Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Putative Father Definition:

A presumed but not DNA-confirmed father of a child.

Related Terms: In Loco Parentis, Parent

In some jurisdictions, a putative father is simply defined as any father who appears on a vital statistics records as the father of a child, whether the child was born during marriage or otherwise.

A putative father is similar to but more extensive than a father who stands in loco parentis as a putative father a putative father includes one who is named in the birth record as a matter of convenience, uncertainty, error or fraud; whereas a father in loco parentis usually, at one time or another, provided support or was involved in a family relationship with the child.

Prima facie, a putative father is required to provide support for his child (child support) but may avoid liability for this in some limited instances such as the discovery or admission of the natural father, negative DNA testing between the putative father and child, or the absence of any parent-child relationship between the putative father and the child. Usually, but not always, the role and responsibility of a natural father trumps those sought to be imposed upon a putative father. As an example of the hierarchy, a natural father's consent is typically required for adoption placement whereas that of a putative father is not. Further, a child may not be able to adopt her/his putative father's surname.

These are not absolute rules of law and may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Some jurisdictions maintain Putative Father Registries, such as that of the State of Illinois. There, a putative father is defined as follow:

"A putative father is a man who may be a child’s father, but who was not married to the child’s mother before the child is born and has not established the fact that he is the father in a legal proceeding."

The State of Virginia Putative Father Registry defines their clients as follows:

"You are considered a putative father if you are not married to the child's mother; a court has not determined that you are the child's father; you have not signed a written agreement acknowledging you are the child's father; or you have not adopted the child. "The purpose of the registry is to protect the rights of a putative father who wants to be notified in the event of a proceeding for adoption of, or termination of parental rights for a child he may have fathered."

The Ohio Putative Father registry:

"A putative father is a man who may be a child's father, but who is not married to the child's mother on or before the date that the child is born, or who has not established paternity of the child in a court or administrative proceeding or completed an acknowledgement of paternity affidavit before the filing of an adoption petition for the child."


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