A New Jersey court has filed the written decision in a matter that was settled last November. In the end, things turned out better than anticipated for the plaintiff, but the ruling could spell trouble for family law practitioners, parents-to-be and even healthcare professionals around the country.
The case involved an expectant mother and the father of the child. According to the decision, the two were engaged just after the woman discovered she was pregnant. She broke off the engagement and the two parted ways a month or two before the baby was due. He, however, still wanted his name on the birth certificate and wanted a relationship with the child (paternity is not disputed). He also wanted to be notified of the child’s birth and to be present during the birth.
In court, the mother stated that she only objected to his presence in the delivery room. The judge agreed with her.
Because the issue was new to the New Jersey courts, the judge turned to the U.S. Supreme Court for guidance, focusing specifically on two landmark cases. Those decisions discuss privacy issues and liberty interests in the context of pregnancy, and both come down on the side of the mother. As this judge wrote, “Any interest a father has before the child’s birth is subordinate to the mother’s interests” — even, he added, when there is no question that the father “has shown deep and proper concern and interest” in the child during the pregnancy.
If you are having a flashback to the ’50s, you are not alone. We’ll continue this in our next post.
The Christian Science Monitor, “N.J. judge cites women’s rights in barring unwed dad from child’s birth,” Patrik Jonsson, March 12, 2014
Plotnick v. Deluccia, — A.3d —-, 2013 WL 7869380 (N.J.Super.Ch.,2013), via Westlaw