British Court Rules That One-Night-Stand Fathers Have No Rights

From the Daily Mail:

A woman who became pregnant after a one-night stand yesterday won the right to keep the existence of her baby a secret from its father.

In a landmark decision, three Appeal Court judges agreed that the 20-year-old single mother has “the ultimate veto” over whom should be told about the child, who is being put up for adoption.

Describing the case as “on any view extraordinary”, Lord Justice Thorpe ruled there was no justification for “breaking open the mother’s secret”.

And Lady Justice Arden said this was not a violation of the father’s rights to family life under the Human Rights Act because he had no rights to be violated.

The mother, who cannot be identified by order of the court, had kept her pregnancy hidden from her family, colleagues and the father.

She gave birth five months ago and left the baby girl, known only as E, in hospital shortly afterwards.

When she asked for the child to be put up for adoption, a county court ordered that her parents and the father should be told to give them the opportunity to apply to adopt.

But yesterday, the judges decided the father had no rights over the child, who is now in foster care, because “he was only a one-night stand”.

And they banned the local authority and guardian from taking any steps to identify him or telling him about his daughter.

What an appalling ruling.

I can imagine individual cases in which a court might justifiably rule to keep a born child secret from her father; for instance, if there was compelling evidence that an particular father, if informed, would be physically dangerous to the mother or the child. But from what’s said in this article, in this case there seems to be no justification for not informing the father and giving him the opportunity to raise his daughter.

This ruling contributes to sexism, by implicitly reinforcing the idea that men cannot be responsible for the upbringing of children. It also creates a short road to the conclusion that fathers of children conceived in one-night-stands shouldn’t have responsibilities to their offspring.

I hope this ruling doesn’t stand.

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81 Responses to British Court Rules That One-Night-Stand Fathers Have No Rights

  1. 1
    Bjartmarr says:

    Amp, my first reaction was the same as yours.

    After thinking about it for a bit, though…here in California we have a law that a mother can drop her newborn off for adoption at any hospital, police station, or fire station with no questions asked. The intent of the law is to give mothers who don’t want anybody to know about their pregnancy an alternative to abandoning their baby in a dumpster.

    If the court had ruled the other way, could that cause an increase in dumpster-babies? Even if there were an exception in the case of compelling evidence of a dangerous father, I am not at all confident that all mothers of unwanted babies would trust the courts to agree with them that the father was dangerous.

    I do still think that the logic that the justices used to make their decision is pretty twisted.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Actually, the law in California is that a parent or parents may drop a newborn at a hospital during the first 72 hours of the baby’s life. Not just the mother. In practice, I’m sure that it’s just the mother most of the time, but there may be exceptions.

    In many (I think, but am not sure, that it’s most) states with safe harbor laws, the state does make an effort to find the other parent (by publishing notices of an abandoned baby) before giving up the child for adoption. That seems like a reasonable approach to me.

    In any case, safe harbor laws are a rare exception to the usual way our laws are structured, in order to address a rare exceptional circumstance. I don’t think we need to say “fathers must never have any rights” in order to have room for safe harbor laws, any more than we must say “child abandonment must never be illegal” in order to have room for safe harbor laws.

  3. 3
    NotACookie says:

    This ruling contributes to sexism, by implicitly reinforcing the idea that men cannot be responsible for the upbringing of children. It also creates a short road to the conclusion that fathers of children conceived in one-night-stands shouldn’t have responsibilities to their offspring.

    Agreed. It’s a particularly striking ruling when juxtaposed with the ruling from a Long Island court a few days ago that sperm donors can have legal obligations to their children. I understand that the UK and New York have somewhat different family law, but this seems like a dichotomy that couldn’t have been easily predicted in advance.

    I don’t have a good sense what the rights and obligations of fathers should be in these sorts of cases but it strikes me as rather unjust to the parties concerned to settle this in a post-hoc way via the courts, rather than via public debate and legislation. Surely it would be better to set clearly understood rules in advance.

  4. 4
    Silenced is foo says:

    I’ve always said that “safe harbour laws” are an exception to all the rules because they’re not about practicality or “right and wrong”. It doesn’t matter if it’s fair, or safe, or reasonable that a parent can abandon their child into the state system without the consent of the other parent. It doesn’t matter, because it exists purely for the reasons Ampersand stated: to make sure that, no matter the circumstances, every parent has an option that’s better than infanticide.

  5. 5
    randy says:

    I simply fail to understand as to how the entire matter has been twisted into a woman’s issue. It is a “man’s issue”, is it not? It is the man here who is being deprived from his right to be told that the child belong’s to him . The society assumes that such rights for men simply do not exist.

  6. 6
    Thene says:

    So you’d’ve preferred it if the court had ruled the other way and she had been forced to name the father?

    Suppose she’d lied from the start – said she’d had a lot of one-night stands and didn’t know who the father was? Or suppose she’d had sex with a stranger, and really didn’t know who he was? How would the rights have worked then?

    I don’t disagree with you – it’s not a pleasant ruling. I think it’s complicated by the fact that her parents were bundled in there too; had the ruling gone against her, she would’ve been forced to tell them as well. It’s bad for fathers on paper, but this particular father was someone who had no intention of having a long-term relationship with the mother, and was not with her during the pregnancy. If he had, then it would never have got to court.

    Reproduction is necessarily asymmetric. I don’t want reproductive rights to be asymmetric, but it seems fucking impossible to avoid.

  7. 7
    Jake says:

    I think I support this ruling. If a man doesn’t maintain enough of an acquaintance with a woman he’s had sex with to even notice that she’s become pregnant, he probably didn’t even consider the possibility that he was taking that risk. Why should he have any rights to the child?

    I’m not dissing people who’ve had one night stands here, lord knows I’ve enjoyed my share, but if any of them had resulted in my pregnancy (I’m a woman), I probably wouldn’t even have considered telling the man involved. I wouldn’t have considered it his business. Family is who’s there, not who shares DNA.

  8. Jake wrote:

    If a man doesn’t maintain enough of an acquaintance with a woman he’s had sex with to even notice that she’s become pregnant, he probably didn’t even consider the possibility that he was taking that risk. Why should he have any rights to the child?

    Except, if I remember correctly, the woman who became pregnant after a one-night stand does have, in many states in the union, if not all, the right–as she should–to sue her child’s father for support even long after the child was born and even if he never knew he’d become a father. In other words, we recognize a father’s responsibility for a child he helped to conceive, even unintentionally, and we recognize that he should be obliged–by the courts, if necessary–to live up to that responsibility. So why, barring compelling reasons to the contrary, should he not have the right to know that a child he helped to conceive has been born? (I am not suggesting, by the way–at least I don’t think I would agree with the suggestion–that a woman who becomes pregnant as the result of a one night stand should be compelled to locate and notify the father; I am thinking specifically of the kind of situation outlined in Amp’s post.)

  9. 9
    ADS says:

    I am reminded of quote by Dan Savage in his book “The Kid” in which he describes the open adoption of his son, and says that the state of Oregon (or possibly Washington? I can’t remember which it is) recognizes that “men have orgasms, and women have babies.” It’s in regards to a piece of adoption law that prevents the biological father from showing up during or after an adoption and taking the child back. I’m not sure how I feel about this in general, but part of me certainly understands the impulse to say “he didn’t stick around, I don’t know where he is, why do I have to be tied to a stranger just because I happened to get pregnant?” But I don’t know. It’s all very troubling.

  10. 10
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @ADS

    “he didn’t stick around, I don’t know where he is, why do I have to be tied to a stranger just because I happened to get pregnant?”

    He could ask the same thing – if you happen to remember his name, he’s liable for child support. So it works both ways, there.

    Personally, I’ve come to accept that the biological imbalance means that any reasonable model of reproductive rights is intrinsically unfair to men, and there’s no reasonable way to escape that. But rights and responsibilities go hand-in-hand – if a man is going to be responsible for (as you put it) a stranger’s kid, it should be his kid too.

  11. 11
    RonF says:

    Amp:

    This ruling contributes to sexism, by implicitly reinforcing the idea that men cannot be responsible for the upbringing of children. It also creates a short road to the conclusion that fathers of children conceived in one-night-stands shouldn’t have responsibilities to their offspring.

    I agree. And I’ll go you one further – who’s to say that this would stay limited to a “one night stand”? Perhaps two nights? Perhaps a week? Once you create this line, it can be moved. “Well, you two were only together for a year, and since you never commingled your finances or moved in together, he has no obligation to support the child.” How would a woman, then, legally ensure that a man would have a legal obligation to support any child that he and she together might conceive? Of course, she could refuse to conceive a child unless he married her, but I doubt you’d all support that.

    Thane:

    Suppose she’d lied from the start – said she’d had a lot of one-night stands and didn’t know who the father was?

    Suppose she’s lying now? On what basis did the judge take her word for it that the child was conceived as a one-night stand? Maybe they had a relationship for months and she bailed on him.

    Jake said:

    If a man doesn’t maintain enough of an acquaintance with a woman he’s had sex with to even notice that she’s become pregnant, he probably didn’t even consider the possibility that he was taking that risk.

