It’s a truism that bad facts make bad law and nothing reaffirms it like this case (Express, 12/7/18).
A judge in England has ruled that a child may be adopted without ever letting the father know of its existence. The reason? Dad’s a bad person.
Now, Dad was only 14 years old when he had sex with a girl he’d met at school. She was 13. She says she didn’t know she was pregnant until she went into labor. Whatever the case, Dad doesn’t know he has a child and, according to Judge Cohen, he never will.
The facts are worse than that, though.
"In particular, [the mother] is convinced that the father will harass her and her family. The combination of factors does not make it appropriate for the father to be informed."
The father has abused drugs and alcohol, is permanently excluded from school and is the subject of 15 police child concern reports.In short, this kid seems to be a bad actor. My guess is that he himself doesn’t have a father in his life. Being “permanently excluded from school” pretty clearly means that he’s anti-social and likely on a one-way path toward prison. I can’t envision a situation in which he could provide a healthy family atmosphere for a child. Terminating his parental rights and placing the child for adoption look like the best solution to this regrettable situation.
The idea that the way to accomplish that is to simply ignore his parental rights and keep him and his family in complete ignorance about his daughter is an outrage. I’m not the only one who thinks so.
But leading social commentator Caroline Farrow said the ruling "smacks of state overreach".
She added: "I am extremely uneasy with this decision.
"Just as every single human being has the right to discover their biological parentage, so too do individuals have the right to know that they have fathered a child.That last of course is not true. The idea that men “have the right to know that they have fathered a child” is simply false. It has no basis in American law and I’ve never seen it asserted in British law. Perhaps she means that, in adoption cases, fathers are to be informed. But as a general principle and in most adoption cases, mothers can decide to keep Dad in the dark forever if they choose. No legal consequences attend their doing so. None.
Of course, if Mom chooses to withhold knowledge of a child from Dad and later decides she needs his money, she can, at any time file suit for child support and, no questions asked, get it. That can happen when little Andy or Jenny is one month old or 18 years old. Dad’s rights are firmly in Mom’s hands.
Judge Cohen’s ruling is scary. To say that it’s a slippery slope is to understate the matter considerably. How many other mothers might be willing to call the father of their child a drug and alcohol abuser? How many fathers have a criminal record? How many mothers might say they’re nervous about Dad knowing about his child?
The answers are obvious. What’s apparently true about this minor father is true of countless other men and boys. Are they now to be denied any knowledge of their progeny? Under this judge’s reasoning, I don’t see why not.
In a coda to the Express article, Dr. Alan Mendoza makes the point.
But this is no isolated case. It is a microcosm of broken Britain.
Towns long forgotten by those elected to Westminster have faced more than gradual decline in recent years.
There are places where unemployment is the norm and deprivation is endemic.
Nowhere is this truer than the North-east, where this saga is thought to have taken place. This proud region bore the brunt of economic change wrought by the collapse of British manufacturing, and was then condemned to stagnation as the Blair Government built a benefits system that made some people worse off for working.In short, there are countless fathers just like the one under discussion.
There’s a lot of sentiment abroad these days for the diminution of due process of law. We’ve been fighting the battle for due process of law for at least 4,000 years when the presumption of innocence in criminal cases first made its appearance in the Code of Hamurabi. Beyond all reason, we still are. In this case, a judge suspended the father’s due process rights just because he wanted to.
Due process would have meant informing the father that he has a child. He would then have the opportunity to claim his parental rights. If he’s as bad a person as he appears, terminating those rights and finalizing the adoption would proceed apace. Whether he is or isn’t though, he’d have the chance to prove his case, which is much the point of due process. If, as I suspect would happen, he chose not to assert his rights, then the adoption would proceed.
But a judge ruling by fiat that a father can’t know about his child because of past bad behavior, indeed is a case of judicial overreach. It’s an outrage that should find no support in civilized society.