Putative Father Registries
Who is a Putative Father? A putative father is a man whose legal relationship to a child has not been established, but claims to be the father or who is alleged to be the father of a child who is born to a woman to whom he is not married at the time of the child’s birth.
What is a Putative Father Registry? Every state has a provision for fathers to voluntarily acknowledge paternity or the possibility of paternity of a child born outside of a marriage. The Federal Social Security Act requires states to have in place procedures for mothers and putative fathers to acknowledge paternity of a child, including a hospital-based program for the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity that focuses on the period immediately before or after the birth of the child. The procedures must include that, before they can sign an affidavit of paternity, the mother and putative father will be given notice of the alternatives and legal consequences that arise from signing the acknowledgment.
At least 24 states have established paternity registries where putative fathers can indicate their intention to claim paterity including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illiinois, Indiana, Iowa, Lousiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. In 11 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands, there are forms that are filed with social services departments, registrars of vital statistics, or similar offices, which provide for voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. These states are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Why Should You Register? Filing an acknowledgment of paternity or registering with a putative father registry provides certain rights for an unmarried father. Some rights include the right to receive notice of court proceedings (if registration occurs within state determined time lines) regarding the child, petitions for adoption, and actions to terminate parental rights. In 10 states with putative father registries, filing is the sole means for establishing a right of notice. These states are Alabama (for births after 1/1/1997), Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Virginia. Once acknowledged, a putative father may have the right to seek visitation with the child if proven to be the father and will usually be required to provide child support.
What if There is No Putative Father Registry? Many states and the Northern Mariana Island allow a putative father to claim paternity by filing an affidavit or acknowledgment of paternity with a court or appropriate state authority. These states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. If there is not a putative father registry or a voluntary paternity acknowledgment, paternity can always be established by court order.
What is Required to Establish Paternity? While states require different information for registration or acknowledgment of paternity, the following information is the federally mandated, minimum requirement for a paternity acknowledgment affidavit:
- The current name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth of both parents.
- The child’s current full name, date of birth, and place of birth.
- Signature lines for the mother, the father, and for witnesses or notaries.
- The form must include a statement to be signed by both parents stating they understand that signing the affidavit is voluntary and that they understand their rights, responsibilities, options, and consequences.
- There must be a brief explanation of the legal significance and consequences of signing the form and that both parents have 60 days to reconsider.
Who Has Access to the Registry? Access to information in the registries varies from state to state. In general, many jurisdictions allow people with direct interest in a case to access the registry. These people generally consist of birth mothers, attorneys, adoption agencies, prospective adoptive parents, state departments of social services, state offices of child support enforcement, registries of states, or any person a court orders for good cause.
Information for this page was gathered in part through the Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2010) The rights of unmarried fathers. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
Select a State to Access its Putative Father Registry: