State Registry Could Protect Unmarried Fathers’ Rights

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BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) — A father in Missouri is fighting for the right to see his three-year-old daughter, after he said she was adopted by a family in Northwest Arkansas without his knowledge.

A simple piece of paper, a form for the Arkansas Putative Father Registry, could have made Chris Reynolds’ legal battle easier. For no charge, unmarried fathers can register with the Arkansas Department of Health, to make sure they’re notified if their child is going to be adopted.

Reynolds said he didn’t know about Missouri’s Putative Father Registry, and on Thursday (Jan. 28), a Benton County judge ruled Reynold’s daughter’s adoption could not be overturned. His daughter, Brooke, was adopted by his ex-girlfriend’s grandparents.

“I don’t know if I’m defeated or if I’ll ever get to see her again,” Reynolds said.

Fort Smith attorney Kevin Hickey isn’t involved Reynolds’ case, but said the Putative Father Registry is the first line of defense to make sure this type of situation doesn’t happen.

“Attorneys that are handling that action have to contact the putative father registry list to see if there’s a father on the list that says they might be the father of that child,” Hickey said.

Hickey said the problem is most fathers don’t know it exists. According to the Deptepartment of Health, the registry began in 1989. Since that time, only 2,110 fathers have registered and that number doesn’t exclude duplicate forms and children who are now over 18.

“It’s really not readily available information,” Hickey said. “I have clients that come in all the time on adoption situations, fathers wondering what they need to do and then we tell them about this putative father registry and it’s the first they’ve heard of it.”

Reynolds said had he known about the registry, he would have signed up.

“It could have made a difference in the case,” Reynolds said.

He said even though they lost in court Thursday (Jan 28), he still holds out hope that he’ll see his daughter again.

“Just know that I love you and I tried,” Reynolds said.

In Missouri, they are currently 200,000 fathers on their putative father registry list. In Kansas, there are only five.

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