You are currently viewing What happens when an unwed mother—uncertain of who the father is—decides to place that child up for adoption?

What happens when an unwed mother—uncertain of who the father is—decides to place that child up for adoption?

Contributed by Law Clerk, Brittany Hawkins.

In circumstances where there is a putative father the petitioners for an adoption must check the Putative Father Registry. A putative father is “any man not legally presumed or adjudicated to be the biological father of a child but who claims or is alleged to be the father of the child.”1 The Putative Father Registry is maintained by the Arkansas Department of Health.2 This Registry identifies potential fathers in the state who have taken the necessary steps with the Department of Health to record their potential rights. These steps include submitting a written, notarized statement and recording: the name, address, and Social Security number of the person claiming to be the father of a child (whose paternity is not presumed or been established by a court); the name, last known address, and Social Security number, if known, of the child’s mother; the name of the child, if the child has already been born, along with the location and date of birth; and the date and time the Department of Health received the statement.3

For an adoption to take place, consent by the birth father is necessary, and there may be a putative father whose legal rights have not been ascertained. However, if a putative father has not registered, he has waived his Constitutional rights to receive notice on the adoption of his child. In order to determine the status of a putative father and for an adoption to take place, the petitioners must receive a statement from the Putative Father Registry. This information must be received before the entry of an adoption decree is certified. It should include either a statement from the registry that includes any information pertaining to the child up for adoption or a statement that establishes there is no information regarding that child within the registry at the time adoption petition was filed.

If there is information on the child within the registry, then notice of the adoption proceedings must be served on the individual that registered his information within the system, unless, he has waived that right in writing.4 Once that notice is received, the putative father has the opportunity to file a pleading within a certain timeframe to contest the adoption. Otherwise, the adoption may proceed.

If you have any questions about this process or are seeking an adoption, please reach out to our office.


1 Ark. Code Ann. § 20-18-701(5).

2 See Putative Father Registry Arkansas Department of Health for more information.

3 Ark. Code Ann. § 20-18-702.

4 Ark. Code Ann. § 9-9-224.

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