herself and/or her husband. That's ok and understandable. If she was doing this for the child, she'd be asking for a medical history, at the very least. I mean, you had NO idea the kid existed, why contact you?

So, what do YOU do?

Get a paternity test. Just to be sure. If she's yours, give the mother your medical history, at the very least. Then talk to your ex about what she really wants, which is basically for you not to have anything to do with the kid. See if you can come to some reasonable agreement without the lawyers. Things'll probably work out much smoother.


Take care of yourself for the time being. Because from the tone of your post, it's just a matter of time before you see this child, one way or another, be it in eight weeks or eight years.


Remember that there's no reason to be nasty or ugly about any of this. No matter what.

Remember to do what's best for the child. She's currently in a good, safe home and growing up ok. There's no reason to disturb that in anyway, however helpful you think you're being.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 AM on March 26, 2007


Would there be a way to get an innocent non-biased evaluation of what the little chick thinks? (Do family courts have a mediation strategy for that?) If she doesn't need you just yet then hang back. You've painted a nasty picture of your ex so I'd examine her motives. Perhaps you should find out if lil' chick belongs to you to start off with. And don't sign a damn thing, if she's yours your ex is guilty of a viciously spiteful injustice to you both. When it all comes to light it would appear she did the right thing. I find that eventuality to be the most infuriatingly heartbreaking of all, for both of you.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 7:52 AM on March 26, 2007


You definitely need to talk to a lawyer with experience in family law.

But the first thought I had was that, at least in Texas, if your ex's husband legally adopted the little girl, your rights were terminated at that time and you would not need to sign any papers now. When the whereabouts of a biological parent are unknown, notice is published in the newspaper and parental rights are terminated at the time the adoption is completed.

The fact that she's asking you to sign something now doesn't make sense, unless things are completely different in the state where the girl was adopted.
posted by BluGnu at 7:57 AM on March 26, 2007


IANAL but your ex-girlfriend cannot sign away child support rights. She can agree not to pursue them but the child support is owed to the child so she can always change her mind. If your ex-wife has lawyered up, then she knows that and is offering you something she knows is worthless hoping that you'll bite.
posted by rdr at 8:03 AM on March 26, 2007


Your ex-wife has lied to you and has not come to you out of moral obligation. She came to you to get you to sign away all your rights. Get a DNA test, and then never sign that form. It doesn't mean you need to see your daughter, but it does mean you can change your mind at some point in the future.

That sounds like good advice to me, but doesn't it potentially mean she could demand child maintenance costs, etc?
posted by wackybrit at 8:04 AM on March 26, 2007


How do I ensure that there are no shenanigans with a paternity test (ie she has a different daughter tested and says "oops I was wrong, I guess your not the father") if I'm across the country?

From this site of a facility that does paternity testing:

What does “chain of custody” mean?

The chain of custody process is what makes DDC’s paternity test results legally defensible in courts and other government agencies. It involves three main aspects:

1. The tested parties are properly identified when their samples are collected. (Their government-issued IDs are verified and photocopied, and the individuals are photographed and thumbprinted.)

2. The samples are collected by a neutral third party—someone who has no personal interest in the outcome of the test (e.g., a hospital, clinic, or laboratory staff person).

3. The samples are tamper-taped, securely packaged at the collection site, and carefully inspected upon receipt for any evidence of tampering.

When these requirements are satisfied and documented, a paternity test’s results are legally defensible. This means that the patients can use them for legal purposes such as child custody, child support, immigration, and more.
posted by Monday at 8:15 AM on March 26, 2007


Not quite sure how the husband could have adopted this child with out termanation of parental rights. Something fishey here... The court could have termanated your parental rights, but then why the need for your signature? unless the adoption was a sham & they are tring to "clean" it up. Paternity test time... you might be being used to sign away someone elses rights to the child. Some one they don't want to deal with.
posted by digital-dragonfly at 8:33 AM on March 26, 2007


This is a pretty small point, but I think it is worthwhile. If you do want to be part of this little girl's life (and you are sure she is yours), do not wait till she is 18. My mother did not put me back in touch with my father till I was an adult, and it is very hard to begin a relationship with someone at that age: I didn't know him and I was busy beginning my life. Now, I am okay not knowing my dad because I just don't care that much, but I have no idea how much it may have hurt him. Speaking to other kids who grew up without their fathers only to get in touch in adulthood, I have found that my experience is pretty common. So just think carefully and don't fall blithely into thinking you can just wait till she grows up. It won't be the same.
posted by dame at 8:38 AM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


if your ex's husband legally adopted the little girl, your rights were terminated at that time

Is this possible without consent of the biological father? Something sounds fishy in the whole story. I would not trust his ex-gf.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 8:42 AM on March 26, 2007


This is only going to impact you as much as you want it to. Your theoretical daughter is an abstract concept in your life, you don't know that she is in fact your daughter nor do you know her. If you choose to let this weigh upon your soul, otherwise every day after being contacted on the matter will be the same as it would have otherwise.

