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Father's Rights in the Sanctity and Privacy of Birth

The water breaks.  The contractions are five minutes apart.  Time to head to the hospital. And once at the hospital, time to settle in for a short run or a marathon awaiting that most revered of moments, when a child is born, that holy time, the sancity and privacy of birth. So where do Father's Rights fit in to all of this?

At the birth, the people most critical and special are in attendance. But what happens when the couple who created the child are at odds for reasons good or bad, blameless or blame laden, and the mother objects to father's presence in the delivery room?

The birth is certainly a private time.  It certainly is an exposed time.  It's hard to imagine a more vulnerable state.  Should the mother be allowed to exclude the father from the birth of of their child? Or do Father's Rights extend to a right to attend the birth?

In a case of first impression (i.e., never been decided before) a New Jersey judge said "no." 

"It would create practical concerns where the father's unwelcomed presence could cause additional stress on the mother and child. Moreover, such a finding would also lead to a slippery slope where the mother's interest could be subjugated to that of the father's," Judge Sohail Mohammed ruled.

That makes sense.  That is a fair way to decide this issue. Judge Mohammed identified the source of the competing claim well, if a father claimed he had a superior right to be in the delivery room, he would be asserting a right to subjugate the mother's interest to his, by definition. 

No doubt a factual scenario could be created which would make us collectively wince, concerned that the mother was being onerous in excluding the father.  But on the other side of the coin, it is easy to envision a scenario in which we would agree that the mother should be able to keep father out.  Perhaps he is an abuser.  Perhaps he has already begun a new relationship. 

When we contemplate in the alternative we have to then ask the question, how would we like the issue resolved?  Should we have a bright line rule, mother's decide or father's decide, or should we allow judicial resolution on a case by case basis?  While I don't believe that the proverbial floodgates would open should this issue be left up to a litigated outcome, it seems that the privacy of the moment, the vulnerability of the event, should outweigh a father's competing interest to be present over the mother's objection.

I think a bright line rule is best. Here, Mom's rule.

What do you think?

Michael Manely

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