    How do you know that’s the situation? Now, if there are facts not given in the article then that’s one thing. But for all we know the father in fact did try to maintain a relationship and she is the one that broke it off and hid the information. After all, it’s given that she also hid the information from her colleagues and her family, so she took great pains to deceive a lot of people; maybe she did so to the father as well.

    ADS:

    but part of me certainly understands the impulse to say “he didn’t stick around, I don’t know where he is, why do I have to be tied to a stranger just because I happened to get pregnant?”

    I have read quotes from men who have said the exact same thing, or things along the lines of “So I made a mistake – now I have to pay for it for 18 years?” In both cases, the answer is “Yes.” You make a mistake, you pay for it. Sometimes it takes a simple apology. Sometimes it costs you money. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes, and sometimes it takes 18 years. People don’t just happen to get pregnant – it takes a deliberate act that has well-known risks and consequences. You do the act, you accept the risks and consequences.

  12. 12
    Sailorman says:

    Remember that the article is about the “right to keep [deliberately through action] the existence of her baby a secret from its father [who she apparently knows].”

    It’s NOT about a hypothetical “duty to find out who the father was,” or a hypothetical “duty to notify the entire population of the town that she’s having a baby, so if anyone had sex with her in the past 8-10 months would they please contact her by mail?”

    The analysis therefore has a lot to do with her intent. She apparently DOES know, she just doesn’t want it known by the father (or anyone else.) I don’t see why we should give her personal preferences so much weight. Sure, if there’s danger (use the court system…) but sheesh.

  13. 13
    Megalodon says:

    Who here is familiar with British family law? What implication will this have for paternity and support actions?

    Would the mother in this lawsuit still be able to sue the putative father for support, even while officially refusing to dislose the child’s existence? Would initiation of a paternity action constitute a waiver of this right of child non-disclosure? Or will there be a new bifurcation of child legal existence?

    Child X does not exist for the purpose of parental rights’ claim, but Child X does exist for the purpose of parental liability?

  14. 14
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @Megalodon

    I know nothing of the matters, but I’d take a wild guess and assume that it’s up to the mother to name/contact the father when she sees fit, after which he becomes the father in full. That is, he doesn’t exist until she decides he does, and at that point he gets the standard rights and responsibilities associated with fatherhood, and the cat can’t go back into the bag.

  15. 15
    Holly says:

    Maybe I’m missing something here. I understand that rights and responsibilities ought to be attached; if a biological father has the responsibility of providing one-half of the resources for a child’s upbringing through majority, then he ought to have some rights with regard to the child as well. Such as knowing that the child exists. But in this case, it would have been impossible for the father to be burdened with any responsibilities in the matter, because he didn’t know about the child; responsibilities waived by not informing him. What’s wrong with that?

    The mother was obviously willing to undertake the entire raising of the child; maybe there should have been some more formal waiver of the father’s responsibilities, that she agreed to, but I don’t see why he should have to be involved at all, just because his genetic material was. That makes sense as the default (since we have no other better way of ensuring children are cared for, and parents are in most cases the best guardians) but why shouldn’t it be waivable? The mother is the one who is literally tied to the child from conception until the umbilical cord is severed, who cannot really escape from that responsibility. So it makes sense that rights and responsibilities begin and end with her.

    The flip side is, if we want to grant “inalienable” rights to biological fathers that don’t just derive from responsibilities… how do we go about doing that? I don’t really know the ins and outs of family law except that I keep hearing from law student friends that it can get deeply weird and contradictory in places. I mean, if a father (just by virtue of insemination, no raising of the kid or being involved in their life) has an automatic right to participate materially & tangibly in a child’s upbringing, does that mean mothers would have to accept money in exchange for visitation rights?

    I know this is not the precise issue in this case, but it seems like there are broader principles at stake, about how we construct ethics & laws around family & children.

  16. 16
    Mandolin says:

    “The mother was obviously willing to undertake the entire raising of the child”

    She wasn’t, though? She put her up for adoption, if I read correctly.

  17. 17
    RonF says:

    Holly, Mandolin is right. This all came up because the mother wants to put the child up for adoption, and the court asked (as the law requires it to) if the father’s consent has been obtained. Her reply was that the circumstances are such that the father should have no say in the matter, and the judge agreed. That seems to me to oppose both the will of the legislature and common sense.

  18. 18
    Holly says:

    I was right during the beginning of my post then… I was totally missing something! That makes a lot more sense, in that case. As I understand it, there’s a guiding principle that suggests a child’s biological parents are the most fit people to raise it. Although this often turns out to be completely wrong in practice, we still adhere to this principle out of necessity and ideals of the family. With foster care systems being what they are, I have to say this principle makes sense; we’re not ready for the brave new world of government-run creches or quasi-mythical village-wide-raising anytime soon.

    So it seems like the real issue here is not necessarily one that pits the mother’s rights in the child vs. the father’s rights in the child? It’s more like, the father’s opportunity to have “first dibs” on an abandoned child vs. the mother’s privacy rights. Even if you take all the notions of individual rights aside, I think it’s clear that a biological father is at least slightly more likely to be a good potential guardian than the foster care system is, and the welfare of the child in this respect ought to trump the privacy concerns. I suspect the judge was probably swayed by the deep secrecy involved and the fact that the father has been going on with his life unwares, is engaged to someone else, etc. But that’s no excuse for setting a bad precedent.

    If there’s this principle of “first dibs” for the father though, should it be extended to grandparents as was also suggested by pre-existing British law? I mean, if a woman gets pregnant and gives the baby up for adoption, should it be required that her parents be notified? That sounds like a more grave violation to me somehow.

  19. 19
    Jo Tamar says:

    Have any of you read the judgment itself? It can be found here:
    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2007/1206.html

    I’m not sure if anyone else here is familiar with UK papers, but the Daily Mail is not exactly known for its … um … sanity? Attention to facts? Attention to detail? Ability to report a story without looking for the sensational side and ramping it right up? All of the above? ;)

    So before you comment too much more on this case, I highly recommend you take a look at the judgment. Note that the judgment of Arden LJ is the leading judgment on this point – Lawrence Collins LJ essentially agrees with her (adding a little extra – including, notably, the point that there is no presumption that men cannot or should not be involved with the raising of children), and Thorpe LJ agrees but really decides the matter on more abstract public law ideas.

    Some points I think are salient:

    What Arden LJ emphasises is: the legislation is child-centred, not mother-centred (para 15). The court must consider the welfare of the child throughout the child’s life, not just in the short term. Ok, so that’s a bit fuzzy. And the court has a great deal of discretion (para 17). That’s important, because it allows the court to really assess what the best interests of this child in this case are (with the help of a guardian ad litem, appointed obviously to protect the child’s interests, which includes the power to do things like make investigations).

    Her Ladyship also notes that this decision is being made when the child is already 4 months old – ie when she’s started to bond and form relationships with the people around her. That’s important, since it’s a child-centric decision. Currently, the only relationship she has with her father is the blood tie and a potential social one, IF they could find him (para 19).

    Also important: because E’s father wasn’t on her birth certificate (yes, E’s mother’s choice), he doesn’t have parental responsibility (para 9). He could, apparently, “obtain” this at some point – not sure what that means (I’m not a family lawyer, not even really a UK one but I know how the system works), but if he did, he’d be deemed to have consented to the adoption. Which, yeah, is a bit rough on him – but it doesn’t sound like anyone could impose responsibility on him at this point. That’s relevant to my feelings on this case.

    PLUS: the question about the father’s identity was, apparently, more about the child’s possible benefit in the future – in other words, it had little do do with the care decision now (para 21).

    With respects to the father’s rights, you need to be aware of what the specific rights we’re talking about ARE. The right argued was the right under the European Convention on Human Rights to “respect for family life” – Arden LJ said that the father did not have this right with regard to the child because he HAS no family life with her: “He has never lived with her mother or expressed any commitment to E. He could not have done so because he does not know of her existence. But it is not a violation of a Convention right to deprive him of the possibility of obtaining a right to respect family life with E.” (para 32) Here, Arden LJ was following relevant European cases. I know, I know, we’re talking about what the law should be, but for now, I’m just outlining what Arden LJ actually said, and trying to do so in a slightly more neutral way than the Daily Mail! What should also be noted is that Arden LJ also said that while her Ladyship held that the father didn’t have a right to know, his position should still be considered (para 40).

    Another right (this time of the child) that Arden LJ mentions as being part of the general rights tension is the right of the child to be able to establish her identity. But there’s no absolute right to know everything. And there’s a case where it was held that a man (see? men get thought of, too! ;) ) didn’t have to undergo a paternity test to allow someone else to establish her identity (para 34).

    But again, and again, and again, Arden LJ repeats that what is important is the need for the child to have a permanent home as soon as possible. This does not rule out the possibility that she’ll never be able to find (and maybe even establish a relationship with) her father. But what her Ladyship is saying is: what is in the child’s best interests, now and in the long run, is that she has a permanent home sooner rather than later.

    And the man’s right in this case? Relevantly, see para 46:

    ” The prospects of his being a long-term carer are too intangible to justify a delay in making a placement for E.

    It’s not about him being a man. It’s about: there’s no evidence he could do anything. There’s no evidence he’s settled, has time for a kid, has space for a kid, would want a kid.

