Kari gave birth to a baby boy and named him Kelsey. Kelsey's biological
father, Rickie, and Kari never married. While Kari was pregnant, Rickie
knew that Kari wanted to give Kelsey up for adoption, but Rickie wanted
to keep the child himself. He and Kari argued about this, but Kari was
adamant and sought out adoptive parents.
Two days after Kelsey's birth, but before Rickie knew Kelsey was born,
Rickie filed an action in superior court to establish his parental relationship
and obtain custody of the child. That same day, the court issued a restraining
order that temporarily awarded care, custody, and control of Kelsey to
Rickie. The order also stopped all adoption proceedings and prohibited
any contact between the child and the prospective adoptive parents, Steven
Later that same day, Rickie tried to provide Steven and Suzanne with the
court orders at their home, but not finding them at home, he was unsuccessful.
Two days later, Steven and Suzanne filed their adoption petition for Kelsey.
Their petition alleged that only the mother's consent to the adoption
was required because the biological father did not have "presumed
father status", and by California law, only a man with "presumed
father status" had the same parental rights of the child as the mother.
To have "presumed father status", a man must be married to the
mother and/or hold the child out as his natural child (in other words,
the child must live with him). Since Rickie and Kari were not married
and had never lived together, Rickie did not have "presumed father
status", and had no legal right to stop the adoption of Kelsey by
Steven and Suzanne.
Through subsequent court appearances, Rickie was denied presumed father
status because neither he and Kari nor he and Kelsey had ever lived together,
and allowed Steven and Suzanne to adopt Kelsey.
Rickie appealed. He argued that the determination of a man's parental
rights was based solely on the decision of the mother; that is, if she
didn't live with the father, then she could prevent the father from
ever acquiring parental rights. This, Rickie argued, violated his rights
under equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, because it denied him the
right consent to (or not consent to) the adoption and gave him fewer procedural
rights than were given to the mother.
The California State Supreme Court found in Rickie's favor, and that
California law did not allow him the same access to participate in his
child's wellbeing as the child's mother, thus violating the equal
The court further held that it is not the ultimate goal of the state to
have children adopted by third parties. The state's goal is to provide
for the fair and equal treatment of the parties and from there to determine
what is in the best interest of the child.