Ohio Unmarried Father's Rights Must be Preserved by the Father

by Raquel A. Parish on Jan. 27, 2022

Divorce & Family Law 

Summary: Ohio Unmarried Fathers, Father's Rights

According to the CDC in the year 2019 over 43% of births in the state of Ohio were to unwed mothers. Some parents choose not to marry and remain happily committed. Some parents find themselves in situations where their relationship did not last beyond the initial days or weeks of their child’s conception.  Other parents have relationships which are volatile being on again and off again where during the pregnancy and time of their child’s birth the father is not welcome to be present or permitted to sign the birth certificate and acknowledgment.  When expecting parents are not together as a couple it is not uncommon for a mother to cut off a purported father completely from any communication concerning the unborn child and/or the birth.  Additionally, a mother may move to a new address without providing any forwarding information despite requests from the purported father for the information and to be involved. The Ohio legislature has determined by statute that a mother is the residential parent and legal custodian of a child born to unmarried parents but what about the father’s rights?

A Father in Ohio must take steps to protect his parental rights, that is, unless a father is married to the mother, signed the birth certificate (with the consent of the mother), or has been deemed by an Ohio court to have a legal parent-child relationship. A Father who is not married to his potential or newborn child’s mother can take steps to protect his parental rights to ensure that the state of Ohio is on notice of his claim of fatherhood. The Ohio Putative Father Registry (OPFR) is a computerized database maintained by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The OPFR allows a male to register if he believes he may have fathered a child and wants to be notified if the child is placed for adoption or if other custody issues arise specifically concerning Children’s Protective Services.

There is a strict timeline. Any male who believes he may be the father of an unborn child, or a child born within the last 14 days, should register with the OPFR. This includes an adult or a minor who is less than 18 years old. Failure to register can mean that a child is legally adopted without the putative father's knowledge or consent. It is very important that the online or written registration be received by the OPFR no later than 14 days after the child's birth. When a father does not register within the statutory 14-day timeline he cannot later claim any lack of notice and/or lack of consent to his child’s adoption or permanent placement should one be filed for the minor child.

An unmarried father, even one who is not exactly sure of his fatherhood, can register with OPFR to preserve his constitutional parental right to be given notice of possible adoption issues concerning his child. This is true even if the purported father is not permitted to be involved with the child and/or the mother has disappeared to an undisclosed location elsewhere in the state. Other circumstances may exist where an unmarried father is shutout but is aware that the mother of his child has drug dependency history, and his child will be born most likely testing positive for illegal drugs. In drug dependency cases, if an unmarried father has not registered with OPFR prior to his child’s birth or within 14 days of it then there may not be any requirement to notify him upon his child’s birth and ultimate adoption with other relatives or into the state foster care system. A father cannot delay as the 14-day deadline is mandatory. Signing onto the registry does not create a legal obligation on behalf of an unwed father but merely identifies him and provides that he receive notice of legal proceedings specifically concerning adoption.

In Ohio, when a child’s parents are not married to each other upon the child’s birth, that child does not have a legal father. Paternity must be established to create a legal relationship between a father and child and before the father’s name can appear on the birth certificate. What can an unmarried Father do to protect his parental legal rights when the Mother has excluded him from the pregnancy and birth?

    • Seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Find someone who makes you feel comfortable and who understands your wishes.
    • A potential putative father, or his representing attorney, may register online or in writing with the OPFR. Notice can be sent to OPFR by mail or email during the pregnancy up to 14 days after birth.
    • Even if the child is not born yet a putative father can provide the mother’s information to the registry. Give the mother’s full name with correct spelling along with any other identifying information including date of birth and social security number if available.
    • It is the responsibility of the putative father to keep his address updated with OPFR if he moves after registering his notice.
    • Do not delay in filing to establish paternity and to allocate parental rights and responsibilities in the county court where the minor child resides.

For questions concerning protecting your father’s rights and to establish paternity in the state of Ohio please contact R. A. Parish Law, LLC.   R. A. Parish Law, LLC is available to help guide you with compassion and skill. No Cost, No Obligation consultations (614) 407-0443.

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