I wrote recently about the Benjamin Wyrembek case in Ohio. He’s the man who fathered a child with a married woman who, along with her husband, decided to place the child for adoption. But Wyrembek immediately moved to stop the adoption and claim paternity. He filed the appropriate document with the Putative Father Registry and moved the court for a DNA test to determine paternity. That testing showed Wyrembek to be the boy’s father.
Despite all that, despite the fact that the child’s father was claiming paternity, Jason and Christy Vaughn took custody and proceeded as if they were adopting him. Since then, they have fought Wyrembek every step of the way, and he’s prevailed at each. But all those steps have taken time and now the boy is almost three years old.
What I reported previously is that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the adoption cannot go forward and that the boy must be united with his father. After that, the court entered a temporary stay of its order; now this article says that the stay has been lifted and there is at long last no obstacle between Benjamin Wyrembek and his son (Toledo Blade, 10/7/10).
The Ohio Supreme Court said Thursday it will not reconsider an earlier decision that allowed a Swanton man to have custody of his biological son.
The ruling appears to pave the way for Benjamin Wyrembek to be united with his nearly 3-year-old son, who has been raised since birth by an Indiana couple who were attempting to adopt the child.
And the anti-father crowd is fit to be tied! This article verges on the unhinged (Huffington Post, 10/6/10). It pretty much recycles the Vaughn’s complaints which all boil down to this: the child has been in the Vaughn’s home since he was born and, since they’re the only family he’s ever known, he should stay with them.
If you don’t look at the actual facts of the case, that argument can have some appeal. After all, the child doesn’t know or care about the law; his interest is in a loving and stable family which presumably the Vaughns provide.
But if you do look at the actual facts of the case, that argument breaks down in a heartbeat. That’s because what the Vaughns, their adoption attorney and the adoption agency did, in attempting to force the little boy to be adopted, was done fully aware from the very beginning that his father wanted him and was moving legally for custody. The actual facts of the case make it clear that the Vaughns could, at any time, have simply acknowledged that the boy had a father, gone to Benjamin Wyrembek with his son, said “here” and handed him over. They could have done that on day one. It would have been the responsible thing to have done, the moral thing, the fair thing. But they didn’t.
Instead, what they chose to do, probably in the hope that Wyrembek would get tired, or run out of money or patience, and simply give up, was to draw out the legal proceedings as long as possible. Their attorney surely knew very well that legally they had no right to the boy, but they dug in their heels in the hope that time would do what the law would not. But Benjamni Wyrembek didn’t give up, and now, after losing every single battle in court they cry “the best interests of the child.”
As I said in my first piece, that’s been an effective method of depriving fit, loving fathers of their children in adoption cases in the past, but at least in Ohio, no more. I can’t count the number of adoption cases I’ve read that rule in essence “the father’s rights have been violated, but so much time has passed that we refuse to disturb the status quo.”
The problems with all those rulings are almost too many to count, but the Vaughns, their attorney and Robin Sax writing in the Huffington Post seem willing to ignore them all. Fortunately, the Ohio Supreme Court and courts in other states of late, seem to see all too well the problems of allowing strangers to take a father’s child from him, keep the child during the long pendency of litigation and then claim that, in some way unknown in law, the the father’s rights have evaporated.
The first problem is that such an outcome would encourage child stealing. The whole concept that, if you can just keep a child away from its father for a month, a year, two years, then the child becomes yours should disturb everyone. What if a woman marched into the maternity ward of a hospital and marched out again with a newborn that wasn’t hers? What if she successfully kept the child in her care for, say, three years? And what if authorities discovered the child, did genetic testing and determined whose mother the child really was? Would Robin Sax and the rest of those opposed to fathers’ rights be moved to righteous indignation at the “biological” mother’s claim on her child? Somehow I doubt it, but something very much like that – all dressed up in legal finery – is exactly what they’re arguing for.
If you don’t believe me when I say that adoption without the father’s consent often looks like child-stealing, consider the case of Edward Bookert of New Mexico. He lived with, but never married Anna Medina who eventually gave birth to two daughters and a son. Bookert was a loving, hands-on dad and the sole support of Medina and their three children.
When their children were 1, 2 and 10 years old, the couple separated for a month during which time Medina placed the youngest child for adoption claiming Bookert had abandoned him. Contacted by the adoption agency, Bookert’s “reaction was one of shock and disbelief.” He told the agency that he would be there in two days to take custody of his child. Nevertheless, the adoption agency placed the child in the care of potential adoptive parents before Bookert got back to town and told him to hire an attorney if he wanted to contest the adoption. The New Mexico Supreme Court wrote that the case worker for the adoption agency La Familia,
“testified that he assumed that Bookert would eventually consent to the adoption.”
Sound familiar? But, like Benjamin Wyrembek, Edward Bookert didn’t give up as the agency assumed he would. Sadly, unlike Wyrembek, by the time the courts finally decided his contest of the adoption, they refused to give him custody despite finding him to be a fit parent. Why? Precisely the reason argued by the anti-father forces in the Wyrembek case, “the best interests of the child.” He sued the adoption agency and got a judgment, but the agency slipped behind the iron curtain of bankruptcy. Edward Bookert was left with a worthless piece of paper and without his child.
I have spoken at length with Edward Bookert; he understands all too well the old saying “some people rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen.”
Let’s be clear: that is what Robin Sax and the rest of the anti-dad crowd are arguing for. To them, the Edward Bookert case was a good and fair result. Yes, it places a father’s rights totally in the hands of the mother, but why concern ourselves with that? Thank heaven the Ohio Supreme Court knows better.
The anti-dad crowd’s opposition to Benjamin Wyrembek is so misguided, I’ll write more about it later.