Little-known law could block Missouri fathers’ custody claims

Being a parent is a tremendous responsibility, which is something many people embrace. Unfortunately, there are cases in which people are willing to step up to the plate, but are never afforded a fair chance to assume the role of parent.

According a report, a seemingly archaic set of laws may put men’s ability to seek custody of their biological children in jeopardy in some cases. Through Putative Father Registries, 33 states — including Missouri — have tried to connect unwed mothers to the fathers of their children. Under this law, men are expected to provide state officials with a list of sexual partners they’ve had. This way, the state can notify men if a child they’ve fathered is being put up for adoption.

By failing to provide accurate records for the state registry, fathers may be left out of the decision to put a child up for adoption. In other words, men may not be able to file for custody of their child, even if they are more than willing to be a parent.

At the same time, providing information for the Putative Father Registry doesn’t necessarily provide a man with ability to assume custody. Rather, all this does is provide the right to a notification of adoption.

Not only does this law seem like a violation of privacy, but it also puts a father’s rights at risk. A person might fail to add their name to registry simply because they aren’t aware that they should, rather than actively avoiding the responsibility. In fact, registration is generally very low, which suggests a lack of awareness. According to the Atlantic, only 47 men joined Florida’s registry in 2004, despite the fact that nearly 90,000 babies were born outside of marriage that same year.

One of the problems with the registry is that a person may never know that he’s fathered a child. If the mother chooses to withhold information about pregnancy, a man may never be able to assert his intentions to be an active parent.

Dealing with family law issues is understandably emotional and complex. As such, fathers who are dealing with Missouri’s Putative Father Registry may benefit from seeking answers and help, rather than trying to work through the situation alone.

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

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