There may be some things you should do to protect yourself legally to make sure that down the line if everything isn't going so well no one can take advantage of your role in this situation. Of course this will probably vary jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction.

And depending on your jurisdiction, it may be possible to take no action. At this point you're a theoretical father of an existing child, without verification of parenthood you may well have no more legal responsibilities than you would to me or any other mefite (unless, of course, it's proven that you are a father).

"Does not that obligation extend to the child as well?"
It may, and were you her Dad as opposed to a sperm donor, that would be up for you to decide. As that's not your case, it's not your call.

Consult a lawyer, I'm not one.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 8:42 AM on March 26, 2007


IANAL but your ex-girlfriend cannot sign away child support rights. She can agree not to pursue them but the child support is owed to the child so she can always change her mind. If your ex-wife has lawyered up, then she knows that and is offering you something she knows is worthless hoping that you'll bite.

That's important to remember.
posted by jaysus chris at 8:43 AM on March 26, 2007


I've seen some articles lately on how sperm donors are being hit for child support, and their agreements with the sperm banks to terminate any parental obligations are being ruled invalid, in the best interest of the child. IANAL, but I nth the notion that you get with one, just based on that, before taking any course of action. Your ex may be asking you (perhaps unknowningly) to legal assent to your fatherhood while not absolving yourself of any obligations. Get a lawyer, and get proof, probably in that order.
posted by stevis23 at 8:50 AM on March 26, 2007


Taking BluGnu's god advice one grain further: get a family law attorney with adoption and custodial experience. Some close friends of ours are going through an interstate adoption process right now, and the laws differ wildly from state to state and even court to court within states. (For example, Texas is very pro-adoption and therefore plays harder in favor of the adoptive parents, than some states; once bio parents are legally out of the picture in TX, that's it forever and ever amen.)

Someone familiar with those murky waters will be able to prepare you appropriately for the worst- and best-case scenarios.

Also, I don't see where this has been said yet but it's got to be pointed out: her lawyer is not your lawyer. You need to go out and get your own, and definitely do not assume that the advocate she would bring to a meeting would be there in both of your best interests.
posted by pineapple at 8:50 AM on March 26, 2007


Or, you know, BluGnu's good advice (which, while good, I can't presume was intended as Divine)...
posted by pineapple at 8:56 AM on March 26, 2007


A DNA test for you and the daughter is a mandatory first step. Everything else can wait until that is resolved.

Agreed. None of this is an issue until you're sure she's your daughter.
posted by curie at 9:07 AM on March 26, 2007


if your ex's husband legally adopted the little girl, your rights were terminated at that time

Is this possible without consent of the biological father?


When I was practicing family law in Texas years ago, if a biological parent wanted to terminate rights to a child whose other parent's whereabouts were unknown, they signed an affidavit saying they had tried to find the other parent, but were unable to do so. Then notice was published and the newspaper and we proceeded with the termination/adoption.

That's why it seems odd that the ex would claim the child was adopted while also claiming the OP needs to sign papers.

Also, AFAIK, termination of parental rights ends the child support obligation on the part of the terminated parent, although it might not extinguish an obligation that accrued prior to the termination.
posted by BluGnu at 9:10 AM on March 26, 2007


oddideafilter: do not agree to a paternity test. let her worry about if you are the dad- wait at least 3-4 months without responding to the 'sudden' case of morals.

this will give you clarity to step back and see the full picture.

also, perhaps ask for a picture?
posted by Izzmeister at 9:17 AM on March 26, 2007


Get a paternity test, definitely. I don't know what jurisdiction you're in, but here in Ontario you cannot sign an agreement waiving away child-support rights or obligations, either before or after the child is born. Definitely get a lawyer to clarify what the law is in your juris.
posted by modernnomad at 9:32 AM on March 26, 2007


First of all, as others have said, get a lawyer. Secondly, make sure if you do sign anything, it's on the same contract, so if one gets thrown out, they both do. I'm not sure it's actually possible to sign away child-support rights.

In some states, the woman's husband may be considered legaly the father, not you.

