Adopting a child, as rewarding as it can be in the end, can also be fraught with frustration and confusion throughout the enduring process. One cause of this is the over forty applicable legal rules that can make crafting an adoption petition a meticulous task, yet one often overlooked rule regarding putative fathers can derail even the tidiest petition.
In brief, the term “putative father” means a biological father of a child who, who has not filed a petition to establish paternity of the child or who has not established paternity of the child. This could also be the man that a woman alleges is the father of her child. While some might assume that a putative father or unmarried father with no established legal link or paternity to a child has no rights in regards to the child, this is actually not the case.
For example, if an unmarried woman gives birth in the state of Tennessee and wishes to put the child up for adoption, the woman is legally obligated to get consent from the child’s biological father. Additionally, any biological father can assert his paternity to the child and attempt to establish a relationship with him or her and be legally recognized as the child’s parent. To accomplish this, Tennessee maintains what is called a Putative Fathers registry where biological fathers can claim their paternity to the child. This database allows biological fathers to register their information about themselves, the birth mother, and the child if and when the child is placed for adoption. When a child is put up for adoption, an inquiry must be made to the Putative Fathers registry, and if the biological father is registered there he will be notified and will have the opportunity to assert his paternal rights. This is also why it is so important to pay close attention to Tennessee’s adoption rules requiring an inquiry to the Putative Fathers registry.
Even when it is undisputed who the biological father is, (typically because he was married to the birth mother at the time the child was born, and the father’s name is on the birth certificate) an inquiry to the Putative Fathers registry must be made. This is also the law even if the undisputed biological and legal father is consenting to the adoption, such as in a step-parent adoption, still, an inquiry to the Putative Fathers registry must be made. Fortunately, an inquiry to the registry is as simple as completing a free online form accessible at the Tennessee Putative Father registry website, ensuring all adoption petitions are putative-inquiry-positive.
If you or a father you know have questions about parental rights in an adoption case, call 865-637-6550 to schedule a case assessment with a Held Law Firm attorney.
Citations: Tenn. Code Ann. 36-1-117