The Responsible Father Registry gives a man who has fathered a child with a woman to whom he is not married to the right to be notified when an adoption or a termination of parental rights action occurs.
How does DSS help?
DSS maintains the Responsible Father Registry for fathers who may be a child’s biological father. Attorneys who file adoptions and work on cases involving termination of parental rights in South Carolina check the registry to keep registered fathers aware of court proceedings with their children. An unmarried biological father who is not listed on the registry may still receive notice of important hearings about a child; however, it is important for an unmarried father to list his name on the registry to preserve the right to notice with greater certainty.
The Registry’s Three Purposes
- To provide notice to unmarried biological fathers who affirmatively assume responsibility for children they may have fathered by registering with the Responsible Father Registry
- Promptly providing stable and permanent homes for adoptive children—by eliminating John Doe publications, the Registry carves off at least seven weeks from the adoption process
- Prevent the disruption of adoptive placements—An unmarried biological father’s failure to file a claim of paternity with the Registry is deemed to be a lack of proper diligence. Hence, the Registry stands as the legislature’s newest and strongest bulwark to protect permanency and finality in adoptions
Mechanics of the Registry
Registering is the first step for a man who might be the unmarried father to seize the opportunity to assert his rights to a child that he may have fathered. A presumptive father may register before or after the birth of the child, but a registration is void if it is made after the date the petition for TPR or adoption is filed. Upon registering, DSS will issue a certificate to the registrant verifying the filing. If the registrant fails to notify DSS of a change of address, he is deemed to have waived his right to notice. Once registered, the claim will remain on the registry until nineteen years after the filing. However, if the registrant desire to revoke the registration, there is a process to do so.
Registration on the Responsible Father Registry is not necessary under the following conditions: their name is recorded on the birth certificate, has a sworn statement identifying themselves as the father, openly living with mother who is indicating him to be the father, or is adjudicated by the court (paying child support). Persons who have been found mentally incapable of giving consent are not eligible for the registry. Fathers who aren’t sure of their paternity are encouraged to register with the Responsible Father Registry.
If a presumptive father does not register, he may lose his right to object to the termination of his parental rights or the adoption of his child. By registering, a possible presumptive father ensures his rights to receive notice of a court action for termination of his parental rights.
- Consequences of a Father’s Failure to Register
A failure to register under the Registry “constitutes an implied irrevocable waiver of the father’s right to notice any proceeding pertaining to the termination of his parental rights and to the child’s adoption.” Failure to register does not constitute a biological father’s consent, but is a waiver of his right to notice—if the father learns of pending litigation, his failure to register will not prevent him from seeking to intervene in a TPR/adoption case.
The Registry is not available for public inspection and is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Only DSS if it has an open case for child welfare services, child-placing agencies, and attorneys assisting in a TPR or adoption case may obtain information from the Registry.
- Requesting a Search of the Registry
A request by an agency or attorney may be made online and must include the following
- Mother’s name and (if known) address, and date of birth
- If known, child’s date of birth and place of birth
- If known, date, county, and state of conception
A fee of $50.00 will be charged for a search of the Registry
- Search Results
If no claim is found, DSS issues a Certificate of Diligent Search stating the search was done and no claim was found. The Certificate of Diligent Search must be filed with the family court within ten days of receipt. If a claim is found, the registrant must be served with notice of the adoption or TPR action within ten days of the requester’s receipt of the name and address of the registrant.
If you have questions and want to know about your legal rights you should contact your attorney for advice.
Ready to register with the Responsible Father Registry?
Register online or visit any county DSS office to fill out and file registry paperwork.