Putative Fathers

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"Putative father" is the legal term for the alleged or supposed father of a child, or a man who claims to be the father of a child, at a time when there may not be enough evidence or information available to determine if that is correct.

Putative fathers have had fewer rights with regard to their children than either unwed mothers or married parents. Over the past several decades, putative fathers have used the Fourteenth Amendment to challenge the termination of their parental rights when the birthmother relinquishes their child for adoption. Nevertheless, states have almost complete discretion to determine the rights a putative father must receive at proceedings to terminate parental rights or adoption proceedings.

A number of states have established putative father registries, wherein a man who believes himself to be the father of a child may register his alleged paternity with the state. Men on this registry must be notified before a child may be placed for adoption.

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