the rights of unmarried fathers

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  • Childrens Bureau/ACYF/ACF/HHS800.394.3366 | Email: info@childwelfare.gov | https://www.childwelfare.gov

    STATE STATUTESCurrent Through

    January 2014

    The Rights of Unmarried Fathers

    WHATS INSIDE

    Constitutional rights

    States definitions of father

    Paternity registries

    Alternative means of establishing paternity

    Required information

    Revocation of claim

    Access to information

    Summaries of State laws

    To find statute information for a particular State, go to https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/state/

    In recent decades, the significant percentage of births to unmarried parents1 has led to an increased focus on the fathers of these children. Referred to as alleged, presumed, reputed, or putative fathers, many of them seek recognition of their legal rights and expanded roles in raising their children.

    Constitutional RightsHistorically, unmarried fathers have had fewer rights with regard to their children than either unwed mothers or married parents. Over the past several decades, unmarried fathers have challenged the termination of their parental rights under the Fourteenth Amendment in cases in which birth mothers relinquished their children for adoption. In a series of cases involving unmarried fathers, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional protection of such a fathers parental rights when he has established a substantial relationship with his child. The court found that the existence of a biological link between a child and an unmarried father gives the father the opportunity to establish a substantial relationship, which it defined as the fathers commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood, as demonstrated by being involved or attempting to be involved in the childs upbringing.2 1 Births to unmarried women have made up more than 40 percent of total U.S. births each year since 2008 according to the National Vital Statistics Reports from the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention (see Table C, page 9, at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_01.pdf). 2 Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645 (1972); Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246 (1978); Caban v. Mohammed, 441 U.S. 380 (1979); Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U.S. 248 (1983).

    mailto:info%40childwelfare.gov?subject=https://www.childwelfare.govhttp://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_01.pdfhttp://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_01.pdf

  • https://www.childwelfare.govThe Rights of Unmarried Fathers

    2This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway. Available online at https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/putative.cfm

    Nevertheless, in cases involving unmarried fathers whose legal relationship to a child has not been established, States have almost complete discretion to determine the parental rights for the purposes of termination or adoption proceedings.

    States Definitions of FatherThere is no standard definition of father in statutes across the States. Approximately four States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands provide no definitions for the term at all.3 However, most States have definitions for the various categories of unmarried fathers. The term putative father is defined in statute in 13 States.4 With some variation in language, the term putative father generally means a man whose legal relationship to a child has not been established but who is alleged to be or claims that he may be the biological father of a child who is born to a woman to whom he is not married at the time of the childs birth.

    In approximately 23 States and the Northern Mariana Islands, a man may be presumed to be the father of a child in any of the following circumstances:5

    He and the childs mother are or were married to each other, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage ended.

    Before the birth of the child, he and the childs mother attempted to marry, and the marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated.

    With his consent, he is listed as the father on the childs birth certificate.

    He has acknowledged his paternity in writing.

    He is obligated to support the child, either by voluntary agreement or court order.

    3 The word approximately is used to stress the fact that States frequently amend their laws. This information is current through January 2014. Alaska, Nebraska, New York, and North Carolina currently do not define father in statute.4 Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.5 Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

    While the child is a minor, he has resided with the child and openly claimed the child as his biological child.

    Paternity RegistriesMany States have provisions for a father to voluntarily acknowledge paternity or the possibility of paternity of a child born outside of marriage and record the fact in a putative father registry. Approximately 25 States have established registries for this purpose.6 In 19 States, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands, there are provisions for voluntary acknowledgment of paternity through forms that are filed with social services departments, registrars of vital statistics, or other similar entities.7

    Acknowledgment of paternity or registration with a putative father registry ensures certain rights for an unmarried father, such as the right to receive notice of court proceedings regarding the child, petitions for adoption, and actions to terminate parental rights. In 12 States with putative father registries, filing with the registry is the sole means for establishing this right of notice.8 An acknowledged father also may seek visitation with the child and usually will be required to provide financial support to the child.

    Alternative Means of Establishing PaternityIn 21 States, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, a person may claim paternity to a child by filing an acknowledgment or affidavit of paternity with a court.9 Paternity of a child born outside of marriage also may be established by court order in all States.

    6 Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.7 Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.8 Alabama (for births occurring after 1/1/1997), Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.9 Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia.

    https://www.childwelfare.gov

  • https://www.childwelfare.govThe Rights of Unmarried Fathers

    3This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway. Available online at https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/putative.cfm

    In 20 States, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands, a court may establish paternity when the results of genetic tests determine that a man is the biological father of a child.10 In 11 States, a judgment of paternity may be nullified when genetic tests fail to confirm a mans parentage.11

    Required InformationStates differ in the information they require for registration or acknowledgment of paternity. Required information can include:

    Name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth of the putative father and the birth mother

    Name and address of any person adjudicated by a court to be the father

    The childs name and date of birth or expected month and year of the childs birth

    Date the registration or acknowledgment was completed

    Revocation of ClaimApproximately 46 States, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands make provisions in their statutes that allow putative fathers to revoke or rescind a notice of intent to claim paternity.12 Of these States, approximately 13 allow revocation at any time.13 Revocation is effective only after the childs birth in Arkansas and Iowa, and Florida allows revocation of a registration prior to the childs birth only. Approximately 28 States, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands limit the right of rescission to 60 days after the paternity claim is submitted or prior to a court

    10 Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina (when the child is age 3 or older), North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.11 Arizona, California, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah.12 Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, O

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