Iowa Laws Concerning a Father Signing Away Parental Rights

By Editorial Team

Updated July 20, 2017

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In most cases, a father cannot simply sign away his parental rights in the state of Iowa. A motion must be filed with the Iowa family court. There are numerous reasons for filing a claim, ranging from abuse and abandonment to adoption. The family court judge then decides the status of the father's parental rights.

Rights vs. Custody

Parental rights and child custody are two different things. Being a parent gives you the right to visitation, the ability to consent to marriage or the enlistment in the military of the minor. A part of parental rights is the duty to provide for the child. The primary custody holder is the person with whom the minor lives. Just because a father doesn't have primary custody doesn't mean he loses his rights.

Legal Definition of Father

With a man's consent, written or verbal, he can be listed on a child's birth certificate as the father, giving him parental rights. Iowa also recognizes the term "putative father." A putative father is a man that is alleged or claims to be the father, when paternity is not proven. Claims of putative fatherhood can be made with the Iowa Department of Health's Paternity Registry in Des Moines.

Termination of Parental Rights

A child's guardian, guardian ad item, custodian, the Department of Human Services, a juvenile court officer or the county attorney can file a motion in family court to strip a father of his parental rights. The claim can be filed for abandonment or abuse of the child. The filer can also argue that the father is unsuitable due to mental, emotional or physical health issues, as well as drug or alcohol abuse.


Adoption can take place without the father's consent. The mother must provide proof that she made a reasonable attempt to contact the father or that the father is unwilling to care for the child. A father can stop adoption proceedings by making a claim of paternity with the paternity registry, proving paternity and caring for the child. He can consent to the adoption and sign his parental rights away.