Are Parental Rights Earned or Given?

I’ve had an extremely difficult time keeping the blog properly populated with fresh material this semester, for which I apologize.  It’s just been a crazy teaching schedule and I don’t know what all else.  My apologies and my gratitude for those who bear with me.

I do have a whole bunch of things stacked up here–a pending Utah case and a case to be argued before the US Supreme Court this coming Tuesday are very high on the list.  But I also have necessary travel which will obviously disrupt things.  So this post is one of those “let’s take a step back” posts, reflecting my efforts to find different ways to look at things.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed that we come back to some fundamental disagreements over and over again.  One–not the only one, but perhaps the most commonly appearing one–is about the role that genetic connection should/does play in the identification of legal parents.   The fact is that in law in the US genetics doesn’t always rule.  It does if the government is looking for someone to support a child and cannot find anyone else.   But if two men are vying for the top spot as legal father, there’s no certainty that the man with genetic connection to invoke will win.   Indeed, we know he will at least sometimes lose if the other man can stand next to the woman who gave birth and say “we’re married.”   (That would be a description of a well-known Supreme Court I’m about to teach called Michael H.)

Rather then just endlessly debating the same question, I’ve been looking for different ways to frame the core inquiry.  Mind you, I think the ultimate question is the same no matter how you frame it–I do not think I can make “go away” as it were.  But surely sometimes a new perspective brings some new insights, even if it doesn’t radically change the whole situation.

So here’s a different way of asking the same question:  Does a person have to earn parental rights or are they simply entitled to them because of some attribute–specifically because they are genetically related to a child?   Once you adopt one point of view or another it’s not a difficult question to ask.  For those people who give genetic connection primacy, parental rights are not earned.  You are entitled to them because that child was created with your genetic material.   If it’s your material, you should have the rights–end of story .

Perhaps, before going forward to consider an alternative view, I should pause here to again restate what it means to have those parental rights.   If you have the parental rights, then you get to make (or at least participate in) the major decisions about the child’s life–where will she go to school?  Will she receive any particular religious training?   Where will she live?  Who will she spend time with?

Now perhaps we can all agree that the question of who gets those rights is a crucial one.  This is a major decision that will certainly affect that lives of the children involved.   Thus, I think the rationale for awarding the rights to one person or another is also critical.   To take an absurd example, you could randomly assign the parental rights to a person whose name was drawn out of a hat–and you could place all names of those interested in having parental rights in the hat.

That’s an absurd example, at least in part because there’s no reason to think that the person whose name is drawn will be a particularly good person to take on the responsibilities of legal parentage.    And this brings me round to my point–my alternative to just using genetics.

I’d say that we ought to award parental rights in a way that is most likely to maximize the chances that people given the rights will make good decisions for the children involved.   Put slightly differently, our goal in figuring out how to assign parental rights ought to be to do what is best for kids.   (You all can disagree with this, of course.  I’m just identifying this as my starting place.)

It seems to me that the best way to do this is to look first look to see if there is someone who is doing the job–someone who has been making the decisions and making them well.   If there is, then I’d say this is the person to award parental rights to.   And I think another way of saying this is that the rights should be earned–by performance, a track record–rather than just given to whoever can pass the DNA test.

I’ll be really concrete—if there’s a situation where you have two competing claims for parental rights, one from someone who can say ‘I’ve been doing the job’ and one from someone who can say “I am the genetic parent” (AND if the latter person hasn’t been doing the job–because I need to make this stark), then I’d go with the first person–the one who has the existing relationship.    The person who hasn’t been around but who has the genetic connection hasn’t earned the rights and I don’t see a good reason to give them to that person.  (As I’ve said before, we might want to recognize that this person has some significant relationship to the child–I just don’t want to give them the parental rights.)

There’s nothing new here.  We’ve been round and round this many times and I don’t know that there’s much point in restating things.   But it’s a slightly different way of putting it and, if nothing else, perhaps it makes the contrast clear.   Just in case it wasn’t already, of course.

 

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44 responses to “Are Parental Rights Earned or Given?

