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Recent ruling delivers big blow to rights of unwed fathers

Most parents never forget the day their son or daughter enters into world. For many fathers, witnessing or being amongst the first to hold a newborn son or daughter provides an opportunity to bond with a child and an important and positive step towards forging a life-long and positive father and child relationship.

A recent judge's ruling in one state, however, serves to strip some fathers of their right to both be present during a child's birth or have access to a baby immediately after birth.

The 2013 case involved an estranged unwed couple who were expecting a child together. While the baby's father eagerly anticipated the birth of his child and wanted to be present either during the baby's birth or see the baby immediately afterward, a judge ruled he did not have a right to either.

Ruling in favor of the mother, the judge asserted that "any interest a father has before a child's birth is subordinate to the mother's interests". This ruling comes after decades of positive changes in which both mothers and fathers advocated for changes to allow fathers to be present during a child's birth to both support the mother and witness the first precious moments in his child’s life.

For unwed fathers, the judge's ruling in this case is discouraging and sets a negative tone that may negatively impact a father's ability to bond with a child and provide for his or her future emotional and financial needs.

Divorced and unwed fathers who are experiencing difficulty gaining access to a child may choose to take legal action. An attorney who advocates for fathers' rights can help a father obtain access to a child as well as help enforce or modify an existing child custody or visitation agreement.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor, "N.J. judge cites women's rights in barring unwed dad from child's birth," Patrik Jonsson, March 12, 2014

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