A father's right hinges on state law - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

A father's right hinges on state law

By Josh Ault  bio|e-mail

FLORENCE, AL (WAFF)- Becoming a father can change a man's life, but what would you do if your rights to see your child were taken away?

In the state of Alabama, there is a law pertaining to fathers called the Putative Father Registry.

If you do not claim your child within 30 days of his or her birth, your rights can be taken away.

20-year-old Andrew Scott was never planning on becoming a father so young. 

When he learned a girl he had sex with in high school was pregnant, there were doubts he was the father.

"There were three possible fathers and I was one of them," said Scott.

"I only had sexual relations with her one time, and the other two guys had relations with her multiple times," explained Scott.

It was not until DNA results came back negative on the other possible fathers that Scott decided to see if he was the father.

"It came back probably 2 and a half weeks, and I found out I was the father," said Scott.

"He was a month and a half old," continued Scott.

Scott said as soon as he found out he was the father, he wanted custody of his son. 

Especially after having an opportunity to hold him.

There was only one problem, he had already give up his rights and adoption proceedings had already begun.

"I was in shock," said Scott. "I didn't believe it.  I thought for sure we could get a lawyer, and I would get custody."

This is when Andrew first learned about a state law called the Putative Father Registry.

"If you don't get your name on the Putative Father Registry within 30 days of the babies birth, you give your applied consent to adoption," said Scott.

"I've seen Andrew emotionally sick to the point where he has lost weight," said Roger Scott, Andrew's father. He said, "Andrew got down to skin and bones."

The Putative Father Registry was passed in Alabama in 1997. 

30 states have a similar law. 

A bill is now in congress trying to get the registry in every state.

"It protects the father," said Bryant Whitmire, an adoption attorney in Birmingham.

"It gives them the opportunity to sign up before birth, withing 30 days of birth to claim notice of any possible adoption," explained Whitmire.

You do not have to have a DNA test to be put on the registry. 

Whitmire said the problem is many father's have no knowledge of the registry.

That is why Scott wanted to share his story.

"I want people to know about this registry," he said. "To know you need to get your name on this list or your rights are over."

"It's hard. He lives 2 miles down the road, and he can't see him, can't hold him, can't touch him.  It's very hard on the whole family," said Roger Scott.

Scott is appealing the latest ruling, and says he will never give up the hope of one day having the opportunity to hold his son again.

There have been cases where judges have overturned the Putative Father Registry, but it does not happen very often.

It may take up to a year for Scott's appeal to be processed.  The adoptive parents were given custody of his son.

To learn more about the Putative Father Registry, visit this website.

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