  1. “The person who hasn’t been around but who has the genetic connection hasn’t earned the rights and I don’t see a good reason to give them to that person.”

    Would the reason why they weren’t around matter at all to you? Because I personally see a difference between a genetic parent who wasn’t around because they didn’t give a darn, and a genetic parent who tried really hard to get involved but was thwarted by bad behavior or fraud on the part of someone else.

    • Go Rebecca!

      • I would be interested in the reaction to this hypothetical case: a lesbian couple (or we could even make it a heterosexual couple that dislikes the concept of marriage and has chosen not to marry, so no legal rights would be automatically assigned to the man at birth, and the man is infertile and has no viable sperm) uses a sperm donor, and a pregnancy results. Immediately after the positive pregnancy test, the pregnant woman terminates the romantic relationship. The ex says he/she still wants to raise the child despite the lack of biological relationship, that the intent to parent and involvement during the process made he/she feel deeply connected as a parent, and tries to be helpful during the pregnancy, but is constantly pushed away and the pregnant woman does every possible thing to prevent the ex from being involved in any way.

        Should the ex have any rights in either, both, or neither of the following situations:

        The mother decides to raise the child alone.

        The mother meets someone else and decides to raise the child with her new partner.

        In both scenarios, she prevents the ex from having any involvement, and thus the ex never cared for the child physically or financially, but the ex still really, really wants to be involved.

        if the answer by anyone on here that does not support genetic parents always or almost always having parental rights, is that the ex should have rights in either or both of those scenarios, that suggests it’s more of a bias against men who get a woman pregnant naturally rather than a belief that a child needs to be raised by whoever managed to physically and financially support the child.

        • found your last paragraph a bit complicated to understand

          • I have noticed that those who favor parental performance over genetics tend to also be strongly in support of unmarried ex-partners of the biological mother, who are themselves not genetically related to the child, having parental rights, even if there was no formal adoption and the biological mother opposes continued involvement of the ex-partner in the child’s life.

            I am curious if they would support the ex-partner having rights if the romantic relationship was terminated after the woman got pregnant from a procedure they planned together, but before the child was born, and the ex-partner never got to act as a parent because the biological mother prevented it.

            If people who don’t support biological parents automatically having rights all or most of the time would assign rights to the partner in that situation, that suggests a bias against biological parents such as fathers trying to stop an adoption after the mother prevented the father from caring for a child he wanted.

            So I am curious what those people would say about my scenario.

            • I recall an early post on this blog in just such a case- about an unmarried lesbian couple who split up during the pregnancy. The case was complicated perhaps by the existence of a sibling, an older child that both were raising together. Julie do you recall which case I am talking about?

        • I want so badly to understand that. Please go over the last paragraph for me again. You’re saying that anyone who says the jilted unrelated x should have parental rights is more concerned about excluding men who get women pregnant than they are about including the people who manage to support the child? I need you to explainmore

  2. Your question makes no sense. The whole concept of earning anything is that you do something in return for someone else giving you something. They have the money, you want the money, you earn the money, they give you the money.

    If a person earns parental rights it means that someone else has them to begin with in order to be giving them away, handing them out, passing them around.

    Question is….how’d they get them?

  3. “The person who hasn’t been around but who has the genetic connection hasn’t earned the rights ” Ah but they still have the obligation because its them that caused minor dependent offspring to exist . The person doing the job is not obligated to that child does not owe it to the child to do that job and be there – the obligation of taking care of the child goes to the parent who caused their existence. Someone else can step in and do the job if the parent fails but they’ll never be obligated and the only reason they are there at all is because the parent failed.

    Look at all the people that get to experience what its like to be a parent because some other poor person’s parent’s failed them. Ideally that would never happen and all people who have offspring would want to raise them and do a good job of it. Nobody would have offspring that they did not want or could not take care of themselves. Wouldn’t that be ideal? But then what would all the childless people do where would they get children to raise if there were no foundlings or orphans? What would they do if nobody was allowed not to take care of the offspring they create?

