The New York Court of Appeals disagreed, reasoning that the constitutional right to the opportunity to form a qualifying relationship existed only for unwed fathers who manifested their willingness to be custodial parents promptly, where promptness was measured in terms of the child's life, not the onset of the father's awareness. Here, the father could easily have discovered the pregnancy, yet he took no steps to do so.
In Interest of B.G.C., 496 N.W.2d 239 (Iowa 1992) (unwed fathers)
The child's best interest standard was inapplicable where the parent had not abandoned the child or otherwise forfeited his parental rights under state law.
In Iowa, a parent's rights could be terminated involuntarily if the parent abandoned the child. Abandonment was the intentional surrendering of parental rights, which could be inferred from the parent's actions.
In B.G.C., the unwed mother named her boyfriend as the father, when her ex-boyfriend was the true father. The mother and boyfriend consented to termination of their rights. Meanwhile, the ex-boyfriend did not know about the child.
When the child was three weeks old, the mother told the true father about the child and adoption. Due to out-of-town job responsibilities, the father could not retain an attorney for 10 days. After retaining an attorney, the father filed affidavits with the court. When the child was five weeks old, with paternity yet undetermined, the father asked the court to vacate the termination order. When the child was seven weeks old, the father intervened and asked that the child be surrendered to him.
The prospective adoptive parents petitioned to terminate the father's parental rights, alleging abandonment. After determining the father's paternity, the trial court denied the petition, finding abandonment unproven. The prospective adoptive parents appealed, arguing that the father had abandoned the child, that the child's best interests dictated that the child remain with them, and that the father did not adequately protect his rights upon first learning of the pregnancy.
The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the trial court's ruling, reasoning that the father did all he could reasonably do to assert his parental rights, starting even before he knew he was the father. Absent a finding of abandonment or other parental fault, the court could not consider the child's best interests. And the father did not need to become involved in the pregnancy on the mere speculation that he might be the father because he was one of the men having sexual relations with the mother at the time.
Smith v. Malouf, 722 So.2d 490 (Miss. 1998) (unwed father's ability to sue for damages)
The unwed father could sue the unwed mother and her parents for intentional infliction of emotional distress and for conspiring to prevent the father from exercising his parental rights after the mother and her parents arranged a secret adoption.