What is a Putative Father?
A putative father is an alleged father or a father out of wedlock. The putative father typically claims that he is the biological father of the child even though the mother failed to recognize his identity on the child’s birth certificate.
In many states, a putative father had no standing to bring an action to establish his paternity. Unwed fathers who enjoyed a strong family relationship with their children were completely dependent upon continued association with the children’s mother to retain their status as the fathers.
In 1972, the United States Supreme Court recognized the fundamental importance of the parent-child relationship and found that the putative father was entitled to due process protection. As a result, states were precluded from presumptively denying a putative father’s right to receive notice and be heard in cases. Moreover, if an unwed father maintained a custodial relationship with his child, he was entitled to the same presumption of parental fitness as was afforded to married parents.
In order for a putative father to be afforded his parental rights he must establish the fact that he has either attempted or has been involved in his child’s life. The United States Supreme Court found that although every biological father must have an opportunity to develop a familial relationship with his child, that protection only extends to fathers who have established or sought to establish a relationship with their child.
However, a putative father’s establishment of and desire to maintain a relationship with his child may not be sufficient to protect his parental rights. The putative father must show that he has a full commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood. For example, if a putative father consents to the adoption of his child based upon a condition that he is granted monthly visitation and does not object to the adoption, he may have failed to preserve any parental rights. Each case involving a putative father is determined based upon the facts and circumstances in the case.