  4. I would not talk about parental rights divorced from parental responsibilities. No responsibilities, no rights and vice versa. This is a well accepted formula in many aspects of life.
    Most of us here have no beef with your formulation that the genetic parent should hold no rights, if he has not been fulfilling his responsibilities. I might go along with you a step further and say that if he is unavailable and unlikely to fulfilil these responsibilities, we can reasonably go on to the next candidate. The problem is that you don’t stop there. At times you would seek to deny him even the chance to fulfill these responsibilities.

    • But you don’t address why it is that he’d be stripped of his responsibilities simply for having not fullfilled them. The fact that a child’s father is absent and unavailable does not mean they don’t have one. It does not mean that someone else can come along do the job for him and become the child’s father. They are still themselves, not the child’s father doing something the father should be doing.

      Is the child suppose to accept this concept that anyone willing to take care of them IS their father as if their own father did not exist and had not failed them? To erase the real father and his obligation simply to recognize another person’s active roll in the child’s life is to degrade what the child is truly due. If I owe you 5000 dollars but ditch out and you can’t get hold of me and you end up receiving 5000 as a gift from someone else and pay the bill i owed you for –
      don’t I still owe you $5K? I mean could you not still take me to small claims court for the bill I ditched out on? The fact that someone else gave you a gift in that same amount and you are not suffering for the money I owe you is beside the point…I owe it to you and the law backs you up on that fact. Someone else’s kind gift has nothing to do with the debt I incurred and still owe. That’s the law. Does not matter how rich you might be or how poor and creepy I am the law backs you up if I owe you it matters not how desperate you are for it I still owe it. Why then don’t people have that same recourse with their estranged parents when someone else happens to show up and give them the gift of ongoing support? Certainly if nobody shows up the law will go after your estranged parent. Its almost better for nobody to show up at least then your rights are respected

      • it’s a lot better for somebody to do the job than no one, as long as it’s a decent somebody. what they shouldn’t be doing is lying to the kid about it, that’s all.

        • I continue to not understand the focus on money over other aspects of a parental relationship. If I found out someone had given my parents a bunch of money so they could take care of me I wouldn’t feel cheated at all – the most important thing they gave me and continue to give me is not money and will never be money. Honestly emphasizing money to such a degree seems almost morbid and makes me think of a bunch of people waiting around for their relatives to die so they can get their money…. I’d rather my parents live to 100 and use up all their money and I get nothing financially because all I want is to have them around and in my life for as long as possible…

        • OK Ki but why call that person a father rather than adoptive father? Why can’t the legal language and documentation be crystal clear that they are not the father but are taking over for the biological father in his absense?

          If an unrelated person can simply be named as parent on an original birth record and everyone thinks that is perfectly fine then why bother with adoption procedures ever at all anyway?

          A child that has a birth certificate with two mothers named on it has evidence of being gypped. Clearly they don’t have two mothers and there is a father somewhere missing from the mix. Why isn’t that unrelated parent called an adoptive parent and why would that child not deserve the benefit of the courts at least going through the motions of at least trying to attempt to find the father and obtain his concent? If nothing else simply for the record the way they do in adoption cases. It’s only fair. It’s only logical considering the fact that its clear that something shady happened if two women are named as parents on your birth record.

          Now OF COURSE I believe that its wrong for an opposite sex couple to name an unrelated male on the birth record and it is every bit the same gyp as naming two women it is equally not true and if anything the unrelated male should have to be called an adoptive parent. I only use the example of two women because it’s so in your face not true it can’t even be mistakenly assumed to be true. Like where is the proof for the kid that their estranged parent even consented or is aware that they exist? How freaking kidnapped would you feel as that kid?

          • Do you think that calling the adoptive parents “mom” and “dad” really hurts the child? I don’t think so.
            Heck some people even call their in-laws “mom” and “dad”. My mom did although she wasn’t even that close to them.
            To very young children “mom” and “dad” just means the person they count on to always be around to take care of them.

