A Father’s Right to Be Present at His Child’s Delivery
Ending a marriage while pregnant can be difficult for many reasons. There may be questions of paternity, and concerns over the law’s automatic presumption that the husband is the father of a child born while the mother is married. There may also be concerns about what rights a father has to be present at the birth of the child. This last concern can cause extra stress to a mother who is in a high conflict situation with the father and cannot envision having him present during the birth.
There are plenty of laws and cases dealing with a father’s rights once a child is born, but there is much less guidance when it comes to establishing what right a father has to be present for a child’s birth. One court that addressed the issue in New Jersey found that the father did not have a constitutional right to be present at the birth. The court in that case relied on case law from the Supreme Court of the United States.
The reasoning behind not granting a father an automatic right to be present during birth is basically that the delivery is really a medical procedure for the mother. While the mother carries the baby in her body, she necessarily has more rights when it comes to what happens to the child and the conditions under which the child is delivered. For example, a father cannot legally stop a mother from securing an abortion if she makes up her mind to do so.
Since child birth can also come with complications, forcing a mother to accept a father in the delivery room can cause unwanted stress to the mother and complicate the delivery. The mother should therefore not be forced to compromise her own safety and privacy in order to allow the father to be present during the child’s birth.
Once the child is born, the father of the child has rights, including the rights to be named on the birth certificate and to make co-parenting decisions. The mother and father can come to an agreement as to how to co-parent, or one of them may ask a court to intervene and establish an official custodial agreement.
If the mother alleges that a man claiming to be the father is not in fact the father, the man can seek an order of paternity from a court compelling testing to determine his relationship to the child. Once paternity has been established, the father can get custodial rights as well as the obligation to provide for the child financially through the payment of child support if the court finds it appropriate. The father can also be required to pay for the medical bills related to the birth of the child.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you are pregnant and going through a divorce, you should contact an experienced divorce and child custody attorney to find out more about child custody and support issues, as well as what rights the child’s father may have. Contact us at Barbara Flum Stein & Associates in Media, Pennsylvania, serving Delaware County in all family law matters to schedule a consultation.