    That’s really the crux of the case, and what you should all be arguing about :) I’m not saying I completely accept that Arden LJ is right, by the way.

    (by the way, paras 36-38 and 58-60 provide some answer to those of you questioning the dumpster-baby phenomenon)

    I mean, I’m playing devil’s advocate a bit here, partly because I think it’s amusing that you’re all basing your arguments on the Daily Mail report ;) (apologies if you find that offensive … but really, you have to understand the contempt with which the Daily Mail is generally viewed by people in the UK with whom you would generally be able to have a decent argument! I’m not talking political views, here, I’m talking willingness to think!)

    To be honest, I’m not sure where I stand. If the mother wanted to keep the child, I’d flat-out agree with Holly. I may do so anyway, in which case, the answer to Mandolin would have to be: it’s not so much that she was willing to take responsibility for the child as that she wasn’t insisting that the father do so. But that doesn’t really answer the point…

    Still, I don’t think it’s really a man-woman tension, so much as a man-child tension. As I said, there are definitely reasons to disagree with the decision on that basis, too, but don’t go fighting straw English judges ;)

    One final point: I do not think that this judgment says: “men cannot raise children” (particularly given Lawrence Collins LJ’s explict statement on this point!). I think that this judgment says: “in this case, there is no evidence that this man wants to raise this child, and it is in the best interests of this child that she be found a permanent home as soon as possible.”

    But anyway. I’m not really too concerned about convincing anyone. I just wanted to give you access to a bit more detail about the judgment than comes across in the Daily Mail…

  20. 20
    mythago says:

    What Jo said. There’s a reason the Daily Mail didn’t link to the decision, and it’s not because they just didn’t know where to look.

    re “safe harbor” laws, they do not automatically deprive both biological parents of their rights. All “safe harbor” laws do is say that a parent who abandons a child at a safe location will not be prosecuted for doing so.

  21. 21
    Q Grrl says:

    She was 19 when she got pregnant from a male “colleague.” I wouldn’t want that type of man having custody either.

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Jo — Thanks for the link and the additional information.

  23. 23
    Jo Tamar says:

    Amp, no problem, and apologies for the long post! I would have just emailed you with the info, but the “Contact Us” form doesn’t seem to be working???

    For future reference (for anyone), if you want to find English cases, go to http://www.bailii.org

    It’s especially easy to find recent decisions (there’s a link near the top LH corner which says “Recent Decisions List”), although you’ll need to know which court. Otherwise you will need to know at least name of the case or the date AND the court.

  24. 24
    RonF says:

    Hm, Q Grrl, that would be a function of circumstances. After all, the prevalent opinion around here seems to be that a 19-year old female is qualified to a) decide if they want to have sex and b) decide if they want to have a child. I see no particular reason to presume that the male involved in this brought undue influence in either decision.

  25. 25
    RonF says:

    O.K. I’ve read the judgement, at least Lady Justice Arden’s portion of it. Let me quote from it. First we see:

    This appeal concerns a child of a young unmarried mother who was placed for adoption at birth and the question is whether the local authority should make inquiries to see if any of the child’s birth family would be suitable carers. The mother is against it. She did not tell them about her pregnancy or the birth. The father was a one-night stand. The particular features of this case are (i) a young unmarried mother; (ii) a child born as a result of a sexual encounter on one occasion with someone with whom the mother had no other relationship;

    Her statements are given as reason to prevent the father from being notified of the situation and his parental rights to be considered. But then we see this:

    She declined to identify E’s father, although she has given some details. It is likely that he could be identified if the guardian authority made independent enquiries.

    It seems, then, that the Lady Justice Arden is basing her decision on whether or not the father should have any rights in this matter in part on the nature of his relationship with the mother. However, she’s never spoken to him. She has made no attempt to verify that these statements are factual. How is it that the mother’s statements are taken as being true without being independently confirmed? How is it that whether or not someone has rights in a matter can be determined without talking to them?

    Jo, regarding “It’s not about him being a man. It’s about: there’s no evidence he could do anything. There’s no evidence he’s settled, has time for a kid, has space for a kid, would want a kid.” – you’re right. There’s no such evidence. However, there is no evidence to the contrary, either. Shouldn’t some kind of enquiry be made to determine that before a decision based on that supposition be made?

  26. 26
    Q Grrl says:

    I see no particular reason to presume that the male involved in this brought undue influence in either decision.

    You mean other than the fact that she hid the pregnancy from everyone and avoided any medical intervention/advice until she was in labor?

  27. 27
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @Q Grrl

    Yes, because there’s no other reason that a highschool-aged girl would want to conceal a pregnancy from her friends, family, and just quietly wish it would go away on it’s own? Obviously, any reticence about the subject stems from concern about the father.

    /snark.

    I’m sorry, but you seem to be leveling an awful lot of prejudice against the father, while giving the mother the benefit of the doubt. I hate to play the role of the MRA in yet another thread, but don’t you think you might be making some sexist assumptions?

    Yes, it is obviously quite possible that the boy is some poor local slacker of a student who would like nothing better than to have any potential children vanish into the foster system. But it is certainly not a given, and any stereotypes about teen-aged boys are most certainly not a reasonable basis for making legal decisions about who will be raising their children.

  28. 28
    Q Grrl says:

    The use of the word “colleague” (as in co-worker), does make me think that the mother erred correctly on the side of her own judgement in giving this child up for adoption and not wishing to list the biological father as a potential parent. Perhaps it had something to do with the nature of the sexual liason. Perhaps it had something to do with a colleague not noticing that his co-worker, with whom he had slept without presumably using a condom, was pregnant. How does a man not do the math in that circumstance? How does he not notice? There is obviously more to this story than the court handing down a biased opinion about the father in question.

    The mother does get the benefit of the doubt. The father? I don’t know. What makes a father? Ejaculation? Sex? Relationship to the mother? And if the “father” in question can’t be bothered to follow-up with his sexual partners afterwards to ensure that there is or isn’t a pregnancy, does that color the nature of his “fatherhood?”. It’s not like pregnancy is a big mystery – not its mechanics, not its duration, not its outcome.

    Why didn’t this man know? Did he put any effort into finding out the outcome of his ejaculate? Where was his follow-through? What were his expectations?

    This is the nature of pregnancy: it isn’t neatly divided in half into motherhood and fatherhood. It has vast inequalities that need to be addressed maturely and reasonably with the recognition that there are unequal burdens on both parents. If men’s rights activists wish to pursue father’s rights, then they need a broad educational program that addresses male follow-through and male expectations after all intercourse. Men cannot claim they are broadsided by women’s pregnancies and left out of the loop if they don’t follow up on their own sexual activity.

  29. 29
    outlier says:

    I like this ruling, because I don’t think that one night of sex, alone, makes a man a parent in any but the biological sense of the word. Nine months of pregnancy plus childbirth, though, do make a woman a mother, at least in the biological sense, and that physical experience is what gives her the right to decide who should parent her child. (That was a prescriptive statement, not a descriptive one.)

    And if this causes more men to take more responsibility for birth control, then all the better.

  30. 30
    Kevin Moore says:

    My first response was similar to Barry’s and I share his concerns about how such a ruling affects the rights of fathers and the expectations mothers can place upon the men with whom they have conceived a child. As the child of a man who took no responsibility, emotional or financial, I have direct experience of the social and economic burdens such an abandonment of responsibility brings about.

    That said, I think the judge’s reasoning insofar as he considers the emotional well-being of the child is worth taking into the account:

    I need only say a little more about the background. The mother was 19 years old when she became pregnant. She did not realise that she was pregnant until a late stage. She kept her pregnancy a secret from her family. She lives on her own and has her own career. She does not consider that she could look after E. She did not seek medical help until she went into labour. Immediately after E was born, she made it clear that she wanted E placed for adoption. She also said that she did not think that her family could provide E with a home, giving reasons. Her parents were divorced. She had left home after a fight with her mother at the age of 17. She did not consider that she had any meaningful relationship with her father, whom she saw only occasionally. He is critical of her lifestyle. We understand that the mother has siblings but there is no evidence that they might be in a position to take on the care of E. She declined to identify E’s father, although she has given some details. It is likely that he could be identified if the guardian authority made independent enquiries. E is now over four months old and naturally starting to form bonds with the foster parents who are caring for her. Her best interests require that she should as soon as practicable, consistently with the 2002 Act, start to live with a family who can commit to look after her throughout her childhood and with whom she can form lasting relationships.

    I have put bold tags around sentences and phrases relevant to the best welfare interests of the child, which I think surmount the rights of either parents. In this respect, I think the judge is acting in very good faith.

    Here’s the part that bothers me:

    The consent of a parent who does not have parental responsibility is not required: s 52 of the 2002 Act. E’s father has not been named on her birth certificate and he does not have parental responsibility for her. If he were hereafter to obtain parental responsibility, and by then the agency had placed E for adoption under section 19, he would be treated as having given consent when the mother gave consent: s 52(9) and (10). Where a parent with parental responsibility does not consent but the court has power to make an order of its own initiative, the court may decide not to give notice of its intention to make an order to the parent who does not consent: reg 13 of the Family Procedure (Adoption) Rules 2005 (“the 2005 Rules”).