  5. sbfseekingbaby

    Are we restricted by the fact that we generally give rights and responsibilities to only two people? If there is a third person with an interest (in the case of Michael H, based on genetics), why can’t that person also have a say? We’re in a society where surrogacy, donors, and adoption are more prevalent. Maybe it’s time to adjust our cultural and legal definitions of family (and parents).

    The idea of earning rights is a bit dangerous to me. It immediately makes me think of people who have resources trumping those without. Access to resources would be a defining factor. Those are the people who can afford to use the legal system to fight to maintain their ‘earned’ rights and responsibilities. (I’m thinking of potential adoptive parents who are well off being preferred to genetic parents who may not be as affluent.)

    • Two separate observations in response. First, I think our attachment to two as the right number of parents might be rooted in biology–because one does have two genetic parents. But I think we ought to be willing to re-examine this. There are certainly situations where having three recognized legal parents would be better for all involved. (I’m not sure Michael H is one of these.) I know that some people will say once you say three, why not four or five or six or……but I think that’s a concern I’d face as cases came along. I think you can recognize three legal parents without conceding that any number will do.

      Second, I see your concern about resources and it’s certainly something to be wary of. But having parental rights be earned does not (to my mind) make it possible to buy a child. It is not a free-floating inquiry into what is best for a child. It’s question of who has been acting like a parent–who’s been there, hands on? If the genetic parents are raising the child–are actually there doing the job, I mean–then no one can come along and bump them out without their cooperation. (I mean, you could still give up a child for adoption.) Still, you’d want the courts to be wary about resource inequality.

      • But given we accept that gay couples and single men can have children, I don’t see any reason not to look at other options than having two parents. We’re already doing something different from what biology say we can.

        • Honestly, I think there are a couple of reasons. One, the legal system has already been set up for years to handle a child with two legal parents and a child with only one legal parent (traditionally, this would usually occur because of death of one parent). It’s not really set up for a child having three parents. And how would the time be divided up? Would there be a number of parents that was so high that a child could not reasonably have divided time with all of them without a complete loss of all stability? When that number is reached, how would the court decide which parent(s) get cut out because the kid can’t be at 7 different houses 7 nights of the week. And when parents can’t agree on a major decision and the judge is forced to decide whose decision wins, it’s easier to weigh the pros and cons with two different opinions vs 4 or 5 or 6. It’s legally complicated. Polygamy would be similarly legally complicated, and I think it would be much harder to legalize in this country than gay marriage even if poly relationships became really socially acceptable – imagine the legal conflict!

          • Wait. If I die my child still has two legal parents its just that one of those legal parents is dead. My child is still my child even if I’m dead and I’m still her mother dead or alive. She’d still be considered my legal next of kin and would be legally allowed to inherit from me, to collect my social security death benefits. She’d still legally be considered my child able to access my birth, marriage and death certificates from the county recorder as well as those of my other relatives. She’d still be legally considered kin to all of my relatives and be able to claim them as dependent relatives if ever they were disabled and in her care being supported by her and vice versa.

            The only thing death does is make it so that I can’t give my consent to an adoption. Her father could give her up for adoption and be the only parent required to consent because all the decision making power is with him because he’s alive and I’m not. He could have his new wife adopt her in a step parent adoption but why do that when our child would gain nothing from that and loose so much so many rights associated with still legally being my child? Loose my social security death benefits loose the right to access her maternal family records etc.

            • I wasn’t specifically referring to adoption – but the fact that a dead parent obviously can’t make any further decisions for the child. So therefore, the child has one parent able to make all legal decisions for them. It’s not legally complicated. And it is a situation that can occur naturally.

              So we can naturally have a child who is left with two biological parents or one biological parent. And it seems the law allow people to try and “mimic” the family structures that had a chance to occur “naturally” when it allows adoption or use of a donor by a couple, or adoption or use of a donor by a single person. But there’s no way a child could naturally have ended up with three parents.

              Or perhaps it’s simply that it would be legally complicated to have so many people with equal legal rights potentially disagreeing with each other about everything.

