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What is The Declaration of Paternity Registry in Iowa? What Does It Have to Do with Adoption?

Updated: Feb 11

By Emilee Gehling and Isabella Erickson


The Declaration of Paternity Registry, also called the Putative Father Registry, is a voluntary registry for putative fathers. A putative father is the potential father of a child. Putative fathers can register with the Declaration of Paternity Registration through the Iowa Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. By registering, a putative father asserts his parental rights and will be notified in the event of an adoption proceeding. Although it does not establish the declarant as legal father, it does provide evidence of his paternity. The declaration may be filed prior to or after the birth of the child, but not later than the date of the filing of a petition to terminate parental rights.


If the child’s biological father is unknown, no father is listed on the birth certificate. When the biological mother puts a child up for adoption, the adoptive parents must make efforts to identify the biological father, including by searching the Declaration of Paternity Registration. Searches may be made by sending a letter and a check for $15.00 to the Iowa Bureau of Vital Statistics. If the search comes back with no declarations, notice by publication must be given to the putative father anyway. This is typically done through a newspaper ad.


An affidavit of paternity may also be used after the child’s birth to establish paternity. It requires both parents to sign in order to be effective. This affidavit is available at the hospital and at county registrars’ offices in the ninety-nine counties of Iowa.

If a mother does not sign the affidavit of paternity, a putative father may seek court action to establish his legal rights as a father. Until a court order is entered, the putative father does not have custody; rather, the birth mother has sole legal custody. A genetic test may be performed to confirm genetic paternity.


All legal parents of the child need to be notified of the adoption proceeding, and they also need to consent if their parental rights have not already been terminated. Consent can be waived by failing to assert parental rights after receiving notice, including if notice is given by publication. The Declaration of Paternity Registry is an important tool for biological fathers, biological mothers, and adoptive families alike.



If you are looking for an Iowa adoption attorney, contact Gehling Osborn Law Firm, PLC. For more information about state laws surrounding surrogacy, check out this Map

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