HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fathers and Their Responsibility to Their Children

Once again, we have a judicial ruling that undermines efforts to encourage fathers to take responsibility for their children. The Supreme Court today sided with adoptive parents over a man who wants to raise his biological daughter.

To be sure, the man had relinquished his parental rights when the birth mother was pregnant, and he had not provided any financial assistance during the pregnancy or the first four months of his daughter's life. But he did object to the adoption when he was notified about it and asked that he be able to raise his daughter. If we want fathers to take responsibility for their children, we should not interfere with their reasonable efforts to assert their paternal roles.

Today's case unfortunately follows in the footsteps of other Supreme Court precedents which give mothers greater rights than fathers. For example, in 1983 case (Lehr v. Robertson), Court held that biological mothers always are entitled to notice about adoption proceedings, while biological fathers may forfeit their rights to notice if they do not take enough steps to assert their paternity.

When we have a serious problem with absent dads, we should do all we can to foster relationships between children and their fathers.

[The case, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, involved interpretation of Native American law, with the interpretation driven by the Court's inadequate concern for fathers.]

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