If you are potentially the father of a child and you are not married to the mother, the State of Arizona sees you as not very important. In order for you to prevent your rights from being terminated, you’ll have to register with the putative father registry. If you don’t register within a specific time period, your child could be adopted even over your objection, or you could lose your parental rights entirely even if the mother is not putting the child up for adoption with a third party (or her spouse).
A person who is seeking paternity of a child who is subject to the jurisdiction of the Arizona courts, who wants to receive notice of adoption proceedings and who is the father or claims to be the father of a child must file notice of a claim of paternity and of his willingness and intent to support the child to the best of his ability with the state registrar of vital statistics in the department of health services. The department of health services provides forms for the purpose of filing the notice of a claim of paternity. Forms also are available in the department of health services, the office of the clerk of the board of supervisors in each county, every hospital, every licensed child placement agency, the department of economic security, the department of child safety, sheriff’s offices, jails, prisons, state department of corrections facilities and department of juvenile corrections facilities.
The notice of a claim of paternity may be filed before the birth of the child but must be filed within thirty days after the birth of the child. The notice of a claim of paternity must be signed by the putative father and must include his name and address, the name and last known address of the birth mother and either the birth date of the child or the probable month and year of the expected birth of the child. The putative father who files a notice of a claim of paternity under this section must notify the registrar of vital statistics of any change of his address. The department of health services must maintain a confidential registry for this purpose. The department will only respond to written inquiries of the confidential registry that are received from the court, the division, a licensed adoption agency or a licensed attorney participating or assisting in a direct placement adoption. The department will provide a certificate signed by the state registrar of vital statistics stating that a diligent search has been made of the registry of notices of claims of paternity from putative fathers listing all filings found or stating that no filing has been found pertaining to the father of the child in question.
If the court determines the claimant is not the child’s father it must notify the department of health services and must order the department to remove that person’s name from the putative father's registry.
If the mother denies that the putative father filing the notice of a claim of paternity is the father, the department of health services must notify the putative father of his responsibility to establish paternity.
A putative father who does not file a notice of a claim of paternity as required under this section waives his right to be notified of any judicial hearing regarding the child’s adoption and his consent to the adoption is not required, unless he proves, by clear and convincing evidence, both of the following:
- It was not possible for him to file a notice of a claim of paternity within the period of time specified below.
- He filed a notice of a claim of paternity within thirty days after it became possible for him to file.
Shockingly, lack of knowledge of the pregnancy is not an acceptable reason for failure to file. The fact that the putative father had sexual intercourse with the mother is deemed to be notice to the putative father of the pregnancy. This is a clear bias against fathers in Arizona!
When a certificate is received by the court, the division, a licensed adoption agency or a licensed attorney participating or assisting in a direct placement adoption from the department that lists filings of a putative father or fathers, the putative father or fathers who filed timely notices of claims of paternity and who have not previously been served shall be served with a specific notice set forth in one of the statues that pertains to these situations, and within thirty days of completion of service of the notice, the man is barred from bringing or maintaining any action to assert any interest in the child.
If in any adoption proceeding there is not a showing that a putative father has consented to the adoption or has waived his rights regarding the proposed adoption, the petitioner must file with the court, before the court enters a final decree of adoption, a certificate from the department of health services signed by the state registrar of vital statistics stating that a diligent search has been made of the registry of notices of claims of paternity from putative fathers and that no filing has been found pertaining to the father of the child in question.
So what this all means is that you, as an Arizona father seeking paternity of his child, could forever be barred from being the legal father of your own child because of the ridiculously biased laws in favor of the mother with regard to the putative father registry in Arizona.
Remember, even if the mother is not giving up the child for adoption herself (for example, if she wants her new husband to adopt your child), your failure to file a notice of claim of paternity with the putative father registry could very well permit her to get away with locking out of your own child’s life forever.
For example, there was a recent case in 2016 where the Arizona Court of Appeals made one of the harshest rulings against fathers in years. In that case, Frank R. v. Mother Goose Adoptions, No. 2 CA-JV 2015-0120 (Ariz App. Feb 10, 2016), the mother and father lived together. They then separated, not long after they found out that the mother was pregnant. They continued to remain in contact, but the mother contacted an adoption agency and identified her former partner as the father. The father, when contacted by the adoption agency, said he would “100 percent take the baby and raise it.” The attorney therefore recommended to the agency that it not place the baby for adoption. But the mother was quite devious and decided to use some trickery to get her way. She hired Mother Goose Adoptions, an Arizona agency, and lied on its forms, stating that she did not know who the father was, claiming that she had had sex with several men, and she did not answer the question asking whether she had worked with any other adoption agency. The mother did not tell the father about this secret effort to put the baby up for adoption. After the baby was born, the mother signed over the baby for adoption. The next day, the father contacted her to find out information about the baby that had just been born. The mother lied to him, telling him the baby was African American and not his child. He told her that if the boy was his, he was going to support him. Mother and her adoption agency, Mother Goose Adoptions, then filed a petition in Arizona (the father lived in California) to sever his parent-child relationship. The case was filed in the Pima County Superior Court, even though the child was born in Maricopa County and the father lived in California. The petition falsely listed that mother lived in Arizona when in fact she resided in California. The father was not notified of the legal proceeding, because the mother falsely claimed that she did not know who the father was. The court granted the petition and severed the father’s rights. All of this happened without the father’s knowledge. But later the father saw a picture of the baby on the mother’s Facebook page, and he saw the strong resemblance to himself. The father filed a paternity case in California. Ultimately, the Arizona court ruled that although the mother had engaged in deceitful conduct designed to block the father from asserting his rights and that there were false and misleading statements in the adoption referral, and although the court disagreed with the mother’s vehement argument that the father had abandoned his child, it nevertheless terminated the father’s rights, because the father had waived his rights by not filing a notice on the Arizona Putative Father Registry. The Court of Appeals later affirmed this awful result, saying that there is no exception in the law for fraud or substantial compliance (such as filing a paternity suit, which the father did in this case). Judge Ekerstrom wrote a dissenting opinion in that court ruling; this judge was the only one who stood up for the father, writing “we should not assume … that our legislature intended such an absurd and unjust result.”
So guys, there you have it! If you have any doubt over whether you are treated unfairly under the law, you can re-read the above and read the actual case decision cited above. Fathers are treated with great disrespect in Arizona and many other states, for many reasons. If the woman wants to abort the child or put the child up for adoption, with regard to abortion you have zero say in the matter (but if she elects, in her own discretion, whether to have the child, you better damn well support the child or you’ll end up in jail), and with regard to adoption or severance of your parental status, you may have only a limited window of time to work within.
Get legal advice immediately to find out your options!