    Well, that’s very “letter of the law” now, isn’t it? What bothers me is that we know nothing of the child’s father. He may be a real asshole. He may be a great father, he may be the best possible placement for the child. Who knows? No one, because only the mother knows who he is and won’t identify him. We could trust her judgment here, but I don’t see a compelling reason why. Certainly she has every right to not like the father, not want anything to do with him, and cut him out of her life. And her perspective regarding the father’s character may be worth consulting. But why does she have any right to deny the father knowledge of the child he helped conceive, if even unwittingly? The technicalities listed above by the judge take place absent a more compelling rights-based, ethics-based reason to deny the biological father the opportunity to assume full parental responsibility. As such, the judge’s decision risks countering the best interests of the child.

  31. 31
    Kevin Moore says:

    I like this ruling, because I don’t think that one night of sex, alone, makes a man a parent in any but the biological sense of the word. Nine months of pregnancy plus childbirth, though, do make a woman a mother, at least in the biological sense, and that physical experience is what gives her the right to decide who should parent her child.

    That’s too general. There are a lot of crappy mothers out there and there are a lot good fathers. I agree that those 9 months are important for a mother’s emotional bonding (having observed the effect on my wife as we were expecting our son), but they are no guarantee that such bonding will occur (quote from my sister-in-law regarding breast-feeding the infant my wife and I later adopted: “Get the thing away from me. That’s disgusting.”)

  32. 32
    William says:

    Hi

    I think that this decision is wrong. I am also sadden by the vein of comments made here about the Father. He never investigated about his child because the Mother never told him!! I do not think that it is the Father’s fault that the Mother did not tell him, she did have 9 months to do so. She made a premeditated decision to keep him in the dark

    Both parents showed a lack of common sense in creating this child, neither one is more worthy to make a decision on the child’s future and the Father did not have a chance to “do the right thing”

    William

  33. 33
    RonF says:

    Q Grrl,

    She was 19 when she got pregnant from a male “colleague.” I wouldn’t want that type of man having custody either.

    The use of the word “colleague” (as in co-worker), does make me think that the mother erred correctly on the side of her own judgement in giving this child up for adoption and not wishing to list the biological father as a potential parent. … Perhaps it had something to do with a colleague not noticing that his co-worker, with whom he had slept without presumably using a condom, was pregnant.

    The decision noted that she had hidden the pregnancy from her fellow employees. Where in the decision is it noted that she was pregnant by a colleague? I did a search on employee, worker and colleague in the decision and could find no such allegation. Have you read the decision?

    And if the “father” in question can’t be bothered to follow-up with his sexual partners afterwards to ensure that there is or isn’t a pregnancy, does that color the nature of his “fatherhood?”

    Again – we don’t know this. This is a representation made by the mother, but there has been no attempt by the court to verify that this is actually the case. It may be that he’s currently in touch with the mother, has offered to participate in parenting the child, but she’s decided against it. Note that the mother is not named in the ruling. For all we know he’s living with her as we speak and has no idea that this is all going on.

    I’m still waiting for someone to tell me why everything this woman has said is being taken at face value with no attempt to verify any of it.

  34. 34
    outlier says:

    Kevin,

    That was IN NO WAY a “mothers are naturally better parents” argument. The point was that the biological realities of giving birth give a mother more rights.

  35. 35
    outlier says:

    For all we know he’s living with her as we speak and has no idea that this is all going on.

    If a man is living with a woman who has been through a pregnancy, given birth, and been caring for an infant for four months and has NO IDEA any of it is going on, I’d seriously question that man’s ability to parent. Or to do anything.

  36. 36
    Myca says:

    . . . she got pregnant from a male “colleague.”

    Where’s the evidence for this?

  37. 37
    RonF says:

    O.K. Fine. Maybe he’s not living with her. But the other things still apply; he could be entirely aware of the pregnancy and has offered to be part of the child’s life.

    Remember, she managed to hide this pregnancy not only from her family but also from her fellow employees, who I presume saw her 4 or 5 times a week throughout the entire pregnancy. Apparently this pregnancy was not at all obvious. Good Lord, about once a year in the Chicago Tribune you’ll read about a case where the MOTHER didn’t know she was pregnant until she went into labor. Or at least makes that claim….

    This ruling is supposed to be based on the best interests of the child. We know one thing for sure about this child; it has a biological mother and a biological father. Pretty much everything else about the father is based purely on unconfirmed allegations from the mother. I think it’s ridiculous to make determinations on what’s best for a child based on hearing from only one of the child’s parents.

    This seems pretty basic to me. It’s one thing to deny someone’s parental rights because their is a basic deficiency in their relationship to the child. It’s quite another to deny them without even determining what that relationship is. The debate here seems to center on what basis a father’s relationship to his child and to her mother can justify denying him parental rights. Why is there no concern as to whether or not what’s been alleged about that relationship is true or not?

  38. 38
    Sailorman says:

    outlier Writes:
    December 3rd, 2007 at 3:34 pm
    If a man is living with a woman who has been through a pregnancy, given birth, and been caring for an infant for four months and has NO IDEA any of it is going on, I’d seriously question that man’s ability to parent. Or to do anything.

    “I’ve been meaning to ask you, honey, but I’ve been busy for the last few months. Anyway, what is this baby doing here? Are you working as a nanny these days? And… hey! You’ve lost that pot belly! Why are you looking at me like that?…”

    Heh.

    What i don’t get here is the apparent level of trust involved. Since when do we trust any one single individual (in this case the mom) to make that sort of call? Doesn’t make sense.

    I am wondering if the judge secretly knows who the father is, and also knows he’s in jail for rape or somethin’

  39. 39
    Radfem says:

    If it’s not listed who the father is or anything about him or much about the mother for that matter, how does anyone know what the exact circumstances are? I was kind of wondering the same thing that Sailorman stated if there’s some factual information that is being withheld from the public that the judge might know.

    Is this a specific decision for a specific case based on circumstances that aren’t being completely disclosed or is this a more general, broadly applied decision by the judge? That’s what I’d like to know before I know what to really make of the judge’s decision and his words.

  40. 40
    Jo Tamar says:

    Kevin, you’re right, the decision is very legalistic, especially that para you cite, and I agree that it’s probably the most disturbing part (from a moral point of view, at least) in the judgment. I thought about making it more clear in my post, but decided it was already too long, and that it wasn’t really the point I was trying to make (or the judge for that matter).

    Just a note on the nature of this case, which I maybe should have explained before: this is the Court of Appeal, not the court making the initial decision, so there are actually more limitations on what they can do. The only question they are supposed to be able to answer is: did the judge at first instance make a mistake in law or not? (that’s also why it appears pretty legalistic) The Court of Appeal CANNOT do fact-finding, except in special circumstances. That’s why there’s a lot about “there’s no evidence of …” and so on and so forth. The Court *could* have remitted it back to the original court for further determination, but in light of the circumstances, ie that it held that it was in the best interests of the child to be permanently placed as soon as possible, and remittal would have caused more delay, it would potentially have frustrated the decision, and judges are meant to try to make decisions which can actually be acted upon.

    And by the way, Radfem: LADY Justice Arden. HER words. :p~~~ ;)

    (yes, we may still be in a patriarchy, but thankfully, they’ve allowed us some female judges these days. ;) I used to work for one – though not in the UK. I took great delight, when people asked me “so what do you do” “I work for a judge” “oh, so what’s he like?” “SHE’s …” ;) )

    Hmm. I think something else that is affecting my view of this case: I think our societies in general are faaaaaar too fixated on biological parenthood. (I also think we’re – still – way too fixated on the nuclear family with two parents, preferably one of each gender, preferably fitting into somewhat defined roles. But that, at least, is likely to be less true at this blog than elsewhere! ;) Having seen the responses to this judgment, I’m not so sure that the first fixation is any less here than elsewhere ;) )

    Again, I’m not interested in convincing anyone that my view is right, and it’s far too late here for me to try to set up a reasoned argument in support of my view (which is not, by the way, that nuclear biological families are bad, just that they’re not necessarily the be-all and end-all). But it seems to me that a lot of people here had a huge gut reaction against this judgment, and that’s mainly why I came out of lurking (that, and the Daily Mail thing). So a couple of questions for all of you, and then I’m off to bed:

    Why are you so hung up on the biological fact of fatherhood outweighing, say, a couple of months (or even a few weeks) of someone looking after this child, and the emotional bond they may have formed?

    Why do you presume that it would be better for this child to be with her biological father? Even if you assume all else is equal?

    And a hypothetical for you: What if a lesbian couple planned to have a child together – let’s say (to make it interesting/make sense) that one couldn’t have children biologically, but desperately wanted children; the other was only keen because the first was (ie more than happy to have a child since her partner so desperately wanted one, but didn’t want to bear the primary responsibility, post-birth). They decided to go ahead, with the second woman as the biological mother. They asked several male friends of theirs to donate sperm so that nobody but them would know who the father was, but they chose one somehow (and knew which one, so they could tell their child if she wanted to know). Then let’s say the non-biological mother dies while the biological mother is pregnant, and the biological mother decides to carry the child to term but does not want to keep her. Her own family have disowned her because she’s gay, and she doesn’t want to give them the chance to screw up her child. She doesn’t want to tell the sperm donors which is the father, even though she could identify which one he was, and refuses to reveal to the guardian at litem/court who the donor set were. She wants the child to be adopted.

