Family Law

Is Florida Paternity Register Working?

It may be time for some unmarried men in Florida to forget the classic post-coital cigarette, a state supreme court justice said this week. Instead, those who want to be dads should hasten to the Florida Department of Health and announce, “I want the state to know that I’ve just had sexual intercourse,” suggested Justice Harry Lee Ansted on Monday during oral argument in an adoption case.

In fact, the health department gives such men nine months to sign Florida’s putative father register, a lawyer for Heart of Adoptions assured him, AP reports. If they don’t, under a 2003 state law, biological fathers lose their parental rights, contended agency attorney Jeanne Tate.

The issue is before the high court because of an adoption handled by the agency concerning “Baby H,” now two years old. Her biological father is challenging the adoption, saying he never heard of the obscure register. A total of 47 men signed it in 2004, a year in which there were some 90,000 out-of-wedlock births, writes AP. ”Because you don’t send a piece of paper to Jacksonville … you’re not going to have your parental rights?” said the father’s attorney, Rhonda Portwood, in an interview. “That’s not fair.”

The law was passed in an effort to prevent adopted children from being removed from their homes years later, as has happened. In a hard-fought, highly publicized case in suburban Chicago, for instance, three-year-old “Baby Richard,” was photographed being forcibly taken from his adoptive parents in 1995, sobbing and reaching out for them, after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled his biological father had never consented to the adoption.

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