Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Unwed dad's rights left unprotected as lawmakers ponder solutions

Adoptions are routinely carried out without the notice or permission of the biological father. Unwed fathers face an uphill battle when attempting to gain their parental rights in court. States vary widely on their requirements for what a father must do to protect their rights with some states mandating not only filing but also court action and other states requiring no action need be taken at all. Some are pushing for a national putative father registry as a way to help alleviate confusion and abuse.

In Utah, a lawmaker is attempting to create a statewide electronic registry. The lawmaker wants to help fathers, especially those from out of state, protect their rights when a mother places an infant up for adoption. The idea is not without its critics as one group believes the burden should be on the adoption agency and mother to provide notice to the father of any adoption. While the debate continues on a national registry, the lawmaker is working within her state to protect the rights of unwed fathers.

Utah is among the majority of states that require a putative father registry. In addition to the registry, Utah also requires an unwed father to file a court case to have standing to contest an adoption and they must do so before the mother consents to an adoption, which can be as soon as 24 hours after the child's birth. Currently, Utah's Vital Records department only accepts paper filings which mean out of state fathers must travel to Utah or hire an attorney to file on their behalf.

The lawmaker is pushing for a purely electronic registry for purposes of ease and efficiency. Such a registry would ideally eliminated some of the trouble above-mentioned.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune "Lawmaker pushes registry to protect unwed dads' rights" Brooke Adams June 19, 2013

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