May 8, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
So we think we’ve got it bad in the United States. In many ways we do, but this article tells us the situation for fathers in other parts of the English-speaking world are distinctly worse (STV, 5/6/14). And, as bad as married fathers have it, it’s far worse for unmarried dads. Here in the U.S. some 42% of children are born to unmarried mothers and that means that a similar percentage have unmarried fathers.
But laws that long ago were established to discourage bastardy, haven’t kept pace with events. Put simply, the great divide in parental rights for fathers is marriage, with married fathers having a leg up on their unmarried brothers. Here in the U.S. we’ve made strides toward equalizing parental rights for married and unmarried fathers, even though we’re not close to where we need to be. So an unmarried father has to prove his paternity via DNA testing, but a married one doesn’t. Absent that proof, an unmarried father has no parental rights, but a married dad has his rights presumed from the fact of his marriage to the mother.
(Of course that presumption is far from an unmixed blessing, as many victims of paternity fraud know. Many a Runaround Sue has relied on the presumption of paternity to allow the man to whom she’s married to believe he’s her child’s father when in fact he’s not. And until recently, if the husband didn’t catch on to the ruse in time, he could be stuck paying child support for years for a child fathered by another man.)
Still, in the U.S. and elsewhere, a single man who believes he’s a child’s father can ask a court to order genetic testing to find out and usually it’ll be granted. If he’s the father, absent certain factors, he’ll have full rights and responsibilities. Even though he has to jump through those hoops, the law here is still far ahead of where it used to be and, as it turns out, far ahead of where it is in Scotland.
A man fighting to see his baby son is calling for a change in the law so unmarried fathers have the right to be part of their children’s lives.
Ron Park wants family courts to enforce paternity testing "in extreme cases".
He says all efforts should be made to ensure both parents are named on birth certificates, where it is in the best interests of the child.
Mr Park set up an online campaign about his attempts to see his son, who was born last year.
"His mother has refused to let me see him at all. There is no protection issue, no order to remove me, she simply felt like she wanted rid of me," he wrote.
He says there are an estimated 160,080 separated fathers and 295,000 children in Scotland alone whose rights are "unprotected under our current laws".
Mr Park said he took legal advice following the birth of his son, but added: "It turns out that if his mother does not consent to a DNA test to be carried out, not even a court can force her."
"My fight had just became bigger, it’s more than just seeing my son now," he added. "My fight is to help all separated dads in my situation, fathers who had children born out of wedlock and have, in the eyes of the law, absolutely no rights to anything. This must change.
"At the heart of my fight will always be my simple desire to hold my little boy, but it is clear to me that I am not just fighting his mother for this right. I’m now fighting the entire legal system. Fighting for change, for me and for every other father failed by our outdated and frankly inadequate judiciary system."
Good on you, brother. The wholesale handing over of a fathers’ rights to mothers doesn’t get much clearer than that. A man like Park can’t even prove the fact with DNA testing if she doesn’t want him to. And, just as in Park’s case, if “she simply felt like she wanted rid of me,” all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t do a thing about it. Mom is queen of the family court. Her wish is its command.
So good for Park for realizing that he’s fighting for more than just himself and his child, although he’s certainly doing that.
I won’t go into how important fathers are to children, or how the laws of Scotland directly harm children by removing fathers from their lives. Suffice it to say that, in a world that steadily moves toward greater and more effective rights for fathers, Scotland is stuck somewhere in medieval times.
But what I will do is point out that it’s not just a fathers’ access to his child that’s entirely at the whim of the mother; his income’s under her thumb too. Because as surely as she can deny him any role whatsoever in his child’s life, she can also, if she chooses, do the opposite. At any time, presumably for the rest of his life, she can go to court, name him as the father and demand his money in child support. And her request will be granted.
To my knowledge, there’s no statute of limitations on filing such a claim, so he’ll always be on the hook. Is the child 16, 18, 30? It makes no difference. Does the child know the man is his father? Does he/she care? It makes no difference. Perhaps the child has reached adulthood so that none of the money can possibly go to benefit him/her. It makes no difference; he still has to pay. But of course if Mom does this, all of a sudden, like flowers after a rain, his rights will spring forth. At her say-so, he’ll become the child’s father with all the rights of any dad. Depending on when she exercises her choice, the point may be moot. What kind of parenting is he likely to do for a stranger in his/her 30s?
Ron Park’s got a long row to hoe. He’s got a lot of people to educate and a lot of anti-father/pro-mother bias to overcome. But he’s got the bit in his teeth and seems ready to go.
As I said, good on you brother.
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