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Benefiting from the Putative Father Registry

Benefiting from the Putative Father Registry

Many unwed fathers may not be sure how to assert their rights when caught in disagreements with a child's mother over custody or adoption issues. However, a majority of state governments, including Illinois, allow a potential father to sign into a state-wide registry, which gives the men legal standing concerning a child born out of wedlock. The databases, known as Putative Father Registries, have operated since the 1970s.

The registries are designed to notify unwed fathers if their children are being put up for adoption. There are currently 33 states that provide the Putative Father Registry for unwed parents. Without applying to the registry, unwed fathers typically have limited rights to prevent a mother from placing a child up for adoption. However, the registries are relatively unknown and underutilized. For example, there were approximately 90,000 babies born out of wedlock in Florida in 2004, but only 47 men were added to the state's registry that year.

Although the registry is intended to protect fathers' rights, it is not necessarily an efficient system. In many states, fathers are expected to have detailed information about a woman they might have only met a handful of times. Also, each state operates the lists by its own set of rules, and there is no centralized authority or management system between states, which limits how effective registering can be. Some states require fathers to apply to the registry within 72 hours after birth of the child. A number of states may allow for up to 30 days after the birth, while others permit fathers to registry at any time before the adoption process has been initiated. While many states require mailed-in paperwork to add a name to the list, Illinois allows potential fathers to file online.

A lawyer may be able to help a father who is interested in maintaining parental rights over a child born out of wedlock. If the case is taken to court, a lawyer might be able to demonstrate a father's willingness and ability to provide for a child in his custody.

Source: The Atlantic , "Sex and the Single Man: What If Your Partner Has a Kid?", Kevin Maillard, April 21, 2014

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