Two Ways to Claim Legal Fatherhood
When speaking of paternity of a child, the “presumed” father is the man that is automatically assumed, under the law, to be the father. This definition varies a bit from state to state. Some states do not allow the presumption to be challenged while others do.
In 21 states (Alabama, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington), a man can be the presumed father in one or more of the following cases:
- He and the child’s mother are married (or were married) and the child was born during the marriage (or within 300 days after the marriage ended).
- He and the mother attempted to marry prior to the child’s birth and the marriage was (or could be) declared invalid and the child was born during the invalid marriage or 300 days after it was terminated.
- He has acknowledged his paternity in writing.
- He is listed as the father on the birth certificate with his consent.
- He has resided with the child while the child was a minor and publicly claimed the child as his biological offspring.
- He is obligated to pay child support, whether by court order or voluntary agreement.
A “putative father” is a term used in many states to describe a man who is either alleged to be the father or claims to be the biological father but who is not married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth. A putative father has not yet been legally established as the child’s father by a court. You will see the phrase “putative father” referenced over and over in paternity court documents.
Approximately 23 states have established registries to allow fathers to claim a putative status – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming. The registries in these states are intended to allow alleged fathers to be contacted in the event that the child is put up for adoption or if there is any attempt to terminate parental rights. Men can generally provide their information to these confidential registries even before the child is born if he believes that he is the father of a woman’s unborn child.
An additional 12 states and the District of Columbia allow fathers to claim putative status by filing forms with social service departments and vital statistics registries. These states include Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin.
In the following states, fathers may also claim putative status by filing an affidavit of paternity with the court: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas Virginia and Washington.