Biological Father—The man that genetically fathered the child. He doesn’t have to have a relationship with the child and sometimes isn’t considered to be the legal father of the child, but he is financially responsible for the child.
Legal Father—This is the man who is legally recognized as the father of the child. This can either be the biological father, an adoptive father, or a stepfather that has been granted parental rights.
Putative Father—This is the alleged father. This man hasn’t had to take a paternity test yet, he is just believed to be the father by the mother and possibly other people that know the mother or the putative father. This man doesn’t have a relationship with the child and isn’t financially responsible for the child yet.
Acknowledged Father—This man is acknowledged by the mother and the court as the father and has a relationship with the child.
Adjudicated Father—This is someone who the court appoints to be the father of the child, either temporary or permanently, and doesn’t have to be the biological, putative, acknowledged, or stepfather.
What then does it mean to legally be a father? It means that you have a right to sue for visitation rights and/or custody of your child, that you share financial responsibility for the child with the child’s mother, that you may have a relationship with your child if you choose to, though it isn’t required, and you have someone to pass on your last name to.
Every state is different in the laws they have regarding the father of a child, but the father of the child is entitled to certain rights as far as his child is concerned. For example, if the mother of the child is considering putting the child up for adoption, the father can sue her for custody of the child or come to a verbal agreement with her for custody.
Often times the state will want to keep the child in the custody of at least one of the parents unless there is evidence of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse in the home, so usually the father will be granted custody of the child if the mother decides she doesn’t want the child.
The father can also come to an agreement with the mother if she is considering having an abortion. He can request that he be granted custody of the child if the mother goes through with the pregnancy and he pays for all pregnancy related expenses.