Still, I don't see what the big deal would be about meeting the girl. I would at least want to do that if I were in your shoes. If she's curious about you, I don't see the harm, even if she is only ten.
posted by delmoi at 9:43 AM on March 26, 2007


Keep in mind at all times that the best interests of the child come before your own. She has a stable family and brothers and sisters, do not go messing with her little mind out of your own curiosity or emotional needs. You can drop her a postcard when she turns 18.--LarryC

Absent maltreatment of the child, let her go. When she's of age, if she really wants to know, she'll come looking. That's only 8 years away. Plan for it now.

The mother doesn't want you in her life, and forcing your way in, or attempting to, will only cause dissent and drama unnecessarily.
--solopsist

That kind of thing is preposterous. It's obviously in the best interests of the girl to actually meet her real father, if she wants to. She's not an adult but she's not an infant. 10 years old is old enough to deal with issues like this, I mean my parents divorced when I was three and I dealt with it grown up. I'm fine. I don't think just lying to kids about something like this is a good way to deal with anything.

How would you feel if the mom lied to the girl and told her that you never wanted to meet her, or something like that.
posted by delmoi at 9:56 AM on March 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


If this were me (I'm a girl, but if it were possible for me to have a kid out there I didn't know about) I would defintely want to have a relationship with my daughter. I would, admittedly, be willing to take on the financial burden if it came to that, but I think some re-framing is in order. You are the dad! You have a right to a relationship with your daughter and your ex has been denying you that for 10 years!

It sounds to me like your ex doesn't want you in the picture because that would be 'messy', i.e. if there is another dad around he would have all sorts of opinions about how to raise the child and your ex doesn't want to give up control. Perhaps she is even embarressed about having a blended family and doesn't want to let the neighbors know she had an out of wedlock kid. But, pending the DNA test, you have rights here.

I can't see how keeping you out of the picture is in the daughter's best interests. She has a right to know her dad! Unless you are a drug addict or metally unstable or something, her life can only be enhanced by having you in it. I would get the DNA test, not give up the parental rights, and I would definitely question your ex's motives.
posted by paddingtonb at 10:05 AM on March 26, 2007


See a lawyer first is right. By taking the paternity test you could be responsible for child support.

I also think that if you want to be a part of this girl's life the time is now, not later. Adolescent years are glacial in comparison to adult years.
posted by xammerboy at 10:07 AM on March 26, 2007


[Since I didn't preview] I totally agree with delmoi.
posted by paddingtonb at 10:08 AM on March 26, 2007


maybe she's lying to you, and the real goal of this thing is you taking a paternity test. maybe because after 10 years she needs somebody to actually start paying child support, back present and future.

at this point you just don't know. ask a lawyer.
posted by matteo at 10:08 AM on March 26, 2007


Well, I have a close family member who was in your ex-gf's position. It was different, as she contacted the biological father about her pregnancy and the baby's birth, and he wanted nothing to do with it.

A few years later, she got married. Her husband was very interested in adopting the child, especially since they had another child together and he didn't want the child to feel like he was "just a kid that he got stuck with". He really loves the kid. And the husband was the only father this child has ever known. The mom wasn't interested in child support or sharing custody with the biological father. They got a lawyer, contacted the biological father and filed for a termination of the biological father's parental rights. The husband adopted the child and they are a very tight family. The child knows that he was adopted and is okay with that. As okay as he will ever be, I suppose, knowing that his biological dad has no interest in meeting him. (He's 15 now.)

I don't know if the biological father will ever contact the child. I'm pretty sure that the biological father has never told HIS family about the child. His parents live in a foreign country (he is a foreign national) and that would have made sharing custody very complex. So, in a way, it has been more convenient for this family that the biological father signed away his rights. But is convenience the best thing? Who knows, really?

So don't assume that your ex wants to screw you over. There are many reasons she might want you to sign away parental rights. Some might be healthy and others might be unhealthy reasons. To give benefit of the doubt, they might want to gain closure for the child in her relationship with her stepfather. In a unhealthy way, they might fear the implications of letting you into her life...visitation logistics, loss of total control over major life decisions, emotional complexity, etc.

Parental rights are a serious business. Yes, they could request child support. AND, if something happened to your ex, you could end up with sole custody of the child. You could also have a say in many issues affecting the child such as religion, school, doctors, illnesses, vacations, and others. You could request that you are informed as to the activities of the minor child and you may seek right to participate in those activities. This will introduce some major life changes in their family and a loss of control for them, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing in the long run. The situation is what it is.

At this distance, you can't determine what is best for the child. The first thing you need to determine is if you want to have a role in this child's life. Talk it over with your fiancee (and your own family, if you are comfortable with that.) Once you are more clear on the what YOU want, you will be better able to determine if you do or don't want to sign anything. Seeking the counsel of your own lawyer who would represent your interests is a good idea. You might want to seek out and talk to other men who have been in similar situations and have/haven't signed away their parental rights.