    What should happen?

    And more: if you’re all right, and biological parenthood should trump everything: what if a donor to a sperm bank decides to exercise parental rights over children he fathers?

    (Ok, I guess that’s a bit different, since a sperm donor must be aware that his sperm may be used to fertilise an egg and hopefully end up with a child, but he never really knows! Plus he probably signs some sort of waiver of rights. But hey, we’re talking about what the law *should* be … and arguably, any sex act may end up with a fertilised egg and maybe, eventually, a child … not so sure that no attempt to contact a sex partner after a one night stand is necessarily a total waiver of parental rights … but I guess it depends on the circumstances, and it’s certainly arguable!)

    Disclaimer: I have no idea what it is like to be an adopted child. I treasure certain things about my relationship with my family which I suspect are genetic – but I treasure just as much certain things which I suspect are environmental. I cannot comprehend how this would be different if I were adopted. However, my gut feeling is that it is better for a child to be adopted by people who really want you rather than taken care of by someone who feels forced into it. If anybody would care to set me straight on this, please do!

  41. 41
    Joe says:

    Well, it’s good that they seem to be focusing on the well being of the child. But, damn. I hope they have some information that I don’t about the father. Absent that I really feel bad for the father.

  42. 42
    Kevin Moore says:

    That was IN NO WAY a “mothers are naturally better parents” argument. The point was that the biological realities of giving birth give a mother more rights.

    Okay, I understand you better. And I agree, the disproportionate imbalance of the reproductive burden – especially the use of her body by another human being to grow – grants more rights to the mother than the father in early stages of the child’s life. And there are all of the social and cultural expectations placed upon the mother (unfairly or not) that derive from this imbalance. It would be unfair to place such expectations upon her without granting her the power to fulfill them in some way.

    Nonetheless, do these rights include completely cutting out the biological father? If so, why and how? Are there limitations? To me, the overriding limitation is the best interest of the child. We don’t know if the father in question in this case would be a good parent or not, and it would seem arbitrary to leave the sole determination of that appraisal to a single individual, that being the mother in this case. Again, he could be a great dad, he could suck. We don’t know. Another troubling aspect of this case is that the State has deprived the father of parental rights without making any determination of his parental fitness, and without even notifying him. He is deprived of parenthood without even being aware of it. That is creepy and weird to do to any human being.

  43. 43
    Kevin Moore says:

    Why are you so hung up on the biological fact of fatherhood outweighing, say, a couple of months (or even a few weeks) of someone looking after this child, and the emotional bond they may have formed?

    This was one aspect of the judge’s reasoning I found commendable, that the judge recognized the importance of the emotional bond formed between child and foster parents. Nonetheless, the child will grow up and start to ask questions about his/her parents (I forget the child’s sex); I’ve known a lot of bitter children of adoption who went through tough periods of self-identity crisis, and I have had my own as a teenager related to my own father’s absence. So I think offering both child and father to have a chance of getting to know each other, to have that option on the table, is worth making.

    Why do you presume that it would be better for this child to be with her biological father? Even if you assume all else is equal?

    Well, I personally don’t presume that. But it seems the biological father – in this case and in general – should have some rights, some say in this matter. Speaking as a father, I would be heartbroken if I was cut out of my children’s lives, and they wouldn’t like it either.

    And it is hard to qualify what would be “better.” A loving family is the ideal, and that family could be grandparents, a lesbian or gay couple, a whole village, what-have-you. But this case seems to have wily-nily, on mostly technical grounds, terminated parental rights of a person who was in absentia and, for that matter, completely in the dark.

    Then let’s say the non-biological mother dies while the biological mother is pregnant, and the biological mother decides to carry the child to term but does not want to keep her. Her own family have disowned her because she’s gay, and she doesn’t want to give them the chance to screw up her child. She doesn’t want to tell the sperm donors which is the father, even though she could identify which one he was, and refuses to reveal to the guardian at litem/court who the donor set were. She wants the child to be adopted.

    That’s a complicated case, and certainly not improbable (sadly, what with all the homophobia in the world.) But I think the sperm donors would not have an interest here, because it is understood that the donation is made with no expectation of parental rights. And that would be a very important aspect of the conversations the lesbian couple would have with the donors, because that is one thing you don’t want to leave unsaid. Even if they had stayed together and raised the child, they don’t want some sperm donor telling them their parental business. I know one guy who backed out of sperm donation when he was told by his lesbian friends that he would not have a say in how the child was raised.

  44. 44
    Charles says:

    Kevin,

    But it seems the biological father – in this case and in general – should have some rights, some say in this matter. Speaking as a father, I would be heartbroken if I was cut out of my children’s lives, and they wouldn’t like it either.

    But you are speaking as a functional father, not as a biological father (indeed, in part specifically not as a biological father). Speaking as someone who is not a father, I know that I would be deeply disturbed (really, mostly shamed) if I discovered that I had unwittingly fathered a child who was then put up for adoption (or simply raise by the child’s mother without my knowledge), but I would certainly not be heart-broken over not knowing a child I don’t know. Do your feelings towards your own children truly translate into feeling that you would feel heartbroken if you were cut out of the lives of children you have never known, merely because the were your biological children?

    As a larger point, it seems to me that the fact that the father is completely unaware of the child is the most significant factor in the case, and the decision as it stands seems to me to be the correct decision. The opposite decision is what leads to the horrific cases (there were several famous cases of this in the 90′s) in which a man discovers years after the fact that he fathered a child that was put up for adoption, and then pursues custody and wins, depriving a child of their actual family in favor of their accidental sperm donor.

    If the British courts required the woman giving the child up for adoption to state the name of the father of the child, she could just as easily lie and claim not to know who the father was, or find an accomplice willing to claim to be the father and ok with the adoption. While doing either of those things would obviously be fraud (the first one much harder to prove), they would be very difficult frauds to catch or prove. So the main effect of the opposite decision would be to push women in this situation to commit fraud rather than being able to openly state that they know who the father is but don’t want him to be informed of the existence of the child. The main effect would not be to give unwitting fathers significantly more say in the decisions around their unknown children.

    If the mother had not decided to give up the child, but had simply moved away from the area where the unknowning father lived, the father would not have any less rights. Is there anyone here who thinks that the mother should be prevented from doing that instead?

  45. 45
    Tara says:

    I think that forcing women to identify the fathers of their children is problematic.

    Generally, as a feminist, I would assume that a woman has a good reason for that omission.

    Besides, what are you going to do to force her to reveal it? Threaten her with jail or loss of custody? What if she doesn’t know? Or she knows but has good reason to be fearful about the revelation? Or she knows, but just does not want to tell?

    Would you force her to reveal all the names of her (appropriately timed) sex partners and go after them for mandatory genetic testing? Ask her friends and family for gossip about who she was sleeping with, if she’s recalcitrant? Maybe just in case she’s on the young side, test all her male relatives too, since incest is such an unfortunately common problem?

    Forcing a woman to reveal the father of her child is backwards and potentially barbaric. Furthermore, if there’s a contest between a woman’s right to have her private life protected against the government, and a man’s right to force a woman to reveal that a child resulted from their sex acts, I know which side I come down on.

    Forcing a father to pay child support for a child conceived in a one night stand is NOT about mothers’ rights, about the rights and best interests of the child. As far as I’m concerned, you’d have to make a pretty strong case about the best interests of a particular child to justify the deprivation of human rights suggested here. That’s what the court said as well, and it didn’t find a justification in this case.

  46. 46
    Xanphia says:

    ‘What?!’ was my first reaction…It takes two to tango, in which case both parties should know if there is a baby in the equasion. However, if he didn’t stick around, that kind of negates the possiblility of a father raising the child.

    But also, the original intent of sex is reproduction, so if you play with fire, you may get burned. The whole concept of the participants in “one-night-stand” pregnancies not being responsible is an issue. There are already enough cases of people not taking responsibility for their actions. If one is going to play with such fire, then they should be prepared to feel the possible burn. I realize that this is probably not the first thing that goes through the mind in the heat of the moment, but what happened to responsibility? I am not out to get on people’s cases about having such encounters, but if “one night stands” are what one desires, then they should know and prepared to face the consequences and not use abortion or adoption as “birth control”

  47. 47
    Mandolin says:

    Xanphia, I sincerely hope your next comment on this site will be more interesting.

  48. 48
    Joe says:

    Forcing a woman to reveal the father of her child is backwards and potentially barbaric. Furthermore, if there’s a contest between a woman’s right to have her private life protected against the government, and a man’s right to force a woman to reveal that a child resulted from their sex acts, I know which side I come down on.

    How about the child’s right to know who their biological father is?

    Also, there are other ways to find the father than forcing her to name him with jail. For all we know she’d have volunteered the name as soon as she found out they were going to investigate, or not. Also, we know nothing about this guy other than that (like everyone else in her life) he didn’t know she was pregnant and that he disapproved of her lifestyle. Whatever that means. Could mean he’s a religious nut. Could mean he wanted her to stop drinking 2L. Of off brand gin every weekend. Could mean nothing at all.

