National Putative Father Registry Database Could Benefit Father And The Child
This article intends to highlight the rationale for creating a National Putative Father Registry, instead of just allowing each state to independently promulgate their own registry.
What is a Paternity Registry?
A Paternity or Putative Father Registry is a database established to protect children and their mother by allowing putative fathers to list their names. This, in turn, will require that the putative father is notified regarding his legal rights to the child and if any of those rights are in the process of being removed. This also protects unmarried mothers by not forcing them to identify the names of the possible fathers. There are thirty states that currently have paternity registries (Ohio is included in this group). A previous article posted on the Ohio Family Law Blog discussing the Ohio Putative Father Database can be found here.
What’s the point of a Paternity Registry?
Paternity registries have numerous uses. The first and often most beneficial use of the paternity registry is to notify and prevent putative fathers from having their parental rights removed without notice. By being listed in the State where the adoption proceedings are ongoing, a putative father will be notified timely of any rights he has.
How does this benefit the child?
Children receive a significant benefit with this type of database. First, they’re given the opportunity to know and understand who their father is. If the child is young and goes into adoption, the existence of this database can be used to alleviate stress. We are seeing more and more cases where fathers come in and assert parental rights and disrupt the adoption process and often remove the child from the home. With this registry, the fathers will be able to either argue their case against or give permission for the child to be placed in an adoption home, alleviating a portion of the stress that arises during adoption process. (Ohio has some new and specific laws relating to adoptions and back to putative fathers and their rights. An Ohio Family Law Blog article discussing these changes can be found by clicking here).
Another benefit for the child is that it gives prospective adoptive parents the access, after the adoption and consent, to the father’s medical family history. This gives them a grasp on any health problems, allowing the adoptive parents an opportunity to adequately prepare and test for any known diseases or issues that could impact the child in the future.
What’s the problem with States having their own registries?
Since there is no current “national” registry, many states have implemented their own database. This has led to some significant complications regarding the cross state adoption processes. For example, Texas does not maintain a paternal registry, while Ohio does. If a mother in Ohio moves to Texas while pregnant and decides to give the child up for adoption, the putative father in Ohio will not be notified of the rights he may have; and the adoptive parents will not have access to the records and legal consents that are often necessary and significant in regards to the child’s well-being.
Dan Pollack is a well-recognized expert and social work professor at Yeshiva University in New York. He is a frequently retained expert witness in many Court actions. Professor Pollack has recently co-authored an excellent article in the Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy analyzing the numerous benefits of establishing a national paternal database. In it he explains why the implementation of this type of national database would eliminate many of the issues that result with individual state databases, and allow for a smoother transition for not only the child but the father as well. Dan Pollack is a regular contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog and we appreciate his insights. Click here to read this recent publication of his.
Putative Father Registry Health Information Benefits Children
All in all, the implementation of a national putative father database, one that would combine all of the state databases into one, would be beneficial to not only the child but also the father. It would also allow for more secure and worry-free adoption proceedings throughout the country. Such a national registry database would also make important medical information available to benefit the health of our children. We will keep you apprised on developments in this area and the intersection of Federal and State laws.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.