Also called the “Putative Father Registry,” the Responsible Father Registry is a free database in which a man who has potentially fathered a child with a woman to whom he is not married can ensure that he receives notice of a possible adoption involving the child. The biological father can file before or after the child is born, but must register before any actions to terminate rights or action for adoption has been filed with the court. There are specific categories of fathers who must receive notice of an adoption even if they do not sign up on the registry:
- Legal fathers, who are married to the mother of the child;
- Adjudicated fathers, whose paternity has been established by a court;
- Acknowledged fathers, who include the following:
- Fathers who are living with the child or the child’s mother at the time the adoption is initiated and who openly hold themselves out to be the child’s father; or
- Fathers who support the child and/or maintain substantial contact with the child; or
- Fathers who have been identified in a sworn written statement by the mother; or
- Fathers whose names appear on a child’s birth certificate.
The parental rights of these men are already protected in that they are statutorily entitled to notice of any legal action affecting their rights. If a biological father is not legally entitled to notice of an adoption and fails to register, he has waived his right to notice.
The South Carolina legislature enacted the statute in June 2009, making South Carolina the 34th state to enact this type of registry, and the Department of Social Services (DSS) began receiving registrations on January 1, 2010. In South Carolina, the Registry provides a fail-safe method for an earnest father to register his name and thereby register his commitment to his child. Since January 1, 2010, 1804 men have signed up on the registry. In 2015, 378 men registered.
Equally important, the Registry will streamline the process by which children are placed in loving and permanent homes. Registration can be completed online here via the DSS website. Registrants must provide the following information:
- His name, address, and date of birth
- Mother’s name and (if known) address and date of birth
- If known, child’s name, place of birth and date of birth
- If known, date, county and state of conception
- The date the claim is filed
The Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson have extensive experience in adoptive services as well as assisted reproduction in the state of South Carolina.