        • Kriss, its not a given at all- this is not acceptable to many people, myself included. I do not believe the law should use these type of arrangement as a the prototype. The genetically related family should remain the prototype because other types remain a cultural aberration with the potential for chaos.
          Post-Facto, in a situation where an alternately structured family has been stably functioning in such an arrangement there should be some legal recognition accorded to it (assuming that it was not done illegally). That does not mean we should support it and use it as a model beforehand.

          • In the case where a third person (or even a second person when there’s only one legal parent or one living parent) who is not a parent had a very significant long term parental-like relationship with a child, I’d say visitation of some kind is more appropriate than adding more parents with full parental rights – just that the person wanting visitation if the parents didn’t agree would need to meet a high standard of proof. One case I’m reminded of is the Brittany Collier case. The parents were unmarried. The mother had legal custody but she was dying of cancer so the grandparents were basically raising the child. The father had visitation during that time and exercised it but had not filed for custody yet. The father waited a year or so to petition for custody after the mother died so the grandparents had temporary custody during that time. After the father got custody he basically tried to cut the grandparents out of the daughter’s life completely or almost completely, but they met a high enough standard of proof that they could get visitation against his wishes. The father appealed it every which way possible (including at least one rejected request for the US SC to hear the case) but the grandparents prevailed. He never said anything about the girl not wanting to go to visits or the visits traumatizing her or the grandparents trying to make the girl hate him, or anything really, his whole argument was I’m the only living parent, I don’t want the visits, the end. The girl is now almost 18 and I wonder what she thought of the whole thing. It appeared from the filings that she had positive relationships with both her father and her grandparents (who may have been the only link to a mother she could not remember, she was 2 when she died) and I’m sure it must have made her very sad to be fought over that way.

            • Sounds like very immature behavior on the part of the father. I think this was a good ruling. I think it is a good model for other similar cases. I hope they managed to keep things amicable in the end.

            • I think its always wrong of a parent to thwart the efforts of relatives to stay in touch with the children. Unless those people are unsafe and you have a restraining order against them it’s really not loving to cut a child off from their family.

  6. An example not involving men: A very young woman (say, 18) gets pregnant and gives birth despite her family’s opposition and without any support from them. Her childless female high school teacher offers to take care of the baby while the mother completes a training program in a nearby town that will lead to employment. The mother finishes this, starts earning money, finds a nice apartment to rent, furnishes it with baby stuff, and comes for her child, say, 3 months later. Her teacher can, according to this proposal, claim that she is now entitled to the title of “mother” because she earned it by having taken care of the baby for 3 months. Let’s presume the mother hasn’t been collecting evidence that she visited her baby during this time because she’d trusted her teacher. Couldn’t the baby end up with the teacher?

    Or anyone that takes care of a child in any way, shape, or form, for an arbitrary period of time? How long does it have to be? Six months?

    What if a woman is a military employee and is deployed for 6 months when her child is a couple of months old. Her husband, the baby’s bio father, allows his mother to move in during this time and help with the baby, because he works full time. The granny, never having liked her daughter-in-law, claims after six months that she is now a de facto mother. Creepy, right?

    So, could we discriminate against these people who took care of other people’s children for a while? Why? Because what is really meant here by “earning” the right to parent is “having a sexual relationship with the biological mother of the child.”

    • got it now. I think you are making the same point as Rebecca.
      It just goes to show how in our minds, we have NOT escaped the biological model that sex=parenthood, we’ve just tried to include people in the model for whom it is clearly not true….

      • Yes, I guess that’s what I see in some ideas sometimes proposed here – sex still equals parenthood, although it is not sex with the biological mother at the time of conception that matters, but instead sex with the biological mother after the child has been born.

        To me, personally, it is a bit adultist. Whatever is convenient for the adults involved. I see no problem with multiple people being allowed to care for a child and even, if they consistently care for a child on a day-to-day basis and are likely to continue doing so, being given some decision-making rights – the extent would depend on the actual situation. A stepfather of a child with a deadbeat dad would have more decision-making rights than, say, a roommate caring for her roommate’s children every day from the time school ends until the mother returns home from work, while the father lives away but visits regularly and pays child support. But neither needs to be instantly given the title “parent.”