    As a human being I think they should have made an effort to find out more about him before they severed his rights to raise the child.

    Maybe he’s as crass and nasty as some have suggested.
    Maybe he’s a great guy with a good future who would make a wonderful father. All we know is that the mother didn’t want him to know. But since she didn’t want anyone to know I’m guessing that either
    1. She thought he was such a monster she’d do anything to avoid him.
    2. She doesn’t want anyone to know and if he finds out her secret (the baby) would be common knowledge.

  49. 49
    Yohan says:

    This court ruling is no surprise to me, it is basically the same legal situation we have here in Europe.

    Father’s rights are rather limited anyway, but the father for sure has no rights during pregnancy and also no rights immediately after the birth. She might carry out the child or prefer abortion, she might accept the child or give it away for adoption…her choice only.

    In this case, where a woman is insisting to give away her newborn for adoption, it is for sure the best for the child to accept her wish.

    There is always a waiting list of people interested in adopting children.

    If this man is able to be a good father? No idea, anyway strange to me that a woman might be pregnant, and her boyfriend does not even notice that…

    Legally seen, there is no obligation for the pregnant woman to inform anybody about her condition or intention, not even the husband and not even the parents in case the pregnant girl is still a minor. Even a minor might go ahead with abortion and adoption without informing anybody.
    This is EU-law, maybe legal situation in USA might be different.

  50. 50
    RonF says:

    Forcing a woman to reveal the father of her child is backwards and potentially barbaric.

    Why? Now, as long as it’s a private matter, I’d say maybe. But the mother has chosen to make this a public matter.

    Now, a hypothetical case. Let’s say that this child doesn’t get adopted, and we end being asked to support the child with our tax money. The mother has effectively decided to transfer the obligation to support this child from herself and it’s father to all of us. What gives her that right?

    It’s also barbaric and backwards (and potentially harmful to the child) to not notify the father that he is, in fact, a father.

    Presuming, of course, that he is not in fact so informed. Once again: why is it that this judge and apparently a great many people here presume that the mother is telling the truth? Since when is it the practice in courts to take the unsupported word of anyone for anything? Especially something this important.

  51. 51
    raggedrobin says:

    Tara, Ron:

    Forcing a woman to reveal the father of her child is backwards and potentially barbaric.

    Why?

    This is a matter of settled law, at least in the UK – there is no serious suggestion that a woman should be coerced into revealing the father of her child. The issue here arose because the guardian ad litem in this case thought she could and should identify the father without the mother’s help.
    That still raises some serious questions, of course, but the law already recognises the validity of many of Tara’s concerns.

  52. 52
    Jo Tamar says:

    Wow. I swear I didn’t know about this before I made my last post! A lesbian couple asked a male friend for a sperm donation; he agreed; they split up; he’s now being chased for child support.

    (doesn’t seem to be an actual court case, just that the administrative body charged with sorting out child support has gone after him for the money, and he’s sold his story to the papers)

    And it looks like there are proposals to change the law.

    I think this is interesting – it has implications for surrogacy arrangements (for gay and straight couples) as well as for gay couples in this situation.

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  54. 53
    Silenced is foo says:

    @Jo

    MRAs love that one, but there’s more than meets the eye to it. Apparently, the pseudo-father was a close friend of the couple, and made himself involved in the child’s life. Because of that involvement, they claim that he is acting as a functional father, not simply a sperm-donor.

    No idea if it has merit. But that’s a little more reasonable than “some lesbians asked for my semen so they could make themselves a baby, and the next thing I know they’re hitting me up for CS”.

    Also, for the ladies involved, please keep in mind that, much like men and pregnancy, this is one of those “you can’t know what this feels like” bits. A woman always knows who her children are – they’re the ones she gave birth to. That is both a burden and an asset. Men don’t have that guarantee – we rely on external tools (social, legal, and technological) to inform us of who our children are. You can’t take those tools away lightly.

  55. 54
    Jo Tamar says:

    @Silenced
    Oh, don’t worry, I wasn’t taking it as gospel, really just laughing at the life-imitates thing, ie that it was relatively close to my hypothetical :) PLUS as a fact scenario/hypothetical – completely apart from whether he actually *is* being chased for child support or not – it’s interesting, the “what should happen” thing. As I said, has interesting implications for surrogacy, too. In fact, this whole discussion does.

    (I should have made it more clear that he is selling his story to the papers, and when people do that, I have a tendency to assume that they are presenting their side of the story, and so also tend to take whatever they say with a huge grain of salt! But I didn’t make that clear because I thought people would be more interested in the fact situation (or the potential fact situation) than in whether I believed the guy or not :) To be honest, I read the article several times looking for the catch, the bit that said “biological parents who are asked to pay child support may appeal the ruling on the basis that …” and something to do with involvement, but it wasn’t there. Possibly because of what you said, that he had actually been involved! Although, like you, I’m not so sure that that argument has merit – wouldn’t be more like some kind of uncle in that situation?)

  56. 55
    Tara says:

    Also, there are other ways to find the father than forcing her to name him with jail. For all we know she’d have volunteered the name as soon as she found out they were going to investigate, or not.

    This statement doesn’t make sense. You’re still talking about coercing her with the threat of ‘investigation.’ For the investigation to have enough teeth to scare her to spill before it even starts, it would presumably need to be prepared to take some of the invasive steps I mentioned.

    How about the child’s right to know who their biological father is?

    There are people who are arguing for this right for children. I don’t think it’s completely without merit, but, once again, it has to be balanced against the mother’s right to her private life/privacy. Finally, if this is the end goal, there may be other ways to achieve it.

    For example, if the government *is* willing to suspend citizens’ rights to privacy for the sake of this right, it could create a DNA bank and mandate DNA testing, then when the child is 18, it could request a paternity finding. (I think that’s pretty heinous also, but if this right supersedes a person’s right to privacy, it shouldn’t only be mothers’ rights sacrificed!)

    But this right could also be seen as forming part of the bundle of ‘best interests of the child,’ which may be the better analysis. In that case, the balancing of rights should be treated the same way as it was in this case – is there a strong enough benefit to the child from knowing the identity of the father now (when the baby, at 4 months old, doesn’t yet even really have the *capacity* to know) that it justifies violating the mother’s right to private life? The baby could always come back when it’s a teenager or adult, and ask the court to make the decision again – at least in Canada, decisions regarding children and their best interests are always reviewable.

    Why? Now, as long as it’s a private matter, I’d say maybe. But the mother has chosen to make this a public matter.

    Now, a hypothetical case. Let’s say that this child doesn’t get adopted, and we end being asked to support the child with our tax money. The mother has effectively decided to transfer the obligation to support this child from herself and it’s father to all of us. What gives her that right?

    This hypothetical also works if the mother were to refuse to name the father, raise the child herself, and then apply for some sort of government entitlement for herself and the child if they were in poverty.

    First of all, I would say that the existence of that hypothetical case needn’t have an impact on this case, since here the baby did have an adoptive home.

    Secondly, your argument assumes that the best financial interests of society take precedence over the best interests of the child. I’d be wary with that assumption.

    Finally, as far as I remember, the USA did try to put your argument into action – requiring women to name the father of their children as a prerequisite to receiving government assistance. Of course, this holds the child hostage against a state interest. Should we really take for granted that the best interest of the child in getting government assistance/adequate support really less urgent than the best interests of the state in getting its assistance costs reimbursed by the child’s biological father?

    It’s also barbaric and backwards (and potentially harmful to the child) to not notify the father that he is, in fact, a father.

    Presuming, of course, that he is not in fact so informed. Once again: why is it that this judge and apparently a great many people here presume that the mother is telling the truth? Since when is it the practice in courts to take the unsupported word of anyone for anything? Especially something this important.

    In terms of barbarism – how is it barbaric? What invasion of the father’s rights, morally or physically, takes place?

    In terms of the best interests of the child, what you’re discussing here really is a balancing exercise that would have to be decided separately in every single case. Which is what the court did here.

    You seem to be assuming that the court of first instance wasn’t competent to weigh the credibility of the evidence and testimony presented. I don’t see any obvious reason to question that competence, especially since the court of appeals also upheld its judgment. What is your reason?

  57. 56
    Q Grrl says:

    Men don’t have that guarantee – we rely on external tools (social, legal, and technological) to inform us of who our children are. You can’t take those tools away lightly.

    We don’t, but it would be nice to see men actually use them prior to a birth, rather than in a nostalgic hindsight. If men are that invested in fatherhood – that a one-night stand that results in a child suddenly calls up a sense of paternal instinct – then the precautions men need to take to ensure the sanctity of their fatherhood come long before a birth. Men need to responsibly use birth control and men need to follow-up with their sexual partners – not wait around assuming no conception happened.

    There’s a post up-thread whining about how the woman never “told” the father about the pregnancy. One would think that in a world where fatherhood is so sacrosanct, yet hard to determine (?), men would not wait to be told anything. One would assume responsibility and action on the man’s part (telephone calls work nicely), to inquire about the outcome of their own ejaculate.

