The Responsible Birthfather Registry Act will require fathers who wish to be notified of a termination of parental rights proceeding to take the affirmative step of registering with a confidential state database. This registry can then be checked by DSS [or the adoptive parents’ lawyer in private adoptions] during the termination of parental rights (“TPR”) proceedings before a child is adopted into a permanent and loving home. This new registry does away with the antiquated practice of placing Joe Doe notices in the local newspapers.
If the mother of a child who is being placed for adoption is unmarried, the courts generally require the adoptive parents to serve any potential unknown father by adding John Doe as a defendant and serving John Doe via a newspaper in the county in which the child was conceived. This method of terminating the rights of a potential unknown father is fraught with legal uncertainty and a potential challenge by the father as illustrated in Brown v. Malloy; this case is a fact intensive case in which the father challenged the termination of his rights and the adoption of his child. All four issues raised by the father in the case concern the John Doe notice.
The Responsible Father Registry should be in place on 1 January 2010 and will require a potential father to register with the Registry to ensure he preserves his parental rights; eliminating the need for John Doe notices.
The Responsible Father Registry law makes clear the only notice that the father is required to receive concerning the mother’s pregnancy is the sexual intercourse itself; his "sexual intercourse or his consent to artificial insemination with the biological mother is deemed to be notice to the unmarried biological father of the biological mother’s pregnancy." In essence, if a man has sex with a woman and wants to preserve his parental rights to a child that may have been conceived from that intercourse, he must register with the Registry. This will eliminate any legal uncertainty concerning the father’s rights and places the responsibility for preserving his rights squarely on his own shoulders. John Doe is dead.
Please note certain unmarried fathers are required to receive notice of the adoption proceeding without the need to register with the Registry. For a full discussion on which unmarried fathers are required to be notified of the adoption proceeding please visit my Notification Blog Post.
Please note certain unmarried fathers are required to consent to the adoption. For a full discussion on which unmarried fathers the adoptive parents are required to obtain a consent and relinquishment from please visit my Consent and Relinquishment Blog Post.
Whether or not the adoptive parents are required to give notice to the unmarried father or to obtain a consent and relinquishment from the unmarried father, I would encourage an unmarried father who wishes to preserve his parental rights to register with the Registry.