Why Every Man Needs to Know about the Putative Father Registry
Experiencing the joys of parenthood is an opportunity that should be available to anyone interested in filling this role. Mothers can more easily choose to become a parent since they give birth. However, fathers are in a much different situation, especially if unmarried with a pregnant partner. Married men are presumed to be the father of a child born by their wife, but unmarried men do not receive the same treatment, and must establish paternity before gaining any rights as a parent. If the relationship between the couple is good, the issue of who is the father is easily resolved by filing the proper paperwork. However, if a couple stops communicating, the man could find himself without parental rights before he even knew a child existed. The law does not want to deprive a man of his parental rights before he has an opportunity to assert them. As a result, the state has a mechanism in place that allows potential fathers to preserve their parental rights in case the mother decides to place the child up for adoption. This process was created to avoid the situation facing a Southwest Florida man now fighting for time-sharing of his twins. A woman he had an affair with gave birth to the babies, and assured him a DNA test showed he was not the father. The children were later separated, and one was formally adopted. While there is no way to guarantee a child will not be adopted without a father’s knowledge, the Putative Father Registry makes it less likely.
Putative Father Registry
The purpose of this registry is to allow a man to claim paternity over a child as a potential biological father, separate from the mother, in order to preserve his parental rights. Registration also entitles the man to notice of any proposed adoption. Thus, this registry is only open to men who are not married to the child’s mother, since married men, as noted above, are already considered the father. A man alleging himself to be a father must file a claim on the registry no later than the date a petition is filed to terminate parental rights. These petitions are a prerequisite to adoption, as a child is only permitted to have two legal parents. If a man fails to establish rights to a parent/child relationship, these rights may be lost entirely or substantially reduced. By registering, a man is obligating himself to financially support a biological child until adulthood, and is also agreeing to pay for the costs of any DNA test necessary to confirm paternity. Consequently, a man may revoke his registration at any time before the child is born, but is bound to fulfill these commitments after that time.
Since adoption requires the termination of parental rights and the law wants to give willing parents the opportunity to raise a child, notice must be provided to men who took steps to declare their paternity before an adoption can be finalized. Registering on the Putative Father Registry is recognized as one of these steps. However, merely registering on the state database is not enough to gain the ability to contest an adoption. In addition to registration, the man must demonstrate a real intent to care for the child. For children under six months old, this means executing an affidavit stating that the man is willing to pay child support and medical expenses, as well as how he plans to care for the child. For children over six months, the man must play an active and consistent role in the child’s life if permitted to do so. Failure to fulfill these requirements results in the law considering the man to have surrendered all rights over the child, and an adoption can proceed without his consent.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
If you are at risk of losing your child before even having a chance to meet him/her, talk to a family law attorney about preserving and/or enforcing your parental rights. You should not be forced to give up your child, and family law attorney Joyce A. Julian, P.A. will fight for your child’s best interests. If you live in the Fort Lauderdale area, contact her today for a free consultation.