Putative father registry

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In the United States, the putative father registry is a state level legal option for unmarried men to document through a notary public any woman they engage with in intercourse, for the purpose of retaining parental rights for any child they may father.[1][2]


In the United States, putative fathers will be notified when actions to terminate their parental rights as part of adoption proceedings are filed for a child they may have fathered and registered for.[3] Non marital fathers are not guaranteed notice of an adoption or any rights in contesting the decision by the mother, nor are they guaranteed the ability to adopt or gain custody of the child. Typically, the father is only guaranteed notification, and the right to appear in court to testify about their child's best interests when he has registered timely.[4] Registering timely with a state’s putative father registry guarantees notice. Timely legal establishment of paternity typically guarantees notice and an opportunity to be heard and may confer rights to consent or withhold consent to adoption. Prenatal support of the mother and fetus assures recognition of parental rights in 34 states.[5]

There is no federal law in place regulating putative father registries.[6] Among all signatory countries only the United States refuses to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and registries are not regulated under the U.N. Charter. Currently 33 states in the U.S. have putative father registries.[citation needed] The number of children adopted without consent or notice to the biological father under the registry program started in the 1970s is unknown.

State putative father registries are intended to protect the non marital father from fraud by providing him with legal notice of a planned adoption of a child, provided he registers within a limited time-frame, usually any time prior to the birth or from 1 to 31 days after a birth.[7] Lack of knowledge of the pregnancy or birth is not an acceptable reason for failure to file; fraud by the birth mother typically does extend the father’s time to register.[8]

Some states require a putative father to file with multiple states, i.e. with the state possible conception might have occurred, state of residence (if different) and possible states the female might visit,[9] or relocate to after the possible conception date that also have putative father registries.[10][11] To be valid at least one state requires a parent or guardian of the declarant to also sign when a minor under the age of 18 is documenting intercourse with a putative father registry.[12][clarification needed]

17 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia), as well as American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, do not have putative father registries.[1]

Also known as[edit]

Putative father registries are not always called such by individual states. Other names for registries include:

  • Paternity registry
  • Centralized paternity registry
  • Interstate adoption putative father registry
  • Parental claim registrar
  • Fathers' adoption registry
  • Biological father registry
  • Putative father inclusion
  • Responsible father registry

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Child Welfare, Information Gateway (30 June 2010). "The Rights of Unmarried Fathers". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Paternity Registries.
  2. ^ "Because registries apply to minors under the age of 18 the words "male / female" have been used instead of "men / women" which would imply only adults".
  3. ^ Notice, Public (28 December 2001). "Public Notices, Legal Notice". The Rochester Sentinel. Indiana, USA.
  4. ^ E. Pfeifer, Paul (7 October 2012). "Failure to name child costs father his case". The Lima News. Ohio, USA.
  5. ^ Beck, Mary (2017) Prenatal Abandonment: ‘Horton Hatches the Egg’ in the Supreme Court and Thirty Four States. 24 Mich. J. Gender & L. 53, 55
  6. ^ Beck, Mary (22 June 2002). "Toward a national putative father registry database". Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. The Free Library.
  7. ^ Lewin, Tamar (19 March 2006). "Registry sets post-adoption trap for Dads". Star News. North Carolina, USA.
  8. ^ DHS, Arizona (30 October 2008). "Section 2(F) page 4". Arizona Putative Father Registry Form. Arizona.gov, USA. External link in |work= (help) RSMo §192.016; RSMo §453.061
  9. ^ Fruhwirth, Jesse (28 July 2010). "How Utah adoption laws take babies from the nation's unmarried fathers". City Weekly. Utah, United States.
  10. ^ DSHS, Texas. "Information sec. 5, page 2". Texas Putative Father Registry Form. Texas.us, USA. External link in |work= (help)
  11. ^ Lewin, Tamar (19 March 2006). "Unwed Fathers Fight for Babies Placed for Adoption by Mothers". New York Times. United States.
  12. ^ Wisconsin, State of (2012). "Wisconsin Department of Children and Families". Wisconsin Declaration of Paternal Interest. Wisconsin, USA. External link in |work= (help)

U.S. state external links[edit]

20 states with a putative father registry and registration forms publicly posted online:

13 states with a putative registry and no registration forms publicly posted online:

External links[edit]