In February 2016, the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 2, affirmed a ruling in Frank R. v. Mother Goose Adoptions (now, affectionately called “Mother Goose”), terminating a father’s parental rights on the grounds that he failed to file with the Arizona Putative Father’s Registry.
Just wait. It gets worse.
The facts in Mother Goose are absolutely heart-breaking. In that case, Mother and Father lived in California. After they broke up, Mother attempted to place the unborn child for adoption in California, but Father opposed the adoption with the adoption agency, so the agency rejected Mother. Father clearly asserted that he wanted to be involved and raise the child, even if Mother did not want to be.
Mother then contacted an Arizona adoption agency (Mother Goose) and lied to them, stating that she didn’t know who the father was. She left the adoption application incomplete, and the agency let it slide. Once the baby was born, Mother lied and signed an affidavit stating that she did not know who the father was, and that she did not know anyone who was making a claim to the child. Mother affirmatively told Father that the baby was born African-American and was not his. The agency then lied, telling the courts in its petition that Mother was an Arizona resident in order to proceed with the termination action in Arizona.
Before knowing of the action in Arizona (and before even knowing Mother was in Arizona or that the child was born here), Father filed a paternity action in California. Upon attending his first hearing in California, Father was informed of the action in Arizona. Red tape ensues and approximately 4 months later California and Arizona agree that Arizona will retain jurisdiction. The severance trial (to terminate Father’s rights) begins in Arizona 2 months later, and lasts for 6 days over the course of 2 months.
The trial court finds that Father failed to file with the Putative Father’s Registry at any time, and that his failure to do so within 30 days of the child’s birth (or, in this case, within 30 days of the father knowing that the child was born in Arizona) was grounds enough to terminate his parental rights.
The fact that Father was engaged in litigation to oppose the termination, that he filed a paternity action in California (and later in Arizona), or the fact of Mother’s deceit throughout the process, was not enough to satisfy Father’s obligation to file with the Registry.
The only light at the end of the tunnel is that “grounds” alone is not enough to actually terminate your parental rights. It also has to be shown that termination is in the best interests of the child.
Sadly, in the case of Mother Goose, the court found that the child only knew his adoptive placement as his parents was evidence that it was in the child’s best interests to stay with the only family that he had ever known.