        I come from a different culture, where family preservation is the goal and adoptions are rare. Fostering and custodial arrangements, especially within the extended family, are much more common. Every document or permission slip that is needed for a child is “To be signed by a parent or guardian.” Very simple. If the parents are not currently available, other people can step in and take care of the child and make decisions for said child. This does not erase the responsibility of the children’s parents to still take care of them.

        • so right

        • pronoiaagape
          I have made that exact point in virtually those exact words many times on here. Its not your culture alone but here in the U.S. as well – there has never been a school permission slip printed that did not say “signature of parent or guardian” So its utter BS that you must be a parent to enroll a child in school or soccer. Its crap malarkey not true. Its an egomaniacal desire for the crown and cepter that drives unrelated care-givers to whine that they must have parental title over the child. They just want that title if they are going to do the work – they don’t need it they want it to fill the hole in their soul.

          They should really work that hole out in group and suck the guardian thing up or take a hike,

    • I am reminded of this case, where the mother did get the child back in the end: http://dadsrights.com/index.php/mom-wins-child-from-babysitter/

      • Scary. Anyone could kidnap a child and then claim they are a parent because the bio parents abandoned the child and disappeared. It’s the parents’ word against the kidnapper’s word. And the kidnapper could amass evidence that they cared for the child well for whatever time is necessary to claim de facto parenthood, while the parents would not even have thought of having to prove they fully intended to parent their child.

  7. What about this scenario: a woman unexpectedly becomes pregnant and the father gets cold feet and disappears. We can all agree he acts like a jerk. The mother starts a relationship with another man, but 6 months later the biological father reappears, apologizes for his cowardice and wants to act responsibly towards his child. The mother is, say, still madly in love with him and immediately moves in with him.

    Should the other many be able to claim he is the de facto father because of his 6 months of relationship with the mother/living with the child? Should he be awarded the title of “father” by the court because he earned it? Or do the mother’s wishes override his earned right?

    • I would have the case fall on whether the non-biological parent completed a legal adoption or not. I suppose if he was not married to the mother, that wouldn’t be available to him though.
      In the case that he signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, it would depend on the statute of the individual state as to within what period of time the VAP may be overturned, which I understand varies by state.

      If he took no measures to obtain legal status than he doesn’t have legal status. But that goes back to a different question; what is the importance of following the legal formalities as opposed to behavior, not really about genetics.

      In the case of a legal adoption, the surrenduring parent doesn’t get to change their mind once the adoption is completed, even if it’s two days. To allow them to do so would render the adoption meaningless. You could differentiate here between the legal and moral responsibilities of the people involved though.

      • Even in a de-facto situation, I do beleive there is some sort of time limit- I believe there comes a point where you can not undo your past errors and come back and disrupt every one’s life. I am just not sure what that time frame should be. I would say more than 6 months though. The kid won’t remember at that stage.

        • I didn’t understand the question in the post above to refer to legal (step) adoptions, but rather an ex post facto establishing of de facto parenthood. So, does the live-in boyfriend of six months, or two years get to earn de facto parenthood status, even if this is in opposition to the wishes of the custodial parent, in this case the biological mother?

          What if the new partner is not the child’s missing bio dad – as there seems to be a bias against bio dads among some here – but a completely new person also willing to have a relationship with the woman and her child? What if there is a new partner every two years until the child is 18? Will the child have 9 de facto fathers, even if this is against the mother’s wishes?

          Does a single biological mother have to be very very very careful about whose help she accepts, because anyone offering help, support, and interaction with the child for a period of time can later claim custody? A relative, a helpful roommate, a babysitter?

          What if the biological father who is married to the mother is not a good de facto parent – works very long hours, is away on business often, etc? Will the mother’s lover or even best female friend who is arguably spending more time and bonding more with the child more be able to claim a de facto parent status?