    Either that or acknowledge that once a man ejaculates, his rights regarding pregnancy and the outcomes of pregnancy drop dramatically. Once a man ejaculates he becomes tertiary, not secondary, not equal, not a partner, to/with the pregnancy. It’s a common misconception (hah!), that the primary relationship is mother-father. The primary relationship is woman-pregnancy or mother-child.

  58. 57
    Tara says:

    Men don’t have that guarantee – we rely on external tools (social, legal, and technological) to inform us of who our children are. You can’t take those tools away lightly.

    These ‘tools’, to the extent they exist in law, are as much a function of power as of rights, and have in fact often relied on the ability and willingness to violate women’s human rights. The tools that *do not* infringe on another’s human rights are not being taken away.

  59. 58
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @Tara

    If you had a child you did not know about, and people actively went out of their way to conceal that fact from you, would you not see that as a violation of your rights?

    Yes, sometimes rights do conflict with each other. We have to weigh the mother’s right to privacy against the father’s right to be a parent to his child (or to, at the very least, know that he is the parent of the child). Both these rights exist – to deny either of them is barbaric. So at some point, we have to admit that one of them has to get compromised. Personally, I choose the privacy one, because the woman already consented to have sex with the father. She’s already given him her most intimate consent.

    Sex has responsibilities. Everyone knows this. By consenting to sex, the father has a responsibility to the child and to the mother to support any child that could come of it. The mother, likewise, has the responsibility to either care for or terminate any pregnancy that results. Why should the mother’s responsibility to the father vanish? Obviously, if both parents agree that he has no business being a father, then by all means leave him out – but why should the mother get to make that decision unilaterally?

    Obviously, because of the biological processes of pregnancy and childbirth, a mother does get more power over the child than the father does. She invests her whole body into the process, and assumes a great physical risk to bring the child to term.

    But that process doesn’t magically make the father into a non-person who only exists when she says he does.

  60. 59
    RonF says:

    You seem to be assuming that the court of first instance wasn’t competent to weigh the credibility of the evidence and testimony presented. I don’t see any obvious reason to question that competence, especially since the court of appeals also upheld its judgment. What is your reason?

    My reason is that it’s a novelty to me that a court would take person A’s unsupported word regarding person B’s character and actions as the truth. Especially when person B is alive and presumably able to speak for themselves. I can’t see how any court or even any person can say “Oh, for sure she’s telling the truth on this”, especially when she went to such lengths to hide her pregnancy from her family and co-workers.

    Consider the reverse situation. A man shows up with an infant child and says “I’m the father of this child. I’d like to put it up for adoption. I don’t want the mother notified – she’s unfit. Oh, and I refuse to give her name.” What would happen?

    The father is being discounted here as not making an effort to be involved in this child’s life. But we have only the mother’s word for that. He’s being denied the chance to present evidence to the contrary. We already know that she has gone to great effort to deceive her family and her colleagues. It seems to me that it is in the best interests of the child to verify that her representations regarding the father are true. A father would not be allowed to hide a child from a mother, deny her her rights and then put it up for adoption without at least talking to her about it. Why is a mother permitted to do this? The general presumption is that unless there’s specific evidence to their unfitness a child should be in the custody of a biological parent. Why is the mother being permitted to unilaterally proclaim the father unfit? I think society owes it to the child to find out for sure.

  61. 60
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @RonF

    The problem is that you can’t reverse the genders of these kinds of things without changing the facts. The “mother I don’t want to notify” has physically given birth to this child after carrying it to term over the course of nine months. She’s doubtlessly aware of her motherhood, so that case implies kidnapping.

    I agree that the ruling is wrong, but switching the genders is an apples-to-oranges comparison – which is why it’s physically impossible to make the laws surrounding reproduction “fair”.

    The only way the reverse case could happen would require some extremely weird circumstances – like stealing eggs from a fertility lab, or something. For a woman, the idea of having a child you didn’t physically bring to term is bizarre. Childbirth is, culturally speaking, inextricably part of the essence of motherhood. For a man, on the other hand, the process is far more abstract, and relies a great deal on trust.

    Because of that, we’re pretty touchy about that trust being violated.

  62. 61
    ed says:

    How is it a violation of a woman’s right to privacy to reveal who fathered her child if she didn’t want the world to know she had a sexual relationship with him, but not a violation of a man’s right to privacy to be fingered as a father if he didn’t want the world to know he had a sexual relationship with the woman?

  63. 62
    joe says:

    This statement doesn’t make sense. You’re still talking about coercing her with the threat of ‘investigation.’ For the investigation to have enough teeth to scare her to spill before it even starts, it would presumably need to be prepared to take some of the invasive steps I mentioned.

    @ tara, We’re getting really hypothetical but…it’s possible that she would have volunteered the name of the father as soon as they told her they were going to look for him. Or not. It’s possible that she dated the father for 6 months and it would take one question to one of her friends to figure it out. Or not. It’s possible that the father, despite being a man of loose morals who had a one night stand would love the child dearly and feel proud to be the father. Or not. It’s possible that she didn’t accurately represent the situation to the court. Or not. It’s possible that she has only a vague idea who the father is, and that it could be one of several men and almost impossible to determine. Or not.

    I think the mothers right to privacy extends to not being compelled to help the investigation. I don’t think it extends to not having any investigation at all. So no, imho, don’t put her in jail. But do take some reasonable steps to locate the father.

    @ Qgrrrl, your position really seems to dismiss the role of men in raising children. It also seems to be pretty harsh to the father because it was described as a one night stand. Do you old similarly dismissive opinions of women who have casual sex?

  64. 63
    Tara says:

    @Silenced,

    Your suggestion, that once a woman consents to sex with a man, she gives up on all her rights with regards to him (and, in this case, the government), is a very traditional one but also abhorrent. No, no, no, and no. Consenting to sex does not equal a forfeiture of other rights!

    (not to mention that this argument could go the other way just as easily: once a man consents to sex with a woman, he forfeits his ‘property rights’ in his sperm. If he didn’t trust her/their relationship, he shouldn’t have given her his most intimate consent).

    As for the father’s right to know about his biological children – this is meaningless without a legal obligation on women to disclose paternity – and that gets us back into the ugliness of my original post; threats of legal consequences, invasion of privacy, etc. Without resorting to your suggestion that consent to sex equals forfeiture of human rights, how would you justify preferring the father’s right every single time this issue comes up?

  65. 64
    Megalodon says:

    The “mother I don’t want to notify” has physically given birth to this child after carrying it to term over the course of nine months. She’s doubtlessly aware of her motherhood, so that case implies kidnapping.

    How does it necessarily imply kidnapping? If there is no kidnapping or missing child report, why make this assumption on behalf of the hypothetical absent mother? The father surrendering the child may say, “The mother gave me the baby after she gave birth and said she didn’t want anything to do with it and it was my responsibility. Take my word of it. No need for any investigation or verification.”

    He might be telling the truth, or the mother may be hysterically searching for her kidnapped infant, or she might be murdered and lying in a shallow grave, at the father’s hand. I think the state has an obligation of diligent search before it quiets the hypothetical mother’s parental claim.

    Persons are suggesting that the hypothetical father’s absence can and should be construed as evidence of his negligence, lack of interest, and lack of fitness, and so his absence or lack of declaration in the matter obviates any need to search for him. However, when the hypothetical mother is absent, we are quick to assume that her absence ought to be construed as evidence of wrongdoing inflicted upon her (kidnapping) or excusable incapability to declare her existence and parental claim. Do you think the inequality of birth burden justifies this different presumption scheme?

  66. 65
    Silenced is Foo says:

    @Tara

    The man is likewise forfeiting similar rights when he consents to sex – after all, if she has a child, isn’t he suddenly bound to them? You know they throw men in prison for non-payment of child support, right? So no, I’m not being unfair.

    and @Megalodon

    Yes, I realize I was ignoring the possibility of the woman allowing the man to take the child. My point about it being an apples-to-oranges comparison is that the man could be oblivious to the situation, while the woman cannot. But yes, suggesting kidnapping as the default assumption was silly of me.

  67. 66
    raggedrobin says:

    RonF

    The debate here seems to center on what basis a father’s relationship to his child and to her mother can justify denying him parental rights.

    No.

    The ruling does discuss the conditions under which a man has a right under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to “respect for his family life” with a child.

    But Article 8 is not the legal source of parental responsibilities (your “parental rights”), which are much more sharply defined. If a man has parental responsibility for a child, the child cannot be adopted without his consent, and as you suggest, one needs good reasons under law to take away his parental status.

    But the man in this case has never had parental responsibility for this child, so there is no automatic requirement to involve him in the decision (I think this is actually where your main disagreement with British law comes in – you think he should be automatically told so that he has the option of accepting full parental responsibilities, right?).

    But while it’s clear that, as a matter of law, he does not have parental responsibility, the question arises, for Arden, whether there are other reasons why he must, or should be identified and told about E (or why the grandparents should be told, or why the guardian should try to identify the father so that E might later be told).

    It’s here that Article 8 might become relevant, but as far as the bio-dad is concerned, the precedents are clear. He doesn’t have anything we can call a “family life” with E, just bare biological relatedness and a bunch of maybes – and that’s not what article 8 protects (para 32). This is all that Arden meant when she gave the Daily Mail its lede by saying (para 39) that the court could “not violate his Convention rights under art 8 because he has no right to be violated.”

