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March 22nd, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
In the United Kingdom, a single minister is successfully blocking implementation of a law requiring the father to be named on every birth certificate.  Liberal Democratic Minister for Children Sarah Teather has apparently decided that the law, passed last year by Parliament, doesn’t meet with her approval and therefore won’t be implemented.  Just how a single minister can flout the will of the people as expressed by their elected representatives, I don’t know, but that seems to be what’s happening.  Read about it here (Daily Mail, 3/18/12).

The new law would require both mothers and fathers to provide the identity of the father at a child’s birth.  Failure to do so would result in a fine of £200.  Fathers who doubted their paternity would be allowed to have genetic testing done prior to acknowledging paternity.  Children conceived as a result of rape or sperm donation would not have to have a father named.  Likewise, mothers who can demonstrate that they are victims of domestic violence would be exempt from the requirement to name the father.  Such accusations of domestic violence would have to be verified by either a doctor or a social worker.

A father’s name on a birth certificate carries considerable legal weight.  It constitutes a presumption that he’s the father, meaning that it is a first step toward establishing his parental rights to the child and his responsibilities toward it.

Conservative ministers say unmarried mothers trying to cut a father out of a child’s life should be forced to acknowledge his role, with men given a right to insist upon a paternity test if they resist.

Meanwhile, they say, feckless fathers who refuse to be named on a birth certificate should – like mothers who decline to name a father – be liable for a fine, expected to be £200.

The plan is backed by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who says fathers should have both a right and a responsibility to be formally acknowledged by the state.

He believes the move is a vital part of addressing a crisis in responsible parenting by fathers and increasing the rights of men in family law.

Smith is this government’s most reliable supporter of fathers’ rights and its most ardent advocate for legal reform to effect greater connection between fathers and children post-divorce.

Currently, there are about 275,000 children born to unmarried mothers in Britain.  Of those, some 50,000 have no father named on the birth certificate.  And that, as it turns out is just how Children’s Minister and Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather likes it.

Government sources, however, said the Lib Dems are objecting to the plan.

The party is said to have expressed concern that the system would tar some children permanently by associating them with undesirable fathers, as well as undermining the rights of new mothers to make their own decisions about whether or not to acknowledge paternity.

‘Sarah Teather is the main block to this,’ said one.

That’s about as frank as it gets.  The idea that, even though it’s the law of the land, it shouldn’t be put into practice because someone thinks it might associate children with “undesireable fathers” is obviously an excuse and not a reason.  What’s more to the point is that, by allowing a mother to name the father or not at her own whim, current practice places his parental rights in her hands.

As I said earlier, whether or not his name is on the birth certificate carries significant legal weight.  If his name is on the birth certificate, he’s well on his way to claiming parental rights.  And it is precisely that fact that sticks in the craw of Sarah Teather.  As usual, those who opposed fathers’ access to their children want mothers to have the final word about fathers’ exercise of their parental rights.  That’s what “undermining the rights of new mothers to make their own decisions about whether or not to acknowledge paternity” means.  Teather wants mothers to be able to cut fathers out of their children’s lives and she rightly sees the new law as undermining that power.

But however laudably frank Sarah Teather may be in her opposition to implementation of the new law, her party is hypocritical about the matter.  After all, before the election that brought the Liberal Democrats to power along with the Conservatives, the Lib Dems posted their “Policies for Men.”  In it, Nicholas Clegg and the Party promised both “shared parenting” and “equal parenting” and said, “Liberal Democrats recognise that that the fathers who are involved at the start of their children’s lives are more likely to stay involved.”

I guess that was a nice statement to make before the election, but when it comes to allowing implementation of an already existing law requiring the father’s name on the certificate of his child’s birth, they’re opposed.  Hypocrisy doesn’t get much more blatant than that.

Still, the law is the law and I suspect a way around the current impasse will be found.  We’ll see.

 

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