The rights of the unmarried father are generally limited in our society, but in the last few decades, there has been a push by states to permit them to acquire a certain amount of parental rights. Illinois is one of 33 states to have installed the Putative Father Registry, which is a state-by-state database that connects unmarried fathers to the mothers of their children. The rights of the unmarried father are limited due in part to societal preconceived notions that unmarried fathers are not interested in becoming parents to a child begot out of wedlock. The Putative Father Registry permits men, who believe that they may have fathered a child, to receive notification before the child is put up for adoption by the mother. It does not, however, provide the right to the father to petition for any legal or physical custody nor does it determine paternity of the father.
Illinois Putative Father Registry
Each state requires different processes for registering to be on the Putative Father Registry, but in Illinois, the database is online, and is an easier process than in many other states. The Department of Children and Family Services requires that the putative father must include the following in his registration:
- Name, date of birth, address for where the notice may be sent, social security number, and must include also the aforementioned information about the mother, so that the father and mother are linked.
The putative father may register at any time before the birth of the child, but no later than 30 days after the child has been born.
An adoption agency or any person looking to adopt the child is required to search the registry to determine if there is a putative father match to the child in question and is required to notify the father before adoption procedures may take place.
Statute of Limitations for Putative Fathers
Fathers who do not register before the 30-day post-birth deadline are barred from bringing a petition or action in the name of the child. However, if the father can show through clear and convincing evidence that he was unable to register, through no fault of his own, then the father may register 10 days after it becomes possible to register. It is important to note that ignorance of the pregnancy or birth is not accepted as a reason for failing to register.
Opposition and Advocate Opinions on Putative Father Registries
There are both opponents and advocates for this system. Opponents believe the system is ineffective. First, the Putative Father Registry is generally unknown; for example, in 2004 in Florida, 900,000 babies were born to unwed parents, but only 47 men were registered. Second, the Putative Father Registry assumes that the parents know each other enough to fill out the paperwork. However, how many people exchange their social security numbers with their one-night stands? Finally, a pregnant mother may not want to be intimately linked with her ex-partner due to a history of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Advocates, on the other hand, believe that though women have strong rights when it comes to their bodies and the rights to decide the best interest of the child, there should be room in our society for men to have some rights with regards to their child as well.
If your child is about to put up for adoption, or you would like to petition for parental rights, please contact one of our skilled Naperville lawyers who will be able to review your case and provide guidance as to your parental rights and any actions that you may take.