In Case shows need for fathers’ rights (The Californian, 1/19/11), Fathers and Families Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. goes to bat for Christian Diaz, a 17-year-old who’s fighting to be a father to his son. We suggest you write a Letter to the Editor on the case at CalOpinion@Californian.com or by clicking here.
On Jan. 4, a trial court in Bakersfield terminated the parental rights of 17-year-old Christian Diaz. The court didn’t terminate Diaz’s rights because he’s a bad person; he’s not. He has no criminal record, no record of drug or alcohol use; he’s on the football and baseball teams at his school and holds down a part-time job.
What lost Diaz his son was the fact that he’s single. Had he been married to his girlfriend, he’d have had all the rights of any other father, but Diaz, like 40 percent of all new fathers nationwide, is unmarried.
And under California law that means that he, unlike married fathers and all mothers married or single, must take special steps to prove that he’s qualified to be his child’s father.
Diaz attempted to do just that. He lives with his mother in a three-bedroom house. They set aside the third bedroom for his child, bought a crib and baby clothes and generally prepared for the new arrival. He and his mother developed a parenting plan in which they managed child care along with their work and school schedules.
Christian Diaz eagerly anticipated the arrival of his son and looked forward to being a father to him. But there was a problem.
California’s Uniform Parentage Act sets up three classes of parents — mothers, presumed fathers and all other fathers. Practically speaking, presumed fathers are those who are married to the mother of a child. Unmarried fathers are not presumed to be the father of a child irrespective of the mother’s marital status.
The California Supreme Court has ruled that, in order for an unmarried father to have parental rights, he must publicly admit paternity and physically bring the child into his home. Diaz did the former when he went to court to prove his paternity via genetic testing.
Christian Diaz failed to do the latter because the mother, working with hospital authorities, prevented him from even seeing his son, much less taking him into the home Diaz and his mother had prepared.
Despite knowing that Diaz was the father, the mother told hospital personnel that he was not and had Diaz escorted from the premises by hospital security. The place for “father” on his son’s birth certificate was left blank even though Christian Diaz has been conclusively established to be the boy’s father.
So, California law placed the parental rights of Christian Diaz not in his own hands, but in those of the mother of his child. He had no physical way to comply with the second requirement of the Uniform Parentage Act because the mother prevented it. The California Supreme Court has ruled that she has the power to do exactly that.
Some argue that Diaz is too young to make a good father, so his son is better off with adoptive parents. That’s possible; we’ll never know what type of dad Diaz would have been to this particular child. But all other parents have the opportunity to succeed or fail before a court can take their children from them. Only single fathers do not.
Read the full piece here.