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October 22nd, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
It’s been quite an odyssey for Daniel Quinn, and he’s not home yet.  Read about it here (WNEM, 10/19/12).  I’ve written about Quinn here and here.

He’s the Michigan father who’s been fighting for his daughter Maeleigh almost as long as she’s been alive.  He’s fought hard enough to get the state legislature to change Michigan’s law, but he still needs to convince a judge he should be a father to his daughter who’s now six.

Back in 2006, Quinn had a relationship with Candace Beckwith,  the woman who would become Maeleigh’s mother.  She was married to a man in Ohio, but told Quinn she was single.   So when Beckwith became pregnant, Quinn was elated.  He was there at the hospital when his child came into the world, but then came the first suggestion that something was amiss.  The hospital wouldn’t allow Danieal Quinn, the father of the child, to sign the birth certificate.  That’s because Beclwoth was married and, according to Michigan law at the time, the child was presumed to be her husband’s.  Period.  It didn’t matter that husband and wife lived in different states.  It didn’t matter that a simple DNA test would have revealed the truth.  The truth, under the Michigan law at the time, was irrelevant.

Still, for two years, Quinn and Beckwith lived together and raised the child.  Quinn was an exemplary dad, but in 2008, the mother went back to her husband.  She refused to allow Quinn to see his daughter and, under Michigan law, he had no claim to; he had no parental rights.  In fact, he has had no contact with Maeleigh since that time.

“Now, she’s 6 years old, last time I talked to my daughter was August of 2008, and the last time I saw Maeleigh was Memorial Day of 2008,” Quinn explained…

“That’s conspiracy, it’s not kidnapping, it’s conspiracy to kidnap a child, and that’s what happened. They colluded, using the laws, colluded in order to manipulate and defraud the courts in order to kidnap my little girl,” Quinn said.

“We would never tolerate that somebody could just walk in and take a child they know does not belong to them, because a law allows them to do that – well to me that’s kidnapping,” said Quinn on Friday.

Ah but Daniel, we do it every day.  Sad to say, the laws of the 50 states and those of many nations allow mothers to take children from fathers in a wide variety of ways, including depriving them of visitation, placing the child for adoption without notice to him, paternity fraud and many more.  In many ways they look very much like kidnapping and it’s all nice, neat and legal.

Daniel Quinn Helped Give Rights to Michigan Fathers

That was a situation Quinn wasn’t going to stand for.  So he tirelessly lobbied the state legislature to bring Michigan’s laws into the 20th – if not the 21st – century.  Eventually, he won.  Now an unmarried man who fathers a child has the opportunity to assert his parental rights, even if the child’s mother is married to another man.  He only has one year in which to do that, which encourages single mothers to simply keep knowledge of the child from him for that long.  If she does, she’s home free; courtesy of the Michigan legislature, she can deprive the father – regardless of how fit and loving he may be – of all contact with the child.  Again, fathers’ rights are in mothers’ hands.

Still, it’s a change for the better.  Single fathers in Michigan now have some rights solely by virtue of being dads.

So now, Daniel Quinn must continue to fight for his daughter.  He’s by far the better of the two men; the other is now in an Ohio prison for drug trafficking, an enterprize he apparently included Maeleigh in somehow.

TV5′s cameras were barred from Friday’s crucial hearing, but inside we witnessed the raw emotion of the case. It all boils down to whether the woman he was involved with was honest with him about her marital status at the time the child was conceived.

We’ll see how it turns out.  How it should turn out is that Quinn should have primary custody of his child.  Yes, he hasn’t seen her in four years, but after all, who’s the better parent here?  Mom lied to him about her marital status, committed adultery, had a child by another man while married, returned to her drug-trafficker husband and apparently allowed him to involve a small child in his illegal activities.  Into the bargain, Beckwith managed to have Maeleigh taken from her and placed in foster care at one point.  Meanwhile Quinn, whom all acknowledge to be a fit and loving father, was changing the law for every single father in the state.  To me, it looks like an obvious choice.

It’s interesting what the case apparently turns on – whether the mother can convince the judge that she told Quinn the truth about being married.  Given all we know about child custody law, you might think the important issue would be the best interests of the child.  We hear that phrase in almost every child custody case and the words are always intoned with the utmost gravity.  How could anything be important but the child?

So it’s interesting to notice when we don’t hear those words.  In this case, when it looks certain that Maeleigh’s best interests would be served by giving primary custody to Quinn, all of a sudden something as arcane and impossible to ascertain as what a woman said or didn’t say six years ago is all that matters.  There are many times when “the best interests of the child” look like a red herring to cover the real intentions of laws and judges – the deprivation of a father’s parental rights.  This is one of those times.

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