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Putative father registries: Good intention wrapped in red tape?

Thirty-three states have putative father registries. Ohio is one of them. If you haven't heard of it, don't get down on yourself. As many familiar with this particular area of family law are aware, such programs often exist in obscurity.

Putative Father Registries have been around for more than 30 years. The intent behind them is to provide an unmarried man who may be the father of a child notice from the government if the mother decides to give the child up for adoption.

It must be noted that the registry does not represent the exercise of parenting rights. The focus is on sharing information and creating opportunities for a biological father to act. To establish and pursue your rights, it is always best to consult with an attorney about available options.

In most of the states where registries exist, there's no cost to submit your information and establish yourself as a child's potential father. That's one reason why, if a putative father fails to register and later loses his rights and the possibility of a relationship with his child, the courts typically say, "Too bad."

That the registry effectively requires a man to self-report his sexual life history may be one reason why it is underused in some states. But experts offer that there are other flaws in the system.

As we've already noted, many people are unaware of the programs in some states. In Florida, for example, there were 90,000 babies reportedly born to unmarried couples in 2004, but only 47 men registered as putative fathers that year.

The requirements to register also vary from state to state. Some require the registrant to provide the name, height, weight and eye color of the partner. Others want that and social security number or driver's license number and race as well. What if the relationship never got to a point where all that information got shared?

Some states require paperwork to be filled out by hand. Others allow registering on line. Registries aren't linked, so if the mother moves to another state, what are the implications of that?  

With such a morass, is it any wonder that even a well-intentioned unwed dad might get so tangled in red tape that he just gives up?

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

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