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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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73 Responses

  1. Ruchama
    Ruchama April 27, 2010 at 5:22 pm |

    This kind of reminds me of the legal issues around Anna Mae He — different case, but some of the same issues coming up. (Google for more information, but basically, a Chinese couple that was in the US temporarily while the husband attended graduate school had a baby. They were in the middle of a bunch of legal and financial trouble — the husband had been accused of sexual assault, though he was later found not guilty — and they went to an agency that said that they could find a temporary home for the baby, until the parents got everything else organized. The baby was placed with an American family, and then, through a whole long series of legal hurdles and miscommunications and translation issues, a court ruled that they had abandoned the baby and no longer had any rights to her. This went through the courts for years, until she was returned to them when she was about 10.)

  2. lee
    lee April 27, 2010 at 5:24 pm |

    This is a really complicated situation. It’s a shame that Wyatt didn’t the chance to assert his parental rights until the baby was already with the adoptive parents (that’s what the article sounds like anyway). It sounds like the the mother didn’t want Wyatt to have custody of the baby for some reason or another. Since the baby has already been with the adoptive parents for 14 months, it sounds like it would be for the best if they just let it be. Maybe an open-ish sort of arrangement with the father? With visits and stuff?

  3. kb
    kb April 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm |

    I think that saying “the mother might not want the father raising her child” should fail for exactly the same reason that men shouldn’t be allowed to say she must have an abortion because he doesn’t want her raising the child. Yes, sometimes that will be true. But not enough to make it law. She just flat out needs a good reason for that. And the whole “the adoptive family could give them things he couldn’t” is probably true, but very very classist. Not something I want to support. and I frankly am all in favor of social arrangements that encourage involved fatherhood over encouraging adoption. I don’t know if he was listed on the birth certificate or not, but if so, yes, he should have been informed. if not. . . dicier. But he should have the option to sue for custody, and get it or not based on the best interest of the child. He should have been able to do this at day 8, because frankly it’s true-by now the best interest of the child might be not being disrupted. But this situation shouldn’t be allowed to happen again.

  4. Dianne
    Dianne April 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm |

    If I understand correctly, Oregon has or had a law that basically said that if the father wasn’t around and involved during the pregnancy, providing support emotionally or financially to the mother, then he’s the sperm donor not the father and has no parental rights. That seems reasonable to me. Why should a woman who is pregnant be required to chase down a guy who has shown no interest in her or the pregnancy down when the baby is born just to see if he wants to punish her by trying to take the baby he had no part in gestating?

  5. Zelie
    Zelie April 27, 2010 at 6:13 pm |

    Unfair to whom? Baby Emma is in a good home with parents who love her and are providing for her and who probably entered into the adoption with the best of intentions.

    On the other hand Wyatt was so out of the picture he didn’t even know when his own baby was born? Maybe next time he decides to procreate he can take the extra time and trouble to get a married first.

  6. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm |

    “I think that saying “the mother might not want the father raising her child” should fail for exactly the same reason that men shouldn’t be allowed to say she must have an abortion because he doesn’t want her raising the child.”

    I’m not entirely sure why the “mother might not want the father raising the child” fails because women are actually people and have a full right to bodily integrity. Abortion and adoption/custody law are pretty separate beasts, because you can’t honestly talk about abortion without acknowledging that that pregnancy is, you know, occurring inside the woman. As opposed to custody and parental rights, where any caring, competent, and properly-supported caretaker is going to be perfectly capable of maintaining the baby.

    I don’t know that there really is a perfect way out of this. There’s a biological unfairness built into the system. Men have the option of changing their mind umpteen million times about what they want vis-a-vis the eventual baby between conception and birth. You might not know who the biological father of a naturally-conceived baby is, but the mother’s identity is always going to be iron-clad. Both parents have equal opportunity to be self-serving jackasses wrt post-birth custody/adoption wrangling, and the child under dispute won’t be able to assert its own desires until well after any neglect has already begun to takes its toll.

    It would help, though, if there was stringent federal regulation of adoption agencies and, if not federal adoption law, at least a high degree of standardization of adoption law across states. Having adoption law be as variable as the procedures for paying tickets for non-moving violations isn’t helping anyone.

  7. akeeyu
    akeeyu April 27, 2010 at 6:40 pm |

    “I’m also not an expert in family law, and the law does differ from state to state, but there are serious public policy concerns with the proposal that once a biological mother gives up custody that it should automatically revert to the father, or the idea that a woman placing a baby for adoption without the father’s consent is doing something equivalent to a man swiping a baby from a nursery and taking it to an out-of-state adoption agency.”

    I’m just unclear on why custody *shouldn’t* revert to a biological parent if the other biological parent has stated, in writing, that they have no desire to raise that child.

    If the other parent is unfit, well, by all means go to court and hash that out, but assuming that both parents are fit, if one parent does not want physical custody of the child, it SHOULD revert to the other parent, otherwise we’re making orphans out of children that still have legitimate families.

    If this man was actively pursuing custody and his ex girlfriend placed the child for adoption knowing he didn’t consent to the adoption, how is that NOT akin to kidnapping?

    I’m completely and enthusiastically behind the idea that until a fetus hits air, it is in the complete and total physical custody and legal jurisdiction of the woman in whose body it resides, but as soon as it is born, it is a person with two parents, and it has a legal claim on both of those parents. In this case, the baby has been denied access to her legal and biological father, as well as vice versa.

    If the shoes were on the other foot, and the father placed the child for adoption without the consent of the mother, would we even be questioning the what-the-fuckitude of what happened?

  8. Rebecca
    Rebecca April 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm |

    On the other hand Wyatt was so out of the picture he didn’t even know when his own baby was born? Maybe next time he decides to procreate he can take the extra time and trouble to get a married first.

    Because married men never, ever run out on their families!

  9. akeeyu
    akeeyu April 27, 2010 at 7:02 pm |

    There was another story, by the way, in which the father signed up on the putative father registry in several states and the mother still placed the child for adoption in Utah.

    It’s one thing when the father can’t be found or doesn’t want to be involved or isn’t known or straight up abandons the child or is declared unfit, but when the father is known and wants to be involved, he DOES have rights, and so does the child.

  10. Matt
    Matt April 27, 2010 at 7:07 pm |

    My partner and I are in the process of adopting right now in the state of Washington. Our son came home with us from the hospital, on day two. Because he was born on a Friday, the birthmom’s rights couldn’t be terminated until Tuesday. The birthdad lives in Colorado. It took three! weeks! for him to terminate his rights. (For the record, he hits three months next week and we are STILL not legally the parents for various reasons). It was scary but it was how it was; parenting is a risk no matter how you go about it. I guess what I’m saying is that from my perspective, ethical adoptive parents should be willing to shoulder that risk and care for a child even knowing that it’s not final. There’s no reason it needs to all be squared away in a week unless someone is trying to give someone else the runaround.

