In 2006, Virginia joined a growing number of states in creating a Putative Father Registry. There has been a bill before congress for quite some time which would create a National Putative Father Registry, but to date, it has not been enacted.
What is the Putative Father Registry?
The Virginia Putative Father Registry is maintained by the state Department of Social Services. A man who wants to protect his parental rights with respect to a child he may have fathered, may register. This means that he must receive notice of any adoption or termination of parental rights proceeding with respect to that child.
This protects him from a situation where a birth mother may indicate, rightly or wrongly, that she does no know who he is or where he is. In other words, the duty is now placed on any man who may have fathered a child to register in order to protect his rights, rather than upon adoptive parents to prove that he has received actual notice.
What must a Putative Father do?
The law requires that a man who may have fathered a child must register before the child is born or within ten days after the child is born. This is a mandatory requirement and failure to do so constitutes a waiver of rights. It is no defense that he did not know of the pregnancy because he is presumed to know that a pregnancy may have occurred.
What if he fails to register?
The law states that if a man fails to register, he waives his rights, unless one of four situations applies.
First, this waiver of rights does not apply if the man has been acknowledged to be the father. In other words, if the birth mother identifies the father, then he must still receive notice.
Second, if he is presumed to be the father because he is the lawful husband of the birth mother, then he must receive notice.
Third, if a court has made a ruling that he is the father, which often occurs in child support proceedings, then he must be notified.
Lastly, if the birth mother committed fraud by telling the birth father that she miscarried or that the child died, he must receive notice.
What does it mean that he must receive notice?
Generally, this means that a copy of the Petition for Adoption must be legally served upon him, either in person, on the front door of his usual residence, or if his whereabouts are not known, by publication in a local newspaper.
However, the law also provides that if formal written notice of the adoption plan along with appropriate information concerning the duty to register is served upon him by personal service or by certified mailing to his last known address, then he must register within ten days thereafter to protect his rights. This may be done either prior to or after the birth of the child.
Note that the statute does not require proof of actual receipt of the certified letter. By “appropriate information” is meant materials published by the Virginia Putative Father Registry, which will be provided by them upon request.
How can the Registry be searched?
There is a simple form which is filed with the Registry. A search is promptly conducted and a certificate of the search results is provided to the adoption attorney.