How is it that we as a society are not outraged at the inequality of rights for fathers?

Yesterday, I read about the tragic case of Baby Veronica, a recent and publicized example of the appalling state of fathers’ rights in this country. Sadly, Dusten Brown’s story is only one of many in a society with a legal system that allows a baby to be adopted out from under a father.

When I read the Wikipedia article about the Baby Veronica case I was shocked to learn that South  Carolina law terminates a father’s parental rights if he did not provide pre-birth support and does not become involved with the child shortly after birth.

And furthermore, under South Carolina law, a father must reside with the mother for the six-month period preceding the birth of the child, and contribute monetarily to pregnancy related expenses in order to have paternity rights.

Every state has different laws, but unfortunately the South Carolina law is by no means unique and is only one of the many laws that are used to trample on a father’s rights.

What kind of bullarky is that!

To suggest that a father’s paternal rights should be determined based upon his interactions, or lack thereof, with his child’s birth mother, is outrageous!

Think I’m awful for saying that? What if I told you that a woman’s maternal rights were contingent upon the status of her relationship with the father?  You’d be outraged!

A man has to dig deep to discover his rights, assuming he even knows he is to become a father.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families:

States have almost complete discretion to determine the rights of unmarried fathers whose legal relationship to a child has not been established (i.e. who is not currently in a relationship/good standing with the mother) for the purposes of termination of parental rights or adoption proceedings.

A man who wants to protect his already inadequate paternal rights must register with a putative father’s registry for any sexual encounter he has had.

If the law required a pregnant woman to register potential pregnancies for every man she had sex with, else forfeit her parental rights, people would be outraged!

Registration with a putative father registry ensures certain rights for unmarried fathers – such as the right to receive notice of court proceedings regarding the child, petitions for adoptions, and actions to terminate paternal rights.

In 10 States with putative father registries, filing with the registry is the sole means for establishing this right of notice!

Yet, according to the Wikipedia article on the Putative father registry, many laws have narrow windows for fathers to register with putative father registry else forfeit their rights. And lack of knowledge of the pregnancy or birth is not an acceptable reason for failing to meet the filing deadline!

But there is NO law that requires a woman to notify a man that she is giving birth to his baby.

Many people do not see it as an injustice for a woman to keep knowledge of a child from a man, and/or to adopt a child out from under him. I find this appalling.

The fact that a woman doesn’t want a man in her life or her child’s life does not mean that that man should be deprived of his right to be a father.

Some states even require fathers to register with any state that the mother might visit! Registering in one state does not protect a man if the woman gives birth in another state.

The law places fathers’ paternity rights almost exclusively in the hands of the mothers of their babies!

As a mother of a son, this terrifies me! In fact, I think it should terrify anyone who has a child.

So why isn’t everyone outraged at this horrendous injustice perpetrated against unmarried fathers?

I’m 44. The first time in my life I’d heard of such a thing called putative father registry was just a few years ago. How many young men even know of such a thing?

A mother who chooses to give her baby up for adoption receives counsel from an adoption agency/attorney about her options and rights. She has many months to consider these options, and has the opportunity to meet and hold her baby before making a final decision.

Fathers should be provided no less.

In fact, I think that the very first step in the adoption process should be to contact the father and offer him the option to parent his own child.

Many disagree with me, but why? Why should a father not have a right to his child just because he was not married to his child’s mother?

The law is eager to recognize a man’s paternity in order to go after him for child support. But when it comes to the rights of unmarried fathers, the law has created a nightmare of legal hurdles with hidden trapdoors aimed at robbing unmarried fathers of their rights.

The law should protect fathers just as it does mothers.

Fathers should have a right to know of impending fatherhood.

They should have a right to have legal counsel regarding rights and options regarding custody and adoption.

And prior to being asked to consent to an adoption, fathers should be provided an opportunity to meet and interact with their baby that is not contingent upon the mother’s desires.

How dare the law make it acceptable for a woman to adopt off a man’s baby surreptitiously?

How dare we tell men that they are only as important to a child as the mother deems?

How dare we accept the injustice that a woman gets to decide if a man knows of his own child?

We would never condone this in the reverse.

We cry foul for the many years when young women were forced to adopt out their babies because of the stigma of unmarried motherhood. So why do we not cry foul when women do the same to men?

The law, and society are both sending the same message to fathers – except for the provision of child support, you are unimportant to your child, and the price of admission to your child’s life is to become beholden to your child’s mother.

The cause of father’s rights has long been very near and dear to my heart.

Why?

Is it not enough that it is a grievous injustice?

If not, let me say this – parenting is an amazing part of our human journey.

How many men have a child that they do not know about?

How many men have a child that they were pushed away from by a woman who didn’t want to have them in her own life?

And how many men, like Dusten Brown, have had their child stolen from them by legal hoodwinking and vindictive maneuvering?

How can the cause of father’s rights not be near and dear to the heart of anyone who has a child, and especially anyone who has a son?

 

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