Unwed Fathers' Rights to Their Out-Of-Wedlock Child In Adoption Proceeding

In Matter of Raquel Marie X. (76 NY2d 387) is considered the seminal case on the issue of unwed fathers' rights to their out-of-wedlock child when the child is under the age of six months at the time of placement in an adoptive home, the issue arose in the context of an adoption proceeding. Similarly, in Matter of Robert O. v. Russell K. (80 NY2d 254), the proceedings were instituted by the biological father after the adoption had been finalized. Accordingly, the issue to be determined by this Court is whether the fact that an adoption proceeding has not been commenced enhances a biological father's rights to seek custody when the child has been placed in an adoptive home within the first six months of her life and after court proceedings regarding the surrender for adoption have been completed. The Court finds that the biological father's position is not enhanced in any manner if he has not demonstrated, pursuant to Domestic Relations Law 111 (1) (e), that: (1) he held himself out openly to be the father of the child during the child's first six months, and (2) he contributed towards the birth expenses. Also the Court must determine if the petitioner attempted to "manifest his ability and willingness to assume custody of the child" before the six-month window closed. (Matter of Raquel Marie X., 76 NY2d 387, 402; Matter of Michael, 272 AD2d 618.) If he has not, then Social Services Law 384-c (7) controls and the Court is prohibited from taking any action which would act to annul, vacate or reverse its orders approving the aforementioned surrender instruments.