When a parent or guardian chooses to place a minor child up for adoption, North Carolina law requires the consent of several parties before a court will approve any such adoption. For one thing, if the child to be adopted is over the age of 12, the child himself must consent. And in addition to the mother, “any man who may or may not be the biological father” must be identified and give consent as well. This includes a man who was married to the mother when the child was born (or within approximately nine months of a divorce, separation or annulment), a man who previously had the child declared legitimate as his own, or has otherwise provided financial support for the mother or child’s care.
Consent is not required from any man who has previously been determined by a court to not be the child’s father or has presented a notarized affidavit denying paternity. Nor is consent required when a man has previously relinquished his parental rights or had such rights terminated by a court (as in the case of children conceived by rape). Consent is also unnecessary from the estate of a deceased parent. The court may also waive consent if a person is properly notified of the adoption proceedings and fails to respond “in a timely manner.”
A father or potential father may give written consent to adoption at any time before or after the child’s birth. The mother, however, may not legally give consent until after the child’s birth. If the minor is required to give consent, he or she can do so at any time. If either parent is under the age of 18, he or she may give consent as if they were legally an adult with the capacity to enter into a contract. All consents must be in writing.
A consent is invalid if it is obtained by fraud or duress. The parties to the adoption may also agree, in writing, to set the consent aside. The law generally allows a parent to revoke his or her consent within seven days of signing the original consent. All consents must be notarized.
A consent does not terminate parental rights. That only takes place when an adoption decree is entered by the court or a separate action is brought to terminate parental rights.