Terminate parental rights of an alleged father you cannot locate

You may know who the alleged father is but you do not know his current whereabouts and have no way of contacting him. In this situation, you must ask the court to terminate his parental rights before moving forward with the adoption request.  

Before you start

Make sure you have completed the Declaration. The Declaration will be filed at the same time as your Application and Order to Dispense with Further Notice of Adoption Planning or your Petition to Terminate Parental Rights. You will attach the Declaration in support of your petition to terminate parental rights. 

Your Self-Help Center can advise on which format that court prefers (the Application and Order to Dispense with Further Notice of Adoption Planning or your Petition to Terminate Parental Rights). Get help from your court’s Self-Help Center or an attorney if you’re in this situation since the process can be complicated. 

Ask the court to dispense with notice or terminate parental rights

  • Complete a petition to terminate parental rights

    Prepare two documents:

    Petition to Terminate Parental Rights of an Alleged Father, Whereabouts Unknown


    Proposed Order to Terminate Parental Rights of Alleged Father, Whereabouts Unknown


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    These are not court forms that you fill out. You must create a pleading document, which is information in a specific legal format. See the samples provided for the correct format or reach out to your Self-Help Center for assistance.


    Include all the relevant information about your situation, including who the petitioners are (the stepparent and the parent retaining custody). Both petitioners must sign under penalty of perjury.  

    Attach a certified birth certificate and the Declaration in support of Petition to Terminate. Identify each one as an “Exhibit” or attachment to the Petition to Terminate

    It's also a good idea to write a cover letter explaining your situation and include a self-addressed stamped envelope for the court. 


    Make copies of all of your forms and attachments. 

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    You may wish to take the documents to the Family Law Facilitator at your Self-Help Center to review for accuracy 

  • File your forms with the court

    Check with your local Self-Help Center to determine local rules around filing the petition and lodging the order. 

    You typically go to the courthouse in your county and give your forms, attachments, and self-addressed stamped envelope to the clerk, but some courts require online filing (called e-filing). 

  • Wait for the court investigator to file a report

    The court will assign an investigator (unless you have provided your own investigator) who will conduct the stepparent adoption investigation and review your request for an application to dispense with notice or your petition to terminate parental rights. The investigator will conduct an interview with the mother and proposed stepparent. The goal is to determine if there is any other possible way to locate and provide notice to the alleged father.  

    The investigator will file a report with the court with a recommendation. If their recommendation is to terminate parental rights, the court may sign the order without a hearing. They will then forward the signed and filed order to you.

Stepparent adoption

What's next?

If the investigator recommends terminating parental rights and the judge signs the order, you can move ahead and begin the adoption request. You can file your Adoption Request at the same time but if the investigator locates the alleged father, you’ll need to inform him about the process and see how he responds to your request.

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Have a question about Stepparent Adoption?

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