  11. Athenia
    Athenia April 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm |

    I find the attitude “women invest more during pregnancy so they should have more rights than the father” rather essentialist. It’s saying just cuz the woman carried the kid for 9 months that she’s (morally) better able to determine who should raise her kid.

    It’s takes two people to create a kid and if this guy was able to petition 8 days after the birth, the kid should have been returned to him ASAP.

    I dislike the idea that all children legally have a mother, but all children do not legally have a father.

  12. Gaye Tannenbaum
    Gaye Tannenbaum April 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm |

    The story in this case is that he WAS involved in the pregnancy and WAS planning to raise the child together with the mother. He even proposed marriage, but she said no.

    Right up until she went into labor, he was there and he was involved. Then she went underground. She eventually surfaced and put his name on the birth certificate. So here they are, residents of Virginia and she gives birth in Virginia. How is he supposed to know to register with Utah if she doesn’t tell him where the baby is?

    While we all bemoan the fact that Emma has been with her adopters for 14 months, this is EXACTLY what prospective adoptive parents are counseled to do – delay the proceedings as long as possible, appeal, appeal, appeal and then cry about how you’d be “ripping the child from the only home she’s ever known”.

    Anyone who is advocating some kind of “open adoption” with visitation doesn’t realize that open adoption agreements are not enforceable in most states. http://www.bringperihome.com/

    In another case, the mother relinquished but changed her mind too late. The father is trying to get custody and has won in the higher courts in Missouri. Unfortunately, the case gets sent back to the Jackson County Family Court which sides with the prospective adoptive parents. The child is now 5 years old and can’t be adopted because his father’s parental rights have not been terminated. The prospective adoptive parents were able to relocate to Texas, change the child’s name and are requiring the father to pay child support. Visitation is every two weeks, alternating between Kansas City and Texas. http://www.friendsofnoahlevibond.com/
    http://familypreservation.blogspot.com/2010/02/update-on-craig-lentz-battle-for-noah.html

    The battle for Baby Emma is just one case. There are many others.

  13. umami
    umami April 27, 2010 at 7:29 pm |

    I find the attitude “women invest more during pregnancy so they should have more rights than the father” rather essentialist. It’s saying just cuz the woman carried the kid for 9 months that she’s (morally) better able to determine who should raise her kid.

    It’s not saying that at all. It’s just acknowledging that pregnancy is work, and it’s hard, and it’s costly, and it’s often very painful. And you aren’t going to want to do all that work and put yourself through all of that if you don’t get control over the outcome of your pregnancy.
    There’s no implication there that the mother is a more moral person than the father.

    Personally I think that the person whose work takes care of the child=the person with parental rights. And with a newborn baby, that’s the mother by definition.

    Also, it doesn’t take two people to create a kid. It takes two people to create a blastocyst. The woman’s body is what creates a child from a fertilised egg. I think it’s really important to be clear on that, or it leads into fuzziness on the issue of abortion rights.

  14. latinist
    latinist April 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm |

    I think everyone pretty much sees why Zelie is wrong, but I want to pick on one more part of that comment: Wyatt was “out of the picture” BEFORE EMMA’S BIRTH. Now, obviously he couldn’t have been hanging out with his child-to-be in the womb. So what this means is, he wasn’t hanging around the mother-to-be while she was pregnant. Now maybe that’s because he’s a lazy jerk. But maybe it’s because she didn’t WANT him around, and he chose not to act like an abusive stalker. That’s part of why the ability to cut him out of the adoption process in this case is so troubling: if a hetero couple get pregnant, and then break up, and the man wants the kid but the woman doesn’t, they’re very likely not on good terms, and they should probably be staying away from each other. The LAST thing we as a society should have is a policy that says to the man, “if you want to keep your baby, you’d better force yourself into the situation through the whole nine months of pregnancy.” We should be saying, rather, “Don’t worry, the state will treat your parental rights seriously, so you can just sit this out until your kid is born.”

  15. Vail
    Vail April 27, 2010 at 7:53 pm |

    And this is the reason some people adopt outside the USA… they need to regulate the agencies more and hash out across the board laws so this stuff doesn’t happen. I know when we adopted I was terrified that the mother/father would change their mind (which happens in foster adoptions too) so we adopted overseas.

  16. latinist
    latinist April 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm |

    Also, I’m not sure I’m convinced by the “the father might be abusive” argument. Obviously, if there’s reason to believe that, the law should take it into account, but some mothers are abusive too; so are some adoptive parents! The possibility of abuse seems like basically a separate issue to apply, on top of a system of balancing the rights of the parents.

  17. Lauren
    Lauren April 27, 2010 at 8:02 pm |

    Paternal adoption rights laws have additional legal and financial obstacles built in because paternal rights have historically been used to arbitrarily control pregnant women and prevent them from choosing adoption when the paternal figure had no intention of being a father so much as running his ex’s life. Additionally, modern cases often involve grandparents pushing for visitation and custody rights that piggyback off of the absent parental party (mothers too), as appears to be the case here.

    Most states will give legal notification to the paternal party with the assertion that they must assert or sign off on parental rights within a certain number of days, and without this motion the adoption will proceed as planned. It’s unclear whether this is the case in Virginia. What is clear is that the adoption agency looks shady as HELL.

    Regardless, this young man’s mistake was sitting pretty without being involved enough to know the adoption and custody process or what his partner intended with their joint unplanned pregnancy, and then not acting until the absolute last possible minute. I admit I’m biased in cases like these, but my bias is my loathing to be all that sympathetic to men who claim total ignorance of their rights when it comes to family law. Dude, it’s a baby. A BABY. As a parent it’s your responsibility to have a plan BEFORE shit goes wrong.

    Also, don’t conduct your parental duties via text message.

  18. Yooperjo
    Yooperjo April 27, 2010 at 8:29 pm |

    Two points need to be made here, I believe.

    First, society has been urging men to step up to the plate and take responsibility for the children they father. And if the mother choses to parent her child and applies for public assistance to do so, most county and state agencies will demand information on the father so he can be tracked down and required to pay child support. Yet he’s considered little more than a nuisance if the mother chooses to relinquish the child for adoption. So herein lies the dichotomy: he’s considered the father if the mother chooses to parent, but he’s not considered the father if she chooses not to parent. How is that fair?

    Second, you need to know that predatory Utah adoption agencies take out Yellow Pages ads with 800 numbers throughout the country, luring vulnerable women with problem pregnancies – and even mothers with infants – to their state for relinquishment. While their rights, and those of their babies, might be protected in their home states, in Utah those rights mean nothing. A Utah attorney admitted that his state’s agencies “routinely violate” Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children (ICPC) regulations. And several adoption attorneys were able to get a judge to rule that children in utero are not protected by ICPC regulations, so if pregnant women can be flown there, their babies – and their fathers – are at the mercy of Utah’s shoddy adoption laws.

    If you want more examples of Utah predator agencies’ activities, study up on the Baby Tamia case out of Illinois. Tamia’s young mother was even threatened that if she didn’t go through with the surrender once she got to Utah, she and her baby would be left stranded there with no way to get home. Mothers were made to sign relinquishment papers in cheap hotels with hotel personnel as witnesses. It’s a dirty business! And now Baby Emma and her father are caught up in it, unfortunately.

    Adoption is a multi-billion dollar industry that regularly crosses state lines, and yet it is totally unregulated at the federal level. It’s time that changed!

  19. Gayle Force
    Gayle Force April 27, 2010 at 8:52 pm |

    Whoa, I kinda feel like before people start talking about why people go outside the US for adoption and all kinds of adoption comments, Harriet J’s piece on adoption is a must-read.

    My father was adopted. I know what he and my family has gone through because of that. And I agree with Harriet’s statement that ultimately, if a child is being adopted, there is already something fucked-up about the situation (note: I am not saying all adoption is bad, or terrible, or doesn’t work out; read link above). And I don’t know how I feel about paternal rights and all kinds of other things here; I agree with Jill that this is just incredibly sad.

  20. Jeff
    Jeff April 27, 2010 at 9:20 pm |

    Worth noting: Wyatt’s lawyer has posted this on the NY Times site:

    I am an adoption lawyer representing John in Virginia. My goal is to ensure that the facts are correctly brought forth in this case.

    John and Colleen have known each other since 2nd grade. They have dated since middle school. He was there for her during the pregnancy and went with her to every doctor’s appointment since her second month of pregnancy. He talked to her or saw her almost everyday during the pregnancy up until about 11 hours prioir to her giving birth where they talked of raising their baby together. John offered to marry Colleen many times during the pregnancy. Since their baby’s birth, they still talk and see each other but their relationship is strained. Even today John told me he loves Colleen. Neither John nor Colleen have ever been to Utah.

    There has never been any question as to John’s paternity. Colleen signed an Affidavit given to the adoption agency stating under oath that John was the father. When John claimed to be the father in filing for custody, no one ever challenged that claim. John is on Baby Emma’s birth certificate as a result of Colleen and John’s paternity affidavits. The Virginia court ruled he was the father.

    In a questionaire Colleen gave the adoption agency, she explained that John wanted to raise the child. She asked that someone talk to John. No one ever did. Colleen’s original attorney (hired by ?) responded to John’s custody attorney when the baby was 4 days old and said John would only be able to see his child if he signed away his parental rights.

    John believes that Colleen’s parents and others involved manipulated Colleen into placing the child. Our parents are the most influential people in our lives. Parents want to do what they think is best for their child. It is a difficult choice between an unplanned parenthood and the orderly completion of your educational goals.

    For John, fatherhood is something he has given a lot of thought. John’s father passed when he was 10 and he reflected over the years as to what type of a father he would become.

    There was an independent evaluation done by a Virginia adoption agency to assist the Virginia Court in determine John’s fitness as a father. The social worker and the Court found John a fit father. The court evaluated John’s ideas on the health, education and welfare of the child and found that John had a well thougth out plan.

    One blog worries how adoptive parents can sleep at night. This case is not a threat to adoptions. We all want children to be in a secure loving home. Even after all John has been through, he talked today about how important it is to have a family and for a childless couple, adoption may be their only way. This case is not about attacking or destroying adoptions. It is about one man who was there throughout the pregnancy, who would rub his girlfriend’s belly and feel the baby kick, who would talk to the baby and who would go to the doctor’s to hear his child’s heartbeat. He was deprived of his child.

    This case is also heartbreaking for the adoptive parents and has to be difficult for them. We do not know what they knew about John before they took the child, but one of the documents that was revealed during discovery was an Affidavit they signed stating that they knew John had not consented to the adoption and that he had rights and could get his child.

    This case is also about a procedure in Utah that makes it nearly impossible for an unmarried father to have any rights in an adoption. A legal procedure has to be fair and balanced, not established to deprive a person of their Constitutional rights. Utah has a Putative Father Registry which is a state run data bank where birh fathers can register to maintain their rights. It is a two edge sword, a birth father can protect himself from the mother lying or failing to disclose his identity or the failure to register can be used to eliminate the need to track down an uninterested father. Virgina law requires the birth father be sent by certified mail a notice that there is an adoption plan and that if he wants to receive notice of the adoption he needs to register within 10 days. (John never received such a notice). Utah has no requirement that a birth father be notified about their Registry. The necessity of a father to register in Utah is a cruel joke used to deprive a birth father of his rights. Particularly for a young man who lives out of state and neither he nor the birth mother had ever been to Utah. Even I as an attorney spent two hours on line searching Utah’s website trying to figure out the state’s procedures to register or even how to contact them. After finding a telephone number for the Utah Registry from a couple of private organization websites, messages went into a voicemail and were never returned. I would challenge one of you readers to attempt to find Utah’s Putative Father Registry and report back to this blog your results.

    John appreciates your interest in Baby Emma and your comments posted.

    So it appears that a) even using the restrictive-but-reasonable paternal rights regime Dianne (#4) advocates, Wyatt would have had custody of the child; b) the adoption agency knew that Wyatt wanted to take care of the child and pressed ahead anyway; c) Utah ignored Virginia’s custody ruling, which is not only cruel but unconstitutional.

    I understand the rationale behind the current custody arrangements, but with the proliferation of couples who wish to remain unmarried but wish to have children, it seems to me that custody issues like this will start coming up more and more often. Our legal system should recognize that reality and adapt accordingly. Dianne’s description of OR’s law is a good first step, though in light of Latinist’s (#14) objections the father should be able to retain his rights if he demonstrates that he sat out the pregnancy out of relational discord and not out of laziness.

  21. Dianne
    Dianne April 27, 2010 at 9:22 pm |

    On reading the link, my first comment is rather irrelevant to the situation. It appears that the father was around during the pregnancy and wanted to be involved in the birth. Still, things don’t entirely add up…In general, if you call a hospital and ask if X is a patient there and X is a patient there they will say yes and will tell you X’s condition…unless the patient has specifically requested that you not be told, in which case they must deny it (unless you’re representing the law).

    So, the mother must have told the hospital not to tell the father that she was there. Why did she do that? Maybe she was afraid of him. Maybe he was harassing her, trying to force her into a relationship with him that she did not want. Heterosexual male perpetrators of domestic violence do often try to control their victims by getting them pregnant. On the other hand, maybe she was getting bribed to put the baby up for adoption and didn’t want the father jeopardizing the deal. Hard to say without more details.

  22. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 27, 2010 at 9:25 pm |

    “I dislike the idea that all children legally have a mother, but all children do not legally have a father.”

    I suppose you could take it up with either evolution or whatever deity you consider responsible. If a woman delivers a baby conceived without the aid of IVF, there’s pretty much zero question that she’s the legal mother. Until we reach a place where we take a DNA sample from a neonate, run it through a database, and come up with a bio-dad, you’re going to run up against all the situations currently resulting in legally-fatherless children.

  23. angry mom
    angry mom April 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm |

    Situations like this one are why I believe we need to totally revamp and regulate the adoption industry. How it stands now you can basically buy an infant. I do understand that there are good, ethical people looking to adopt a child as ethically as possible but the vast majority look the other way at gross human rights violations. I was pregnant and looking into adoption and the pressure put on me by the adoption agency was outrageous. They basically harassed me until after my daughter was born and I took her home. It wasn’t some small time, corrupt agency either, it was one of this country’s largest and it’s a well known fact in adoption circles that they don’t treat the mother’s with a whole lot of respect before the birth of their children. Utah is a pit of anti-mother adoption laws. Alot of agencies use Utah because it has one of the shortest periods of time where the mother, or father can change their mind. Which is a large part of this case. It’s a horrible situation all around but shame on the family that currently has Emma. Her father wants her and if it can’t be proved that he’s unfit than they’ve kidnapped little Emma. That little girl will grow up and Google herself and know about this whole mess. It’s a sad, horrible thing that happens more often than the kool-aid guzzling adoptive parents wish to acknowledge.

  24. killjoy
    killjoy April 27, 2010 at 11:10 pm |

    And this is the reason some people adopt outside the USA… they need to regulate the agencies more and hash out across the board laws so this stuff doesn’t happen.

    Overseas adoptions are generally, if anything, LESS regulated. Parents who surrender kids for adoption in poor countries aren’t less likely to change their minds; they’re just less likely to be able to get their children back.

  25. latinist
    latinist April 27, 2010 at 11:35 pm |

    Lauren: But remember that when you’re saying the man should have been “involved,” you’re talking about being involved with the pregnant woman. Who may not want to be involved with him. In which case, no, he absolutely should not have been “involved with” (which is to say, harassing) her, before the birth.

  26. Ruchama
    Ruchama April 27, 2010 at 11:49 pm |

    In general, if you call a hospital and ask if X is a patient there and X is a patient there they will say yes and will tell you X’s condition…unless the patient has specifically requested that you not be told, in which case they must deny it (unless you’re representing the law).

    I’m pretty sure this would be a violation of HIPAA. Hospitals aren’t allowed to tell anything to anyone without the patient’s permission.

  27. Zes
    Zes April 27, 2010 at 11:49 pm |

    umami – my fear is that if you say the woman has more rights because she carried the child, you risk legitimizing the idea that pregnancy equals childcare. Hence caring for a fetus = caring for a child, hence fetus = child, hence abortion = murder. I also fear the idea of being inherently more parent-y than men traps women more often than it liberates them. And the child, whose interests are paramount, has an equal right to, and claim on, each parent.

    Indeed if neither parent wants their rights I wonder if other relatives like grandparents should get first refusal before adoption is considered. The idea that children exist only in relation to parents I fear can place too big a burden on parents (usually mothers, who can end up lonely and overworked) and disenfranchises relatives with legitimate interests; throughout history the burden and privilege of a child was spread across a whole family, as they say, “it takes a village to raise a child”. Not that a lot of money or time should be spent locating other relatives, but they should have rights if they do show up.

  28. KarenDotCom
    KarenDotCom April 28, 2010 at 12:17 am |

    — and every once in a while, it’s not going to be women who are the ones getting screwed.

    I am going to learn the fine art of needlepoint so that I can embroider that on a pillow that I will keep in my conservatory.

  29. sophonisba
    sophonisba April 28, 2010 at 12:23 am |

    my fear is that if you say the woman has more rights because she carried the child, you risk legitimizing the idea that pregnancy equals childcare

    Any time your line of argument can be boiled down to ‘we are afraid to tell the truth because it might be used against us,’ you are at the very end of the line and you need to start over.

    Pregnancy doesn’t quite equal childcare, I would agree. It equals child making . That’s a really big deal. Childcare is a pretty dismissive and belittling way to describe voluntary pregnancy, because it’s bigger than that, but not all that inaccurate, otherwise, just inadequate and insufficient. The bigger a deal you admit pregnancy to be, the more shameful it is to force women into it and the easier it is to make the pro-choice case.

    Look: We don’t think we have to argue against the draft by pretending that fighting in war is nothing special, do we? We don’t see any conflict between special care and privileges for veterans and maintaining an all-volunteer fighting force; we don’t worry and hand-wring that the existence of pensions and the GI bill will make it impossible to argue against the right of the government to stuff all our teenagers into tanks. That’s just nonsensical. We don’t give soldiers and veterans special treatment because they’re obligated to fight, but rather because soldiering is a big damn heroic deal, almost as big a deal as pregnancy and labor. That’s why it’s barbaric and obscene to force people into either line of work.

  30. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 28, 2010 at 2:19 am |

    I know when we adopted I was terrified that the mother/father would change their mind (which happens in foster adoptions too) so we adopted overseas.

    Okay, that’s straight-up creepy. You purposefully chose to adopt from a country where, if the parent changed hir mind, it would be too late and you could keep the kid anyways? What the hell?

  31. akeeyu
    akeeyu April 28, 2010 at 3:02 am |

    “It’s really cumbersome, from a legal perspective and from a public policy perspective. We would end up with a lot more children in foster care and in temporary custody limbo.”

    I don’t think we would, really. Most states have reasonable notification laws dealing with biological fathers in potential adoptions that prevent this sort of thing.

    Realistically, If partner A does not wish to parent baby X, partner B can either also decline to parent, in which case the child is placed for adoption, or partner B can PARENT, in which case partner A provides child support. No limbo necessary. That’s pretty much what happens now.

    Yes, it can get temporarily complicated when a partner disappears or is having a hard time deciding whether they want to parent or place, but most states do have reasonable laws regarding notification and waiting periods.

    I don’t think it’s relevant or appropriate to make decisions on parental rights based on who is the better parent or who spends more time with a child. CUSTODY decisions, yes, but parental rights are a completely different animal, and parental rights are not a meritocracy. One doesn’t earn them, one simply has them.

    Clearly, Utah is just a fucked up state with regards to adoption. At its worst, this just reeks of trafficking.

    I think allowing this sort of thing to become MORE prevalent would be a disaster. Imagine living in a world where a spouse of either gender could simply pack up a couple’s kids, take them to Utah and place them for adoption without the consent of the other parent.

    Imagine what kind of power THAT would give an abusive spouse.

    …and of course, that’s exactly what happened in the case of Emma, (although theoretically, minus the ‘abusive’ part) which is why this shit needs to be stopped.

    If a plane ticket and a week are all it takes to permanently sever the parental rights of anybody in the country, we’ve got a big fucking problem.

  32. Rose
    Rose April 28, 2010 at 3:07 am |

    This sounds like a case of poor legislation, and either miscommunication or disregard for communication between state-level agencies.

    I’m concerned by the fact that an adoption agency in Utah is allowed to take babies from couples outside of Utah, without liaising with social work agencies in the state the child was born in.

  33. akeeyu
    akeeyu April 28, 2010 at 3:19 am |

    “Personally I think that the person whose work takes care of the child=the person with parental rights.”

    Umami, if that were codified into law, then all a person would have to do to sever parental rights would be to just walk away and never look back. It’s not that simple, and for good reason.

    The other side of parental rights is parental responsibility, and making parental rights into a meritocracy would be a financial, legal and ethical disaster for children.

    I hate to sound like Reverend Lovejoy’s wife, here, but sometimes we do have to think of the children. Emma’s rights to be supported by (financially and emotionally) and inherit from her father were arbitrarily severed. This doesn’t just affect him, it affects her, too. Eventually she’s going to find out that her adoption was based on a lie. I’m willing to bet that’s going to significantly hurt her relationship with her parents, and then where will she be?

    When we allow the government to step in and sever family ties, we need to make damned sure that there are legitimate reasons, fair laws and reasonable procedures in place to protect all parties.

  34. T. Laurel Sulfate
    T. Laurel Sulfate April 28, 2010 at 4:06 am |

    Bagelsan @ 30, the “overseas is better because no pesky birth relatives” attitude is more prevalent than you think. You can tell because people say it without the least idea they’re saying something unspeakably cruel, evil and…well, yeah, creepy.

    My adoptive mom has told me she lived in fear from the time they got me until the time everything finalized, because she was scared I could be “taken back.” That’s part of what adoption is. Like giving birth, it has its risks.

    Unlike giving birth, though it’s always been trumpeted as “in the best interests of the child.” Not of adoptive parents who would prefer no “interference” from the child’s family of origin. Of the CHILD.

  35. Zelie
    Zelie April 28, 2010 at 7:46 am |

    “Do you really think that in order to have rights to your children you should have to be married? ”

    I think if he really wants to do what is the best thing for his baby, he should quit whining about it, realize that he screwed up, and let the adoptive parents get on with raising her. Maybe if he quit being such a douche they could form some kind of relationship where he could at least be a part of the baby’s life without totally disrupting it.

    And yea, I get that married men can sometimes walk away from their families – my dad did. I also see how awesome it is when dad is there every day like my husband and that the kids get to have two parents under one roof – you know we use to call that a “family!” Something Mr. Wyatt might consider if he would quit being such a jerk.

  36. Marle
    Marle April 28, 2010 at 7:54 am |

    One of the biggest problems I see here is that he’s in Virginia and the baby and adoptive parents are in Utah. How is he supposed to do anything from Virginia? If they all were in the same state, he would have a chance at understanding the laws or at least get a lawyer who understands the laws, be able to meet with people who have power over the situation, or even just meet the adoptive parents and then they could talk to each other like people instead of faceless enemies. The system has many problems, but as long as it lets adoptions cross the entire country those problems will never be fixed.

  37. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub April 28, 2010 at 8:29 am |

    If I understand correctly, Oregon has or had a law that basically said that if the father wasn’t around and involved during the pregnancy, providing support emotionally or financially to the mother, then he’s the sperm donor not the father and has no parental rights. That seems reasonable to me. Why should a woman who is pregnant be required to chase down a guy who has shown no interest in her or the pregnancy down when the baby is born just to see if he wants to punish her by trying to take the baby he had no part in gestating?

    I absolutely agree.

    I’m typically biased in these cases, as I have a friend who’s ex screwed with her during the adoption process–he told her he wanted to marry her, so she went through a very dangerous pregnancy just to get ditched in month seven. Then he shows up (with another woman) demanding custody when she was forced to give the child up (she couldn’t care for the child on her own and would have been disowned by her family). (He didn’t get custody for many reasons).

    From what I’ve read, Wyatt is not like my friend’s narcissistic dickback of an ex. It sounds like he was there and he was involved. It also sounds like he wanted to marry her, Zelie, so I don’t think you’re being fair on that point. But even if she didn’t want to get married, from what I’m hearing, he’s not some douchenozzle who ditched her or disappeared or who was abusive. I don’t know what caused the 11th hour change of heart–I’ll be interested to hear–but if his story is accurate then I don’t think it’s fair to cut him out. Unless there are compelling reasons why he’d be a danger to the baby, I can’t see why he cannot raise his own child.

    As far as international adoptions go, the birth parents often relinquish their kids as a result of coercion or deception (thinking they will not lose custody and will be able to get their kids back once they’re back on their feet). That they don’t have the power or the resources to effectively fight this system is an outrage and it’s beyond creepy to decide that it’s a-ok to take advantage of such a system.

  38. Sarah
    Sarah April 28, 2010 at 8:30 am |

    Zelie, how the hell is he being a “jerk” simply by demanding his legal rights to custody?

    Children aren’t toys, such that if you accidentally leave your doll in the toybox at school you have to deal with other kids playing with it. This is his CHILD, and if his lawyer’s representations are accurate then his baby was essentially stolen from him.

    I can just hear it now: “The woman should just stop complaining about the fact that the fake hospital nurse abducted her infant. Next time, she’ll know to not fall asleep with the baby in the room. Maybe if she wasn’t being so hysterically emotional about this, people would be more sympathetic.”

    Ugh. Disgusting.

  39. Danny
    Danny April 28, 2010 at 8:48 am |

    And while I’m sure Men’s Rights and Father’s Rights blogs are already pinning this one on the Feminist Court System (TM + hahaha),….
    Not entirely so.While there are some that do as you say a lot of them are correctly pointing the finger at The System itself for such problems.

    Zelie:
    On the other hand Wyatt was so out of the picture he didn’t even know when his own baby was born? Maybe next time he decides to procreate he can take the extra time and trouble to get a married first.
    Its amazing how this type of attitude an simultaneously exist with the constant call for men to “step up” and be fathers. You can’t complain that men are there for their children but then actively push away the ones that are indeed trying to be there.

    And as someone else mentioned Utah has some of the most jacked up adotion legislation in the country.

  40. Danny
    Danny April 28, 2010 at 8:50 am |

    typo:
    men are there

    should be

    men aren’t there

  41. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers April 28, 2010 at 8:53 am |

    I think if he really wants to do what is the best thing for his baby, he should quit whining about it, realize that he screwed up, and let the adoptive parents get on with raising her. Maybe if he quit being such a douche they could form some kind of relationship where he could at least be a part of the baby’s life without totally disrupting it.

    Right, he stayed with the mother up until birth, her parents pressured her into giving the kid up, Utah adoption agencies basically stole the child, but he’s the bad guy.

    This is victim blaming. It sounds to me like the bad guys are the state of Utah, the adoption agency, and to a certain extent the maternal grandparents, although even they were probably looking out for what they thought was the best interest of their daughter. From the lawyer’s statement, it sounds like the mother came under enormous pressure at a very vulnerable time, and the father did everything right but was screwed over anyway.

    Given the choice between being raised by a fit parent who is biologically related to you (and who wants and loves you) and a fit parent who is not (and who wants and loves you), it is almost always better to be raised by the bio parent. (Many bio parents are of course unfit, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.) Your bio parents know your medical history, and you can look at them not just as role models but as examples of where your genes might take you. Adoption should very much err on the side of making sure that both biological parents are completely confident in the decision to surrender the baby, and I’m starting to think we need federal adoption laws precisely to avoid shit like Utah pulls.

  42. Rebecca
    Rebecca April 28, 2010 at 9:45 am |

    *sigh* I’m about to do that thing that everyone hates where I’m all nit-picky about some little detail that has nothing to do with the article, BUT I just have to quibble with this:

    “or place the child in foster care (which is not a great environment for any child, and especially not for newborns).”

    My parents have provided foster care for years and are incredibly loving people who are devoted to providing absolutely the best care for their foster children. Now, if what you mean by “not a great environment” is the constant worry the kids feel about where they will be the next day, then I absolutely agree with you – foster care can be a tough place to be. However, I can guarantee that many of the children for which my parents have cared are/were infinitely better off in our foster home than with their families.

    And as far as newborns go, foster care tends to be less traumatic for very young children, as they’re not cognizant enough to understand what’s happening. My parents’ last placement was a year old and the happiest baby I’ve ever met.

    Yeah, I’m done now.

  43. Athenia
    Athenia April 28, 2010 at 9:46 am |

    I’m utterly flaberghasted that because this adoption agency is located in Utah that Utah’s adoption’s laws apply rather than Virginia’s.

  44. Sarah
    Sarah April 28, 2010 at 9:58 am |

    “Utah privileges two-parent families…”

    By that token, I wonder, then, if Utah would privilege a two-parent family over a single-parent one if the two parents in question were gay or lesbian, and the single parent were straight.

  45. jimm
    jimm April 28, 2010 at 10:01 am |

    LDS’s “emphasis on family values” has consistently favored dismembering families in favor of tithing church members looking to obtain a child.
    Some “family values.”

  46. rox
    rox April 28, 2010 at 10:19 am |

    Oh God thank thank you THANK YOU for this post.

    -Adoptee and mother who relinquished against her desires due to familial and social pressure to “do the right thing.”

  47. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 28, 2010 at 10:41 am |

    “I think if he really wants to do what is the best thing for his baby, he should quit whining about it, realize that he screwed up, and let the adoptive parents get on with raising her.”

    Why are you the person who gets to decide what is best for this baby? Holy shit, stop trashing some guy you don’t know because you happen to know a couple of bad guys who aren’t in the picture. That’s not this guy. He did not OWE her marriage because he slept with her. And chill on your ridiculous bullshit about how single parent homes just aren’t as good as two parent homes. That pretty much differs based on home. I can testify to a two parent environment being abominable, and how much I would have rather they had divorced and I lived with one.

    Rebecca, I think you raise a fair, nit-picky point, for what it’s worth. My only experience with foster kids has been really positive, and it sucks that there’s such a stigma.

  48. rox
    rox April 28, 2010 at 10:46 am |

    I want to add as an adoptee, if my father had asserted his rights to parent me I would have wanted ti have grown up with him.

    It’s NOT shame on the father for asserting his right to love and be there for his child. Shame on THE COURTS for allowing it to be drug out this long.

    She deserves her father and he deserves his daughter. I say, let her go back to her dad and let the adoptive parents have visits.

  49. makomk
    makomk April 28, 2010 at 11:01 am |

    “when you actually get down to it, men simply don’t petition for custody very often (and when they do, they’re very likely to get it).”

    And how much of this is because they know they’re not going to get it anyway, and it’s not worth throwing money down the drain pursuing it? Or because they’re worried about pissing off the judge and damaging their chance to obtain decent visitation rights?

    “And while I’m sure Men’s Rights and Father’s Rights blogs are already pinning this one on the Feminist Court System (TM + hahaha), it has to be noted that the entire reason this policy exists is because of anti-feminist beliefs about traditional gender roles and ideal families.”

    Is the policy itself anti-feminist, though? Doesn’t appear to be: no feminists seem to be fighting it, some are trying to justify it, and some are attacking those who are against it. It’s not like thinking that men are automatically worse parents disqualifies someone from being a feminist either, whereas suggesting there’s something wrong with that viewpoint is a lot more controversial and risky.

    “Third is the fact that while law is often made in the courts based on marginal cases, legislation is (at least generally, in theory) passed to encompass the usual set of circumstances. The reason these kinds of cases are news is because they just do not happen very often.”

    More likely because in most cases the father doesn’t have the cash and connections to file a lawsuit over the issue. After all, that’s the reason this incident made the news. If it was just another random guy near the poverty line it wouldn’t get this much media attention.

    akeeyu: “There was another story, by the way, in which the father signed up on the putative father registry in several states and the mother still placed the child for adoption in Utah.”

    That’s unusual. These registers are a well-kept secret that even state-provided information and state employees don’t generally mention – and since they require registration way in advance, hardly anyone manages it. While Utah’s particularly bad when it comes to fathers’ rights in adoption, other states aren’t exactly great.

    preying mantis: “Men have the option of changing their mind umpteen million times about what they want vis-a-vis the eventual baby between conception and birth.”

    Yes, they can change their mind between any of the options the mother allows them to have. That’s a whole lot of power.

    akeeyu: “sometimes we do have to think of the children.”

    Except that in practice, the usual assumption is that being born with a vagina makes you more competent to take care of kids (though possibly not if you’re a trans man) and being born with a penis makes you unfit to do so. So putting the children first is, most of the time, indistinguishable from treating them as their mother’s property.

  50. Rebecca
    Rebecca April 28, 2010 at 11:33 am |

    Zelie, you’re not contributing anything to this conversation, and your “defense” of your insults to anyone who isn’t straight! and partnered! and omgtraditionally married! like you is just making it worse.

  51. Sailorman
    Sailorman April 28, 2010 at 11:47 am |

    Obviously it varies from case to case, but perhaps it’s because the baby’s father is abusive, or someone that the mother doesn’t believe is fit to raise a child; perhaps she wants the best possible outcome for her child, and she believes that neither she nor the baby’s father can provide that. Perhaps she’s a 20-year-old college student, and the father of the baby is her ex-boyfriend, and she wants to be able to remover herself physically and emotionally from the baby as much as possible; if her ex raises the child, that won’t be possible.

    With the exception of the first one, none of these are adequate justification for terminating parental rights.

    Nor should they be.

    Irrespective of the sex of the parent, if they are not an OBJECTIVELY unfit parent then they are generally entitled to access to their offspring.

    I find it quite disconcerting that you would assert the mother’s preferences as justification for terminating rights. Who cares what she thinks; who cares if the father thinks the mother is unfit? Neither one has any inherent claim to the infant.

  52. Danny
    Danny April 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm |

    Another thing that bothers me in all this is that along with a child being unfairly pulled away from daddy that wants her (and what’s the odds of her ever learning about the fact that he did want her if she grows up in foster care) that space at the adoptive couple’s home could be better used for a child that really does need a safe a loving home. There are way too many children out there that need help for states and agencies to be going through so much trouble to separate fit parents from their children.

  53. Stacy
    Stacy April 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm |

    For those making the “only family she’s ever known” argument, keep in mind that the child is only 14 months old. She could be moved back to her biological father today with no ill effects. In another 2-4 years it will be a different story, and the adoptive family is doing everything it can to drag the case out for at least that long–which is discouragingly easy to do.

    Between that, and the near-certainty that they knowingly hid the baby from the father and spirited her out of Virginia as soon as possible in order to deny him the chance to assert his parental rights, and they’ve totally surrendered any claim to anyone’s sympathy.

  54. akeeyu
    akeeyu April 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm |

    “For those making the “only family she’s ever known” argument, keep in mind that the child is only 14 months old. She could be moved back to her biological father today with no ill effects. ”

    Eh, I’m totally on the father’s side, here, but a 14 month old child knows who her parents are, or who at least knows who has been raising her. There will almost certainly be ill effects.

    HOWEVER, there would have almost certainly been no ill effects if they had returned the child when the father initially petitioned for custody (eight days old), and I don’t believe that it’s right to simply say “Well, neener neener, we’ve had her for X amount of time, therefore finders keepers,” in custody disputes.

    The adoptive parents had a chance to do the right thing 14 months ago. They chose not to. They shouldn’t be rewarded for such a thing, and I’m not sure that ignoring the best interest of their intended daughter speaks well of their ability to parent.

  55. killjoy
    killjoy April 28, 2010 at 2:35 pm |

    Is the policy itself anti-feminist, though? Doesn’t appear to be: no feminists seem to be fighting it, some are trying to justify it, and some are attacking those who are against it. It’s not like thinking that men are automatically worse parents disqualifies someone from being a feminist either, whereas suggesting there’s something wrong with that viewpoint is a lot more controversial and risky.

    Your second sentence is pretty much unfalsifiable/unverifiable, so I’m not going to bother responding. As for “no feminists seem to be fighting it”, if you actually have access to the Definitive List Of All Feminists Everywhere And What They Are Doing At All Times, please do share; I’d be interested to read.

    But I don’t think the crappy parts of adoption politics can be summed up as a matter of feminism or anti-feminism. I think they are overwhelmingly about class and money. Feminists from privileged backgrounds have failed, again and again, to pay adequate attention to the circumstances under which poorer, younger, more marginalized women and men lose their parental rights. There has been a lot more focus on who gets to adopt — do single women get to adopt, do gay couples get to adopt, etc.

    In this case I don’t think most of the people blocking Wyatt’s way are motivated by a belief that men can’t be good parents. I don’t know what the mother and her family were thinking, but the adoptive parents obviously wanted and felt entitled to a baby no matter what the cost to her original family; I doubt they’d have reacted much differently if the mother had changed her mind. The adoption agency’s job is to get babies for people to adopt — they get paid for separating babies from their original parents, not keeping them together. The state of Utah has a bias in favour of married couples and in favour of moving children from poor families (where they might become a “burden” on social services) to richer ones. It isn’t all about gender.

  56. Sailorman
    Sailorman April 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm |

    Jill,

    If you look at your claims backwards:
    the welfare of the child comes before the rights of the noncustodial parent.
    This is circular, insofar as the parent ISN’T noncustodial before the child is born, and insofar as the parent is (or should be) “noncustodial” only if s/he cannot or will not parent the child.

    And if you’re going to take a “welfare of the child” approach, you need to do that universally, including both the custodial AND noncustodial parent. that’s how it really works, when done well.

  57. makomk
    makomk April 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm |

    But I don’t think the crappy parts of adoption politics can be summed up as a matter of feminism or anti-feminism.

    Probably not, and I’m not saying it’s a good way of summing it up either. Unfortunately, I can’t see it going away – given that the issues affect women, feminism will always be involved.

    I think they are overwhelmingly about class and money. Feminists from privileged backgrounds have failed, again and again, to pay adequate attention to the circumstances under which poorer, younger, more marginalized women and men lose their parental rights.

    Oh yes, there’s some huge and fairly obvious class-based issues in this area, not just in terms of adoption and parental rights but also when it comes to stuff like child support. For example, take a look at the way so-called “deadbeat dads” are created, represented in the media and in particular counted. There are some really obvious class issues there. (The same’s true of “welfare queens” and similar targets, with an added racial element, but that’s been pretty well covered.)

  58. Aine
    Aine April 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm |

    Damn. I wish WA state had a law that recognized men as ‘sperm donors only’ if they abandoned the mother during the pregnancy.

    This happened to my gf; she was dumped by her boyfriend who wanted nothing to do with her once she was pregnant, and then when her daughter was 6 months old he sued for primary custody, and got it because he had a ‘stable 2 parent home’. This was clearly done to punish her for having had the baby to begin with; he uses her to jerk her mother around at every opportunity.

    I’ve never understood why he wasn’t considered to have abandoned the baby from the beginning, and stripped of any parental rights at all. He knew about the baby, and a mother who ditched a baby at birth, and expressed no interest until it was 6 months old would not have parental rights.

  59. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm |

    “Yes, they can change their mind between any of the options the mother allows them to have. That’s a whole lot of power.”

    Yes, men are assuredly so oppressed by the rampaging gynocracy. They have no paternal rights to speak of and must grovel at the feet of the All Mother in order to obtain even the slightest of favors. :roll:

  60. Vail
    Vail April 28, 2010 at 5:06 pm |

    To the people who thought it was creepy etc. that I went overseas to adopt let me tell you this… My daughter was left (abandoned) at at 7 days old. Mongolia isn’t a country that criminalizes this so at any time they could have tried to find her. The agency advertised for ANYONE to come forward if they knew anything about her (giving details of what she was wearing etc) but no one came forward. She was 16 months old when we adopted her hardly ripping her out of a mothers arms. Every effort was used to make sure she was truly abandoned. Mongolia also is very involved with making sure that the agencies are on the up and up and will send people to check on some of the children and make sure that they are being well cared for. We will be sending reports back to Mongolia until she is 16 years old and we’re happy to do it.

  61. Zes
    Zes April 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm |

    sophisba – “The bigger a deal you admit pregnancy to be, the more shameful it is to force women into it and the easier it is to make the pro-choice case.”

    That is a good point, thank you. I am working through my thoughts on this issue.

  62. killjoy
    killjoy April 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm |

    I’m not saying it’s a good way of summing it up either. Unfortunately, I can’t see it going away – given that the issues affect women, feminism will always be involved.

    Oh, absolutely. I was responding to Sailorman’s apparent contention that Wyatt is being treated this way because he is a man. I think that’s only part of the issue. There are lots of women who’ve given up children for adoption who tell stories of coercion, fraud, abuse, etc. that are as bad as Wyatt’s.

    I think feminists and reproductive rights advocates in general need to pay more attention to unethical adoption practices and to the sexist, racist, classist, ageist, etc., etc. social attitudes that allow those practices to continue. Every time we turn away on the grounds of “choice”, or out of concern for abortion access, or whatever, we’re selling out one group of women and girls for the benefit of another.

  63. preying mantis
    preying mantis April 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm |

    “There are lots of women who’ve given up children for adoption who tell stories of coercion, fraud, abuse, etc. that are as bad as Wyatt’s.”

    There are tons of women who’ve given up children for adoption who tell stories that are ten times worse than Wyatt’s. He’s suffering the pain of being separated from his child, yes, but he’s not suffering that on top of physical problems from a difficult pregnancy he was pressured into continuing, post-partum depression, etc.

    I think part of the reluctance the culture in general has to discuss the problems birth parents can go through after giving a child up stems from the need mentioned in the OP not to be seen as encouraging abortion, even if it’d be doing so by pointing out that adoption’s hardly a walk in the fucking park.

  64. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 29, 2010 at 12:44 am |

    @Vail: I didn’t think the overseas adoption itself was creepy, but the reason you gave for it was. It seems like a more local adoption would have made it easier for you to insure that no one wanted the baby you were adopting, while the international one, you seemed to be saying, fuzzied up the issue a bit and you saw that gray area as a benefit not a downside to the international option. Less fuzzy seems better, to me, even if it means not adopting the kid you first pick.

  65. makomk
    makomk April 29, 2010 at 3:53 am |

    preying mantis: “Yes, men are assuredly so oppressed by the rampaging gynocracy.”

    Except for the part where, y’know, that’s not actually implied by anything I said. Just because they’re men and most of the lawmakers and judges are also men doesn’t mean said lawmakers and judges are actually looking out for their interests. In particular, there’s barriers of class, gender roles, and social expectations in the way.

  66. Sailorman
    Sailorman April 29, 2010 at 9:22 am |

    Oh, absolutely. I was responding to Sailorman’s apparent contention that Wyatt is being treated this way because he is a man.

    It’s certainly true that adoption discourse tends to be based on years of precedential thinking which–in this case–reflects traditional gender roles fairly accurately.

    So Wyatt is being treated differently than he would be if he were a woman. But the general way I think it should be discussed isn’t an issue of gender.

    Whether male or female, we don’t want parents using their subjective opinions to deprive the other biological parent of the right to have access to their child. It’s a dangerous road.

  67. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth April 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm |

    From the facts of this case, I also wonder if adoption was entirely voluntary on the mother’s part as well. It seems odd for a fairly involved couple (as they appeared to be) to not discuss raising the child and come to an agreement on adoption, and even if the mother was more ambivalent, it’s odd that things would seem fine and then at the last minute the dad would be barred from contact and the baby basically smuggled out of the hospital. I wonder how much her parents and the adoption agency forced this choice on two pretty young people against their will. I mean, when she was giving birth, she probably wasn’t in control or really fit to oppose her parents and the agency, especially if there were monetary incentives involved.
    I do think it’s reasonable that if the father is at all relatively available the baby should not be handed over until he signs away his rights. If that were the case, this situation should have been pretty avoidable.

  68. Matt
    Matt April 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm |

    I think the other Matt’s point about adoptive parents assuming the risk that their parenthood might not be permanent is right on. Moreover, given the well-founded aversion that courts often do and should have to overturning the judicially determined placement of children, it seems like its the best way to balance the risk is to shift it toward the adoptive parents.

    I’m no family law expert either, but a moot court problem that I argued was about a contested adoption, so I know an unfortunate amount about terminating parental rights of incarcerated felons in North Dakota.

    From a legal perspective, this is the weak sauce. When the alleged father can demonstrate that the child was intentionally hidden from him and that he still made all legal efforts to assert his parental rights, he should at least be allowed to contest the adoption. Filing within seven days of the child’s birth, especially when he thought that he had no reason to assert his rights before the birth, if that’s even possible, is a reasonable amount of time to wait before granting an adoption. The Utah court denies him the right to contest the adoption without regard to the Virginia court’s determination that Wyatt had asserted his parental rights. Herein lies the weakness of this sauce.

    Finding a solution to this problem without being biologically essentialist or coding nuclear notions of the family into statute represents the real policy problem. Complications abound even where it seems easy to set the legal standard such as the mother’s parental rights. Where in vitro surrogacy happens, automatically granting parental rights as presumptive mother to women who give birth is problematic because the presumption ignores the culturally intelligible, and often contracted for, semblance that two other people are the parents of the child.

    Jill, I also wanted to thank you for getting at the root of the problem with our adoption and parental rights law: our conceptions of gender and parenthood, primarily the independent norms ascribed to people called “mother” and “father.” Sticky and unfortunate business, but a good post.

  69. james
    james April 29, 2010 at 4:35 pm |

    “And it’s not just a legal mess, but an ideological one — part of the reason that Wyatt is unable to attain custody of his daughter is because Utah privileges two-parent families over single fathers”

    I don’t think this is true. Utah prioritises two parent *adopting* families over single parent *adopting* families. I’m not defending that, but that seems to be it. It makes absolutely no difference to Wyatt’s position. If had been married and the adoptive parent had been single, this would have played out exactly the same way, and he would have been in exactly the same position.

    The decision really does come down to his gender, rather than family forms. The only way family status effects anything is the *historical* question of whether he was married to the child’s mother prior to the adoption, not anything about his current position.

  70. nuncyS
    nuncyS May 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm |

    A single father has more rights to his child than a heterosexual couple in adopting a child. Unfortunately that is not the case in Utah. I hope that because of this couples will not exploit Utah’s adoption law and starts trooping to Utah to look for babies with of singles parents so that they can adopt and the court will favor them.

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