Below is the abstract for “Expanding State Parent Registry Laws,” available for download on SSRN.

As with state recognized voluntary acknowledgements of parentage (VAPs) and state recognized assisted reproduction pacts (SRARPs) on childcare parentage for future or current children, state parent registries (PRs), often labeled putative paternity registries or putative father registries, embody declarations of expecting or current legal parenthood. Yet declarations on children in PRs often involve unilateral assertions, unlike dual parenthood declarations in VAPs or SRARPs. Actual parenthood under law for many PR declarants is never recognized because there are no simultaneous assertions by a second expecting or existing legal parent on the declarant’s parenthood, as with an assertion by an expecting or existing birth mother in a VAP or a SRARP.

PRs are further limited. They generally provide that those who register receive notice and an opportunity to be heard in any later adoption and/or parental rights termination proceeding involving a child to be born or born to another. Thus, the expecting and existing legal parenthood interests of PR declarants are protected in only discrete settings. PRs, for example, generally do not prompt a notice/hearing opportunity in any later probate or tort proceeding containing parentage issues.

In addition, PR opportunities are not explicitly afforded to all expecting and existing legal parents whose children are or may be subject to adoptions or parental rights termination proceedings. PR laws are often limited to “paternity” or “father” registrations even though adoption and termination proceedings can also foreclose nonpaternity and nonfather parental interests (contingent or current).

State laws should be reformed so that asserted parental rights/interests in PRs can be employed in more settings. As well, PR opportunities should be expanded to reflect the evolving legal changes recognizing increased parenthood opportunities for those with no biological or formal adoptive ties, including both women and men.

As current state PRs often follow the suggestions of the Uniform Law Commissioners (ULC) in their 1973, 2000 (as amended in 2002), and/or 2017 Uniform Parentage Acts (UPAs) and the American Law Institute (ALI) in its 2000 Principles of the Law of Family Dissolution: Analysis and Recommendations (2000 ALI Principles), and should soon follow the ALI Restatement Draft on Children and the Law (ALI Restatement Draft), the ULC and ALI pronouncements on PRs will first be explored. Then, the variations and limitations in state PRs will be surveyed, demonstrating how PR uses are limited and how PR opportunities for some expecting/existing legal parents are unavailable. Finally, suggestions are offered on reforming PRs to meet both constitutional and public policy concerns. Expansions are suggested on who can utilize PRs and on how PRs can be used.

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Jeffrey A. Parness

Northern Illinois University College of Law

Jeffrey Parness teaches a variety of civil procedure courses as well as administrative law. He taught for six years at the University of Akron School of Law prior to arriving at Northern Illinois University in 1982. His primary areas of scholarship include federal and state civil procedure laws, maternity and paternity laws, the legal status of the unborn, state constitutional equality laws, crime victim restitution, witness abuse in civil litigation, and judicial rulemaking.

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