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Just how fair and adequate are Putative Father Registries?

Over the course of the last 30-plus years, 33 states, including Texas, have formed what are known as Putative Father Registries. For those unfamiliar with this concept, it is essentially a state-run database whose primary purpose is to notify unmarried men that a former partner is actively considering putting their child up for adoption.

It's important to note, however, that the registration -- which requires men to voluntarily provide highly sensitive information about themselves and all of their former partners -- does not serve as a custody petition or a paternity determination. Rather, it's sole purpose is to provide notification and, in the event the father fails to register, he will essentially receive no notice and have no say in the matter whatsoever.

While the state's running Putative Father Registries argue that they are a straightforward and cost-effective (registration is free of charge in most states) answer to what could prove to be an otherwise thorny legal issue, critics are increasingly calling them out for their many failings. 

While a complete discussion of the failings of the Putative Father Registries is perhaps beyond the scope of a single blog post, a recent piece in The Atlantic by a family law professor at Syracuse University outlines a few key points.

Here, the professor indicates that first and foremost, most men are unaware that such registries even exist and what the consequences are for failing to sign up. Here, he highlights how 90,000 non-marital babies were born in Florida in 2004, yet only 47 men signed up for that state's registry. 

Another major problem with Putative Father Registries examined in the article is that the information requested by state officials can be somewhat difficult to secure. For example, some states request the Social Security number, height, weight and other vital personal information of former partners. Here, he argues that this information is difficult for someone whose relationship ended on bad terms to secure from a jilted lover, let alone from someone who had a one-night stand several months ago.

The professor goes on to point out the absurdity that men are not only expected to file the necessary paperwork in every single state where a former partner might give birth -- despite the fact that they might not even know of the pregnancy in the first place -- but that the filing requirements vary wildly among the states.

For instance, Texas requires a driver's license number, while Utah mandates both a court hearing and an affidavit outlining strategies for everything from custody and child support to pregnancy costs. Similarly, Illinois allows online registration while Alabama does not.

This is indeed a very interesting article raising some truly thought-provoking concerns regarding the adequacy and fairness of Putative Father Registries.

Do you have any experience with Putative Father Registries? If so, what were your experiences like?

Fathers with concerns about child custody, visitation rights or relocations here in Texas should strongly consider speaking with an experienced fathers' rights attorney to learn more about their rights.

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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