Take your time and definitely don't rush into anything.
posted by jeanmari at 10:16 AM on March 26, 2007


I am adding my voice to the chorus of confusion over the alleged adoption. When my husband adopted my son, my ex signed a form to relinquish his parental rights. We had to give this notarized form, along with my son's birth certificate and the original notarized acknowledgment of paternity and child support agreement, to our lawyer to submit to the court. Even though it was uncontested, the whole adoption process took about 2 years. It wasn't some casual thing. I would ask for a copy of the adoption forms.

There is a wealth of information here about family law in California. Good luck.
posted by Biblio at 10:21 AM on March 26, 2007


As a person that was a child in similar situation. The person that I was raised knowing as my father turned out to not be my father. (At some level I always knew this but never had the guts to ask.) The small evasions in conversation are hilarious in retrospect. It was the early 70's on an interestingly intentioned community (commune it was not) and my mother, though see did care for my father by name, wanted a child just not be him. I love him to but I am glad not to have his genes. So she had a child by some one else with good results. Me.

All that said, although I always wondered, I never asked till I was 18 or so. It seems that they had always been afraid that I would be pissed off so have never told me. It turns out that my father by blood was someone that I had always liked and respected so it was not a big issue to me.

Bla bla bla. But what does that mean to me. If I were the child I would want to meet the real father so that I could decide if they were worthy of my time. 10 might be a bit young but 11 thru the teens is going to be hell and nothing you will do will work out. So if she will not introduce you now get her to agree to introduce you when the child is through the rough years.

Some people have a hard time with the idea that you can have three parents, not the standard two, and like them all but kids are flexible and as long as you express care and make no demands of the child it will work out. The mother might not want to break the bond that your daughter has with the adopted father but love and care is not a finite resource and if the daughter wants it to will grow.


Good luck
posted by jumpsuit_boy at 10:36 AM on March 26, 2007


If I were your daughter, I would want to know you. At the very least, once paternity has been conclusively established through DNA testing, you should make sure that someone trustworthy (whether it's you, a court, etc.) asks the child what she wants. And I think that if she wants to know you, that should trump any concern that her liar of a mother has about disrupting their lives.
posted by decathecting at 11:04 AM on March 26, 2007


Secondly, make sure if you do sign anything, it's on the same contract, so if one gets thrown out, they both do.

It doesn't always work that way. Stick with the first part of the advice and don't sign anything without a lawyer having a look at it.
posted by jaysus chris at 11:09 AM on March 26, 2007


I'm in a related situation, and I definitely agree with delmoi. The child should know about the circumstances. I knew very early on, and turned out just fine. If my mother had kept it from me, I think I would've been angry. The child should at least have a choice, and so should you. Just think about this hard, and yes, get a lawyer.
posted by cellphone at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2007


I'm adopting right now, so have been hearing chapter and verse lately on termination of parental rights. You ex's story does sound awfully fishy.

In California adoptions, there are two kinds of 'birthfathers': alleged and presumed. It's fairly common to have several 'birthfathers' -- science notwithstanding -- all of whom must have parent rights terminated either by signing away rights in the presence of a specialist social worker or (as last resort) by court decree. Since mishandling the termination of rights is one of the few ways to get the adoption overturned, any legitimate adoption worker in the state bends over backwards to terminate rights of all these potential fathers. Presumed fathers and alleged fathers have different rights, but either way they'd still have long ago terminated yours for this supposed adoption to be valid. Either that step was properly done, in which case you have no rights to sign away (then what the heck is really going on?); or the supposed adoption isn't nearly as final as she would have you believe.

And there's more that makes this fishy. One, California is very clear that parents can't agree to waive child support. Two, soon the girl herself will have a legal say in whether your rights get terminated.

Whatever is going on, it's not what your ex has told you.

Insist on getting a copy of the adoption paperwork, and the girl's birth certificate. Those will tell you which state's bar assocation to contact for the lawyer referrals. And make for some interesting reading. Were you ever listed? Were any efforts made to notify you?

If she is your daughter, sort out what your own feelings are. Your ex and your fiancee may have their opinions, but you're the one who has to feel comfortable with this for the rest of your life. Reading up on open adoption may give you some insights into semi-similar families and the different ways they facilitate contact (for instance, maybe you don't meet the girl but her mother sends you photos and notes regularly until the girl is older).

If you feel comfortable leaving her life as it is, is a contract really necessary to maintain that status quo? Or if you have some interest in knowing her, talk with a therapist or social worker who is knowledgeable about adoption issues. Because this may be a good time to initiate a little contact after all. First, because she feels ready enough to request it. And second because so many adoption experts do encourage helping kids deal with their feelings about adoption before the teen years hit. Once all the normal teen-aged identity issues start cropping up, unresolved feelings about adoption and any perceived abondonment can hit a child pretty hard.

Most of all, don't feel pressured to do anything in a hurry or indeed anything at all. Whatever is driving your ex to do this right now, it's her problem not yours. You concentrate on doing right by your (potential) child and your (potential) parental role.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:54 AM on March 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


IAAL ... two words ... paternity test!
posted by jannw at 12:01 PM on March 26, 2007


When I think paternity and strangeness I always think of money. Make sure that Dear Aunt Sally didn't leave this kid a trust worth several million to be administered by the parents. Or that they are bankrupt and need some cash. I would ask the lawyer to protect your financial assets (or at least give you a worst case situation) before you start getting into the morality of everything.
posted by geoff. at 12:25 PM on March 26, 2007


IANAL, but I work in a law office that does this kind of thing, but not in your state(s).

It seems to me, by the wording of your question, that the mom's husband is NOW adopting the daughter. Because they're contacting you, you're most likely on the birth certificate as the father. They want you to consent to the adoption. Adoption essentially changes the birth certificate; you would no longer be the legal father. Which means no rights, no support. If this were about (your) money, they'd probably be trying to get 10 years' worth of child support, not going through with an adoption.

It might be worthwhile, especially for your mental health, to take a paternity test to discover if the child is actually yours or not. If she is, only then you would have to decide whether or not you want to let the adoption go through, and all the other choices and thoughts that would accompany agreeing or not.

You should talk to a lawyer, at lthe very least to accurately understand the situation.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 2:28 PM on March 26, 2007


maybe she's lying to you, and the real goal of this thing is you taking a paternity test. maybe because after 10 years she needs somebody to actually start paying child support, back present and future.

I was thinking the same thing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:33 PM on March 26, 2007


Right, and see a lawyer before you do take a paternity test, as such things can be discoverable in litigation. yes, I am part of the problem.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:40 PM on March 26, 2007


No chance for relapse into depression methinks. Ask for a blood test. If it is yours, contact an attorney. I am not your attorney--this is not legal advice.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:56 PM on March 26, 2007


How could her current husband have adopted the child without you having to sign away your rights then? I went through this from the other end. Before I could adopt my wife's daughter, we had to make incredible efforts to contact the father and get him to sign off his rights. When he didn't respond, we were required to post notices in his hometown newspaper. At that point, since he didn't respond, his rights were waived by the court. Why didn't your ex-girlfriend have to go through the same steps for her husband to adopt?

In short, 2 pieces of advice:
1. You are not doing the kid any favors by suddenly appearing as the long lost father. That's bound to fuck her up.

2. Find out what the laws surrounding adoption of a spouse's children are and figure out what your ex is up to. Something does not sit well.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:00 PM on March 26, 2007


I really think telling someone at 18 that her father is not her biological father, and her mom and her biological dad have known been keeping it a secret is a bad idea.

Get a lawyer, get a paternity test, and pressure your ex girlfriend to tell her daughter the truth whether you sign the papers or not.
posted by Packy_1962 at 9:20 PM on March 26, 2007


Really only two scenarios seem reasonable:

1. They are just now doing the adoption, and it is "easier" to have you sign off.

2. She doesn't know if you are the father, and the story is a ruse to get you to take a paternity test and then god only knows what will really happen.

I agree... talk to the lawyer FIRST, even before the paternity test.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:22 PM on March 26, 2007


If you haven't found an attorney, call your local Bar Association referral service and explain to them your situation. They will provide you with a list of attorneys who specialize in this type of law. You must be *very careful* on how you proceed. Your attorney will guide you on how to obtain the proper type of DNA paternity testing (some choices are better/more reliable than others). You must start by legally determining if this child is yours, and if so, said attorney can provide you with information on not only how to protect your own rights, but to also "do what's right" for the minor child. If, indeed (and reading the circumstances, I agree with some of the posters here that this is fishy at best) you are her father, other issues like child support come in to play. Not to add to your anxiety but depending upon your state's law on this matter, you could suddenly find yourself owing back child support or worse yet, find yourself facing felony charges because of unpaid support.

Again, make sure that your attorney discusses the range of responsibilities you have under the law, and that starts with knowing for certain one way or another if this is your child.

You're not alone in situations like this. I have worked in law offices and guys from all walks of life have found themselves with a surprise like this on their figurative doorstep. Good luck.
posted by kuppajava at 10:30 AM on March 28, 2007


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