    Again, even if he did have an article 8 right, that wouldn’t give him parental responsibility (the standards and procedures for which are clear and distinct) – he still wouldn’t necessarily have to be told, much less asked for permission, for E to be adopted. If he had an Article 8 right, the court would need to address it somehow – perhaps overriding it in the interests of the child; since he doesn’t, the issue can be set aside.

  68. 67
    james says:

    [double post, sorry]

  69. 68
    james says:

    Forcing a father to pay child support for a child conceived in a one night stand is NOT about mothers’ rights, about the rights and best interests of the child. As far as I’m concerned, you’d have to make a pretty strong case about the best interests of a particular child to justify the deprivation of human rights suggested here.

    The irony here is that because the child is being adopted, the mother is going to have her child support responsibilities voided. (Actually, let’s put the moralistic overtones back in – the mother doesn’t have to pay child support for a “child conceived in a one night stand”, urgh, how disgustingly slatternly is that?). Whereas if the father had got to raise the child she’d have had to pay up. So if she wants to keep the child he’d have had to pay child support, and if she doesn’t want the child she doesn’t have to pay child support. Now that doesn’t seem quite fair.

    I actually think the ruling’s good news. Twenty years ago it wouldn’t have come to court, because the local authority wouldn’t have even considered the father might be an appropriate caregiver. It’s actually an issue because people think fathers can be caregivers. It’s a small step, but in another twenty years I think we’ll be getting a very different outcome.

  70. 69
    Maggie says:

    I think the court’s ruling is very feminist. By forcing the woman to disclose the identity of the sperm donor, the court would have interfered with her decision to put the baby up for adoption. If the sperm donor has the power to decide that she should not put the baby up for adoption how long would it be before sperm donors are allowed to decide if the woman they impregnated could terminate the pregnancy or not?

    If that man wants to be a father, he will find a way to make that happen, but it seems to me that it is much better for the child to go to a home with parents that want a child enough to go through the difficult process of adoption.

  71. 70
    bean says:

    IMO, this situation and a number of similar situations are far too complicated to make any sort of sweeping generalizations. And, as someone else pointed out, we probably shouldn’t be basing our opinions on what was printed in the Daily Mail. There’s always more to the story — just like that “sperm donor required to pay child support,” one — he wasn’t just a sperm donor, he identified himself as the father, directly to the child. He spent time with the child, and after they moved, he continued to send cards and gifts to the child — signing them as the father. I’m not saying that makes it a clear-cut case against him; but when you hear the whole story, it really isn’t about a poor sperm donor’s rights being infringed on, the way the headlines would like you to believe.

    Sometimes I think we’re too reliant on a one-size-fits-all legal system. Unfortunately, that sort of system often harms as many people as it helps. Take for example the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (an issue I am highly invested in because of my job). Sure, it’s great when it’s used as it was intended — to keep parents who do not have legal and physical sole custody of the child(ren) from running off to another country and applying for custody there, or simply hiding, etc.* This international treaty makes it that less possible — requiring participating countries to return jurisdiction of any custody case to the country of habitual residence (where the child has been living, regardless of citizenship). That’s all well and good (and, admittedly, necessary), until you see the victims of the one-size-fits-all nature of the Hague Convention — the children who are returned to abusers; the women (and men) who are forced to choose between staying with their abuser in a foreign country or leaving their children behind with said abuser (there is not currently any defense for domestic violence in the Convention).

    And what do we do with the cases where neither parent nor child is to blame for the situation, but someone, somewhere has to make a decision that deprive one person of their “rights?” Should biological ties always be more important? And I don’t just mean, “should we allow a rapist or abuser access to the child.” I mean, what if you have a decent guy (by all accounts) who unwittingly impregnated a woman without his knowledge or consent. But wait — she’s a decent women (by all accounts) as well — she didn’t grab a condom out of the trash and inseminate herself. She and her husband went to the fertility clinic, requested IVF from an ANONYMOUS sperm donor. The clinic screws up, gives her the sperm that the aforementioned decent guy donated to be used to impregnate his girlfriend. Should his rights as father be denied? Should her (and her husband) be FORCED to co-parent a child with someone against their will? Should he have never been told? Should she have been forced to have an abortion (against her religious beliefs)?

    Sometimes I think the idea of “biology above all else” has been taken way too far in this culture. Other times, I think too many people want to change the rules to accommodate their own (racist and ethnocentric) purposes.

    *No, this is not about the Not Without My Daughter lady. While there are certainly some similarties, the fact remains that Iran (nor, for that matter, any Middle Eastern country, with the exception of Israel) is not a member of the Hague Convention. This is primarily for “Western” countries.

  72. 71
    William says:

    Hi

    I think that some of the Language used in this thread was not intended to add to the discussion, but rather just to stir things up.

    Men are more than Sperm Donors like Women are more than Sperm receptacles. The Woman in this article is just as bad a parent as the Man in this article. Neither on did their duties as Parents/Adults.

    William

  73. 72
    Zakia says:

    I can’t fathom how people, especially women, can image its somehow a man’s fault that he had a one night stand and didn’t , ” follow up” with the women to see if their was a pregnancy. Are sexual encounters suppose to technical matters requiring appointments, contracts, and follow ups.

    And what makes the mother a better mother just because she got pregnant? She was irresponsible in getting pregnant herself and now shirking the responsibility of a child because she wanted to have a one night stand. Women need to stop acting like giving birth elevates them above men. We’ve been doing it for centuries, animals do it. .Its not the fault of men that they can’t carry a child. IT should NOT be used as a basis to deny any man the right of knowledge of his child. What he does with it is another store. But he should know ESPECIALLY if that child is going to be given away.

    A lot of sexist talk against men on these comments. As a woman I’m frankly sick of it.

  74. 73
    A.J. Luxton says:

    I agree with the ruling, but not the wording of the reason.

    I’d have liked much better something along the lines of, “Custody rights are based on involvement, among other things, and it can be judged that nine months of involvement outweigh one day of involvement by such a significant factor that this one day does not provide sufficient leverage to interfere with the mother’s choices.”

  75. 74
    Silenced is Foo says:

    Just was looking back at this thread since it’s related to the “Men’s Choice” thread, and imho is a far more interesting debate (and reasonable one too).

    @A.J. Luxton

    The problem is that it’s not the father’s choice to have that little involvement. For all anyone knows, he could be a perfectly decent guy who wants to financially support the mother’s greater needs that occur during pregnancy, thus making him a similarly involved parent.

    But if she never tells him about it, then he never gets that opportunity.

    This system makes the default assumption that the father is not interested in his child, which is unfair.

    @William

    The use of the term “sperm donor” is distinct, and has meaning – when people talk of “sperm donors” they quite literally mean that a man provided sperm with the shared understanding that it be used to create a child that he would be otherwise unrelated to. It’s not some sort of derogatory term, unless it’s being applied to a man who never shared that understanding.

  76. 75
    RonF says:

    raggedrobin said:

    But the man in this case has never had parental responsibility for this child

    Well, since the woman’s name hasn’t been released and the man’s name is known only to the woman we have only her word for this. And no – that’s not good enough for me. For all we know he’s been sending her money regularly. He may even have seen the child. I’m not arguing that IF the man involved was truly a “one-night-stand” there’s reason to deny him a say in this; I’m saying that given that she has not told anyone, including the court, his name, we don’t know if the assumption that you and apparently the court has made is true.

    Despite what a lot of people on here seem to be assuming, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Maggie said:
    I think the court’s ruling is very feminist. By forcing the woman to disclose the identity of the sperm donor,

    You’re right. It is very feminist. In the worst possible sense of the word. By denying the man his own identity and characterizing him as a “sperm donor”, this feeds the stereotype of the “man-hating feminist” and subjects him to the precise kind of treatment that feminism in it’s best sense was created to combat against what has been done to women. Imagine using the rhetoric of “egg donor” or “brood mare” to refer to a mother.

  77. 76
    William says:

    Hi

    I was assuming that Maggie was using Sperm donor in regards to the One Night Stand Father that this article is about.

    William

  78. 77
    Silenced is foo says:

    @William

    Looking it over, you’re right. The term was brought into the thread to discuss a man who was, debatably, a “sperm donor” – but at somepoint people started using it to discuss the one-night-stand in question, which is quite nasty, as you say.

  79. 78
    William says:

    I also am discouraged because so many people have focused one the fact that the Father has not been involved in the Pregnancy. They seen to conveniently ignore the fact that he was never told anything about the Pregnancy and that the Mother was deceptive during this entire affair.

    The Father may agree with the Mother’s decision, but maybe he won’t.

    William

  80. Pingback: Children: is biology or communication more important? « Wallaby

  81. 79
    Alessandro Machi says:

    The judge almost got it right.

    Of course the father should be given the first right to raise the baby if the women is not going to, that is such a no brainer I can’t believe the judge can’t get that.

    However, since it was a one night stand, I do find it intriguing that men are basically being told they have no rights. if that is so, than one night stand men can’t also can’t be held accountable for child support either.