    • How about the child’s right to be supported by his or her own father and be connected to his or her own paternal family being the most important thing here? Does the child have a right to the other guy’s support and a right to be part of his family? If so does that mean his right to his real family should just be erased? Does that mean that nobody has an obligation to care for their own children ever? That the obligation to care for a child arrises out of having cared for that child? Does it mean that a child only has a right to rely upon who ever is doing the job of caring for them? What if nobody is doing the job of caring for them? Do they have any rights at all any recourse?

      • I’m with Rebecca on this one- I think as long as the kid’s financial needs are being met, it makes no difference where the money is coming from- at least from the kids perspective. The adults might want to take punitive measures against the derelict parent, but that has nothing to do with the kids rights. What the kid is missing is something more on the level of the emotions that does not have a dollars and cents value.

  8. How about this: a custodial parent has the right to legally enable other persons, say boyfriends/girlfriends/babysitters/relatives temporarily helping them take care of a child to make, say, urgent medical decisions for his/her children. This permission can be revoked when this relationship/arrangement no longer exists.

    If such an arrangement has existed for a very long time, the person who has bonded with a child in this way can ask the court to be allowed visitation, citing the existence and duration of such a document as an argument that a significant bond has been created and that it is in the best interest of the child to keep seeing them.

    It does not confer eternal parental rights or obligations. Otherwise, we can easily imagine all the horrible scenarios of deadbeat dads applying to new de facto parents.

    A man becomes involved with a woman who has a child. After a while, he gets de facto parenting rights. The woman marries someone else. They can’t leave the country without the first man’s consent. He withholds consent to punish the woman and make her life miserable. Even non-bio-father men can be jerks. And vice versa.

    • Here is the thing we all need to remember about social parents adoptive parents defacto parents and the like: Were it not for the consent or at least implied consent of both the real parents they would not be performing parent like duties in a child’s life. Even with sperm donors and step dads being called father’s when they are not – the reality is that the step father needed the consent of both the parents in order to be in that position in the first place. The parents had to conspire to allow it to happen, the father the donor agreed to make and abandon his children to be cared for by chance and the mother agreed to lie to the world and call her husband the father.

      Real parents need nobody else to be absent in order for them to be parents. Even in Utah with the child’s right to their father totally being trampled upon to facilitate adoptions – those people would not be in the position to be adodptive parents were it not for the actual parent’s absence. An actual parent has to fail before they can step in and play the roll of parent. The child has to loose one or two parents in order for anyone else ever to usurp that coveted title.

      Its wise to remember that fact when talking about outsiders laying claim to parental title – the child has to loose a parent and half their family legally, in order to gain the presence and financial support of an outsider. How cruel that they would do that to the child take all that away before they’d consent to give their love or their care. Its truly selfish.

      • This is what I’m getting at: one parent (say, the bio mom) could legally enable another person or other persons to make decisions for the child in lieu of HER if SHE is not available; she would be able to delegate parts of her own parental obligations to others, but she would not have the power to have another person replace the other parent – especially without his consent.

  9. “Does a person have to earn parental rights or are they simply entitled to them because of some attribute–specifically because they are genetically related to a child?”

    From my very limited understanding of the Constitution – specifically the 14th Amendment I believe – the parents are entitled to those rights, with a few exceptions. Do they have to maintain those rights? Yes. Do they have to earn those rights? No with a few exceptions. Should they have to earn those rights? No.

    I would dread seeing the day when it becomes the norm or law of the land for others to say they are more entitled to someone else’s child, because they would be better parents.

    For those who say genetic ties have no value – have you actually stripped away the genetic ties you are privileged enough to have? Have you taken legal steps to sever your genetic ties, and removed those people from your life, and who your ancestors are so that you too are a blank slate? Have you at least tried to imagine what it would be like to grow up and never meet (at least knowingly) another human being that you are related to? Just like I cannot dismiss what it is like to be someone in the LGBT community, and even if I try, I will only see the surface view of it – I don’t want someone to dismiss what it is like to grow up genetically unconnected to every other person in my world. That old saying about walking a mile in the other person’s shoes has survived this long because it is true.

  10. If a mother has rights attach at birth, why not the father?

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