Recently, federal legislation was introduced that would create a national putative father’s registry to address the parental rights of unmarried men. The bill is called the Protecting Responsible Fatherhood and Promoting Adoption Act of 2012 and it would create a registry known as the “National Responsible Father Registry.”
The parental rights of unmarried men are often in a precarious position because they don’t automatically acquire legal parental rights to their children, unlike the parental rights of unmarried women. Men often don’t even know of their own child’s existence until someone else has already adopted the child.
A number of states, including Florida, already have a putative father’s registry. If a woman gives birth and wants to place the child up for adoption, the court will require a search of the registry. If the father’s name is there, he will get notice of the adoption and normally has a right to object to the adoption.
The problem with the registries is that they require every unmarried man who believes he may have fathered a child to file a form with the registry basically laying claim to that child. So, if a single man has sex with a woman, he would need to file a form with the state identifying himself, the woman, and in some states the approximate birth date of the child or the place and date of conception.
If the man does that and a child was conceived that the mother later places up for adoption, the man will get notice of the adoption and have an opportunity to assert his parental rights. However, if the man never files a form, the adoption could be completed without his knowledge.
The national putative father’s registry is being proposed based on the idea that there is not uniformity amongst the states. A man may send his notice to the wrong state because he may not know in which state the woman gave birth. Further, 16 states don’t even have registries, so many people believe that a coordinated national registry is needed.
Other people believe that a national putative father’s registry is not a good idea. They believe that these registries wrongly put the burden on unmarried fathers to know about their children and wrongly favor an easy adoption at the expense of a genetic father’s rights.
It will be interesting to see if Congress passes the bill and creates the national putative father’s registry. In the meantime, if you are an unmarried father, you may need the services of an experienced Tampa family law firm to fight for your rights.