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A few years ago, I was in a pretty serious car accident. During the aftermath, I became really familiar with a lot of different types of lawyers. I worked with personal injury lawyers, insurance lawyers, and many others. Perhaps the most important, though, was the estate planning lawyer. I was really young, and neither my wife or I had thought about starting a will. But the accident kind of scared us into it. What would happen if one of us were to die? Even when still in the hospital, I was working with the lawyer to draw up a will. Now, I have some peace and security about what the future will be like if something should happen to me. And I have a lot of experience working with various types of lawyers! The accident was kind of a blessing in disguise in that way.

Putative Father Registries: When "Father" Doesn't Mean "Husband"

Law Blog

One of the most difficult situations in the realm of father's rights occurs when the birth couple is unmarried. In these situations, society tends to default to the biological mother for all decisions related to the birth and care of the child. Unfortunately, this can often lead to situations where a child is placed into adoptive homes--often against the will of the biological father.

Putative Father Registries exist in most states, and serve to help protect the rights of unmarried fathers in regards to the future care of their child. If you're a father that's currently in an unmarried relationship with a child on the way, there are a few key things you need to understand in order to protect your rights.

What Are Putative Father Registries?

Putative Father Registries are the way that the state records a child's paternity for legal purposes. Depending on your state, the registry could have different names, including:

  • Paternity Registries
  • Biological Father Registries
  • Father's Adoption Registries

Essentially, these registries are the means by which you can document that you have a paternal claim to a child. Most states use these registries to determine which children are eligible for adoption, and to ensure that fathers are notified when adoption procedures begin. 

How Do Fathers Register?

Typically, any notary public can enter a father into the registry. All that is required is that you visit a notary and make the claim that you have had intercourse with the birth mother and could be the child's biological father. Usually, this can happen at any time prior to the birth of the child, and up to 30 days after birth.

The important thing to know is that your entry into the registry isn't a guarantee of fatherhood. You're merely stating that you could be the father of the child. No proof of fatherhood is required to enter into the registry.

Why Should Fathers Register?

The most important function of the Putative Father Registry is to guarantee that fathers are informed if a child is placed into adoption processes. The registry doesn't guarantee that a father will have any legal recourse to block an adoption--it merely guarantees notification. It's up to the father to take the appropriate action with the help of a legal professional at that time.

By registering, you are making the statement that you do not waive your rights as a father. Fathers can sometimes forfeit these rights inadvertently by failing to register. So, these registries serve to allow a father to make a claim of paternity--it does not guarantee them any specific legal recourse.

That said, one of the most important legal steps an unmarried father can do to protect their rights is to file with their state's registry--if one exists. By doing so, you guarantee that any legal action that involves your child will, at the very least, not take place without you knowing about it.


3 June 2016