Putative Father Registries in Texas and Across the U.S.

Men in Texas who have had sexual relationships outside of wedlock may not think to keep a record of each of their sexual encounters, especially not a record that is registered with the government. However, according to Texas law, an unmarried man who wants to be notified that his baby is being put up for adoption is required to list himself in the state’s Putative Father Registry. Thirty-three states in the country have these registries, which have been around since the 1970s.

The U.S. Supreme Court held in 1983 that these registries are a simple solution for tracking unwed potential fathers, saying that registration is as easy as “mailing a postcard.” However, although most states have free registration, the data requested from the men can be extensive. In Texas, men are expected to know and provide the driver’s license numbers of every woman with whom they had sexual intercourse. Many states expect men to list the dates on which a child may have been conceived.

Even when a father does register, his rights to be notified of a potential paternity claim only go as far as the state’s borders. A woman can travel to another state to give birth and even put a baby up for adoption without being required to notify the father in another state. A staff member at the Texas Vital Statistics office said that men have to register everywhere for every partner.

Registration may be impractical and inconvenient for both men and women. Men with good intentions may be railroaded by the bureaucratic requirements of each state with a putative father registry. If a man learns after the fact that he may have fathered a baby in Texas, that man may want to speak with a family law attorney who could represent the father’s rights.

Source: The Atlantic, “Sex and the Single Man: What If Your Partner Has a Kid?“, Kevin Maillard, April 21, 2014

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